Former Philippine officials on Friday expressed optimism the complaints for crimes against humanity they filed before the International Crime Court (ICC) against China’s president will prosper despite many odds and won’t be derailed by China’s non-membership in the world tribunal.
"What we’re talking here is crime committed within the territory of a state party. The one who committed the crime does not have to belong to a country who is a state party or member to the ICC. Since we filed the communication at a time the Philippines was still a state party to the Rome Statute, then we have jurisdiction over Mr. Xi because he committed the crime within Philippine territory," former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales said at a press conference in Makati City.
Former Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario, who was also at the news conference, and Carpio-Morales have accused Chinese President Xi Jinping , Foreign Minister Wang Yi and China's envoy to Manila Zhao Jianhua of committing crimes against humanity in connection with Beijing's activities to gain control over most of the resource-rich South China Sea.
They said Xi and other officials have been responsible for the marine environment that has suffered destruction and the loss of the fisheries resources in the area due to the creation of artificial islands, militarization, and various other activities.
The case was filed before the International Criminal Court on March 15 - 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 Philippines was a member from November 1, 2011 until March 17, 2019.
If Xi and other Chinese officials are ordered arrested by the international court but ignore the warrant, their travels will be severely restricted because anyone of the 123 state parties to the ICC can enforce the arrest orders, Del Rosario said.
"There are 123 state parties he can not visit," Del Rosario said. "The warrant of arrest can be served by anyone of 123 state parties, and they can compel Mr. Xi Jinping, or the idea is to compel him to go back to the Hague to face charges brought against him."
In the case of Wang, Del Rosario added: "Can you imagine a Foreign Minister who can't travel?"
Asked if they are not intimidated confronting a powerful world leader, Carpio-Morales who has prosecuted influential politicians during her stint as ombudsman said authorities should not cower when fighting for what is right.
She added power and influence should not get in the way of rule of law.
"Are you reminded of the case of David and Goliath?"
Aside from up to 40 years of imprisonment, those found guilty can be made to compensate fishermen and other people whose livelihood were undermined by China's aggressive actions.
"We demand accountability. We want to check impunity," said Carpio-Morales.
Del Rosario said other countries are welcome to join the effort to demand accountability, suggesting the complaint can be amended with additional evidence and parties in the future.
Del Rosario said they did not consider Duterte in the complaint amid perceptions that the Philippine President is an "enabler" of China's aggression by not confronting the Asian powerhouse.
"I think he's already there," Del Rosario said.
An ICC prosecutor is also examining two complaints against thousands of drug killings under Duterte's watch. — BAP, GMA News