President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday suggested that the International Criminal Court (ICC) cannot hear the case filed against China's President Xi Jinping by former Philippine government officials due to lack of jurisdiction.
Duterte said China is not a member of the ICC.
"They are entitled to file the case. They are Filipino citizens and I think we'll just have to defend our position vis-à-vis sa kanila. They think they have a good case and I would say that there is no jurisdiction over this country and of China. Mas lalo na sa China," the President told reporters in Taguig City.
"We'll just go along that line, jurisdiction."
He also expressed confidence that the case will not affect the bilateral ties between the Philippines and China.
"No. I'm sure [it won't]. The Philippines is a democratic country and anybody can bring a suit against anybody but whether or not it would prosper, or whether or not we have the jurisdiction, that's something else. Remember China is not a member of the ICC," Duterte said.
The case was brought by former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario and former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales as they accused Xi and other Chinese officials of crimes against humanity in connection with Beijing's activities to gain control over most of the South China Sea.
It was filed on March 15 or two days before the Philippines' exit from the tribunal.
Under its rules, the court may still act on cases related to the Philippines while the country was a member from November 1, 2011 until March 17, 2019.
China’s moves to restrict access to areas in the resource-rich waters has “seriously undermined the food and energy security of the coastal states in the South China Sea, including the Philippines," according to the statement issued by Del Rosario.
The statement said the "grave consequences" of China's action justify the ICC's involvement in the matter.
The United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal in July 2016 invalidated China's excessive claims in the South China Sea following a lawsuit filed by the Philippines.
Beijing refused to recognize the ruling, which was temporarily set aside by Duterte in order to forge closer ties with China, the world's second largest economy.
Calls for an early conclusion of a code of conduct in the resource-rich waters have heightened in recent years due to a series of confrontations between China and its smaller Southeast Asian neighbors with overlapping territorial claims, especially Vietnam and the Philippines.
Other claimants include Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. —LDF, GMA News