MANILA - The two former Philippine officials who filed a case against Chinese President Xi Jinping before the International Criminal Court (ICC) over alleged crimes against humanity on Tuesday said they are confident in their action, noting that the country had earlier initiated action against China.
Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario and former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales impleaded the Chinese president late last month and told the international tribunal that Beijing's construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea, as allegedly instigated by Xi and other Chinese officials, has gravely affected the livelihood of thousands of Filipino fishermen.
"Our task is well-defined. It’s about pursuing rule of law as defined by the Rome Statute. It is about charging China’s highest officials with crimes against humanity for the suffering of our fishermen," said Del Rosario.
"I think that we are on track in terms of coming up with something that makes sense and I think that we’ve done it before, we can do it again. We are hoping that that is what will happen," he told ANC's Headstart.
Del Rosario was foreign affairs chief when Manila lodged an arbitration case against Beijing in 2013 after a standoff at the Scarborough Shoal a year before.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration handed the Philippines its victory in July 2016, shortly after President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office. The new administration has set aside the landmark court victory to pursue warmer relations with China.
"We have always been confident of our move that we took. You cannot go to court without the feeling that you are going to win. Remember, David and Goliath. We were a David in the arbitral tribunal; there is always a next time, we could be another David," said Morales.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo called the submission a "futile exercise because of lack of jurisdiction." He said Philippine officials have told their Chinese counterparts that they "had nothing to do with that because it's a private complaint."
Manila quit the world's only permanent war crimes tribunal after the ICC launched in 2018 a preliminary examination of Duterte's drug crackdown that has killed thousands and drawn international censure.
The Philippine withdrawal took effect last March 17, two days after Del Rosario and Carpio Morales sent their communication.
The two former officials are thankful for the support they have received since filing the communication, with Morales saying it was an indication that "the fear that has been dangling over the head of people have been quashed."
"Whereas before they could not openly contradict or not agree with some of the policies of the administration, now they are bold enough to show that they are behind us and therefore, it is a happy development," she said.