The case filed by former Philippine government officials against Chinese President Xi Jinping and other Chinese officials before the International Criminal Court may now proceed after new evidence was submitted that could compel the ICC to reconsider their complaint, months after it was rejected.
Former ambassador and Foreign Affairs secretary Albert del Rosario said the case would proceed as he and former Ombudsman Conchita Morales had submitted their response before the ICC in The Hague last week, demonstrating that Xi and other Chinese officials committed crimes against humanity.
He said former Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio would be joining them as counsel for the case they filed in March last year.
“These facts are straightforward because they are based on publicly available evidence and a number of them have been judicially vetted in the South China Sea arbitration,” Del Rosario said in a keynote speech at the Stratbase forum on Wednesday.
“We therefore believe that the ICC has a strong basis to proceed with our case.”
Carpio, one of the country’s leading maritime legal experts, was part of the Philippine legal team to the Permanent Court of Arbitration and also in The Hague, where Manila won an arbitral case against China that invalidated Beijing’s massive claims over the South China Sea.
“Justice Carpio’s unparalleled wisdom and expertise in the South China Sea issue have raised our confidence in the case and will surely bolster our chances in the ICC,” Del Rosario said.
It was Del Rosario who spearheaded the successful arbitration case that resulted in the legal victory for the Philippines against China in July 2016.
He said they were aiming to hold Xi and other Chinese officials “criminally liable and be penalized by imprisonment pursuant to the ICC statute.”
“They planned it; they implemented it; and they continued with it,” Del Rosario said.
He said if the case progresses, warrants of arrest may be issued against Xi and the Chinese officials identified in the case, which includes Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
The ICC initially rejected the case in December 2019, citing lack of jurisdiction as China is not a party to the Rome Statute that established the ICC, and that the crimes cited by the former Philippine officials were not committed within Philippine territory but only within its exclusive economic zone.
However, Del Rosario said, they had demonstrated that the crimes against humanity committed by the Chinese leadership occurred not only in the Philippine EEZ but also on its territorial sea and the coast of Luzon.
He said part of the destructive reclamation and artificial island-building undertaken by Chinese officials in the Spratly Islands occurred in Subi Reef, which is within the territorial sea of Pag-Asa, a Philippine territory with a permanent community of Filipinos and is controlled and administered by the Philippines.
Besides, he said, the Chinese officials continued to enforce its blockade within the territorial sea of the Scarborough Shoal, preventing Filipino fishermen from fishing there.
He also said at least 322 Chinese militia vessels had been swarming Pag-asa’s shores for more than 450 days, from 2018 to 2019, which was meant to harass the Filipinos living in Pag-asa and prevent fishermen from pursuing their livelihood.