MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Former Philippine officials said on Friday, March 22, that they filed a complaint against Chinese President Xi Jinping before the International Criminal Court (ICC) to "check impunity" in the disputed South China Sea.
One of the complainants, former ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, said they want to send a clear message not only to the Duterte administration, but to all Filipinos.
"We demand accountability from those who destroy marine areas, and we want to check impunity as a deterrent to progress," Morales said in a press conference at the Manila Polo Club around 6 pm on Friday.
"We are certainly doing it for the marginalized fishermen, for us as a whole, and for other countries," Morales added.
The other high-profile complainant, former foreign secretary Albert del Rosario, agreed that their case aims to address "impunity."
"We have impunity that exists, and at this point in time, we do not know how to deal with it. At the same time there are avenues that offer itself for us to possibly consider dealing with impunity," Del Rosario said. "I think we should explore those avenues, like the ICC."
Del Rosario, Morales, and a group of Filipino fishermen filed a complaint against Xi and other Chinese officials before the ICC. The complainants accused Xi and other Chinese officials of crimes against humanity for causing environmental damage in the South China Sea.
The complainants filed their complaint, called a communication, on March 15, or two days before the Philippines' withdrawal from the ICC took effect. They released the complaint to the media on Thursday, March 21.
Idea of Del Rosario and friends
In the press conference, Del Rosario and Morales were asked if they thought of including President Rodrigo Duterte in their complaint against China. Del Rosario replied that they think Xi "is the one who directly caused the significant problems we had there."
He added, "We did not think of President Duterte in terms of him being there because he's already there. I understand that he's been brought along with 5 others to the ICC for the extrajudicial killings that have been happening in the country."
Morales said it was Del Rosario and a group of friends who thought of bringing Xi to the ICC, during a "breakfast over garden omelette" and coffee. After a bit of convincing, the former ombudsman later agreed to be part of the complaint.
"If it took long for the group to file the case, it was because given the friendliness of the Philippines to China, we expected reciprocity on the part of China," Morales said. "But it seems there was no reciprocity that was shown."
Morales said their camp personally delivered the complaint, called a communication, to the ICC.
Sought for reaction by reporters, Duterte said on Thursday that the case will not threaten the Philippines' ties with China.
"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," Duterte said. – Rappler.com
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.