By Vann Marlo M. Villegas, Reporter
FORMER FOREIGN Affairs secretary Albert F. Del Rosario and retired Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales have asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) to conduct a preliminary examination against Chinese President Xi Jinping and other officials in connection with the harassment of Filipino fishermen in the contested South China Sea.
In the communication sent on March 13, days before the Philippines effectively withdrew from the ICC, Mr. Del Rosario and Ms. Morales said they are writing on behalf of the “hundreds of thousands of Filipino fishermen persecuted and injured by officials of the People’s Republic of China.”
They said Chinese officials have “committed crimes within the jurisdiction” of the ICC in the implementation of a “systematic plan to control South China Sea.”
“The situation presented is both unique and relevant in that it presents one of the most massive, near permanent and devastating deconstruction of the environment in human’s history, which has not only adversely affected and injured myriad groups of vulnerable fishermen, but present and future generations of people across nations,” they said.
“This has seriously undermined the food and energy security of the coastal States in the South China Sea, including the Philippines,” they added.
They also emphasized that despite the Philippine’s withdrawal from the ICC, the ICC retains jurisdiction over crimes committed when the country was a member of the Rome Statute from November 2011 to March 17, 2019.
“We urge you to initiate a preliminary examination on this matter, if only so the Court can apprise itself of Chinese crimes committed not only against Filipino people, but also against people of other nations, which crimes are already known to the international community,” the former government officials said.
“The court can exercise its jurisdiction over these crimes, even after the effectivity of the Philippines’ withdrawal, and we respectfully reserve our right to supplement this Communication with additional evidence that may come to light or arise in the future,” they said.
Under Mr. Del Rosario’s term as the top diplomat in 2011-2016, the Philippines filed a case against China before the Permanent Court of Arbitration, asserting its rights over the West Philippine Sea.
The international court ruled in favor of the Philippines in a July 2016 decision.
Among the evidence presented in the case against Mr. Xi and other officials were used in the case against China.
“Given that your office undertakes a rigorous process in deciding whether to launch a preliminary examination, we trust that your functions will be facilitated by the fact that much of the evidence presented by this Communication are widespread, highly publicised and have already been judicially vetted by the Tribunal in The South China Sea Arbitration,” the March 13 letter reads.
Dennis C. Coronacion, chairperson of the University of Santo Tomas Department of Political Science, said this development is unlikely to strain relations between the Philippines and China, which the leaders of both countries have been fostering.
Mr. Coronacion said the ICC filing will “definitely catch the attention of the Chinese leader” but it would not have a negative impact on the relationship between China and the Philippines.
“We can take as a good example China’s response to the arbitral tribunal’s ruling on the West Philippine sea dispute. China has become known as a state that does not submit itself to the authority of international courts. It will surely ignore any unfavorable ruling issued by the ICC against Xi Jin Ping,” Mr. Coronacion told the BusinessWorld in an online message.
“China would definitely continue its military activities in the disputed territory,” he added.
To address this, including the harassment of Filipino fishermen, Mr. Coronacion said the Philippines has other options.
“One, we can use diplomacy. We can seek other countries’ support in pressuring Beijing to stop its military activities in the disputed sea. Two, we can always change our soft stance on the incursions made by the Chinese navy. We can emulate the South China Sea policies of Vietnam and Indonesia. Their experiences refute our government’s assumption that a hard stance (seeking the execution of the arbitral tribunal’s ruling) can lead to war.”