Malacañang on Saturday said the complaint filed by former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales and former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario against President Xi Jinping
of China before the International Criminal Court “may be a futile exercise
” as both China and the Philippines are not members of the ICC.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the filing of the case could have been motivated with what he called righteous indignation
over the establishment of structures on some parts of the South China Sea which have been ruled to be rightfully belonging to the Philippines.
“To their minds, the establishment of those structures endanger the environment as well as our fishermen,” Panelo said in a statement.
But the Palace official expressed doubts that the case would be given priority by the ICC, saying it could be dismissed because China is not a member of the ICC, so is the Philippines.
“Whether or not the case will prosper is another matter, “ he said.
As the President said, former Ombudsman Morales and former Secretary Del Rosario had the right to file the complaint against Xi
before the ICC, Panelo stressed.
Since the two are no longer part of the official member the government, Panelo said the two ex-officials were not authorized to file a complaint against China on behalf of the Philippines.
“Our position is that the ICC has never acquired jurisdiction over us given that the Rome Statute never took effect as the requirement of publication in a newspaper of general circulation or in the Official Gazette was not complied with, which publication is a requirement in our jurisdiction before the said Rome Statute or any law for that matter becomes effective and enforceable,” the Palace spokesman said in a statement.
“Assuming that they are so authorized, the Philippines, like China, as we have said, is not a State Party to the ICC hence the latter cannot take jurisdiction,” he added.
Panelo also said the Rome Statute did not cover environmental damage.
“What it includes are murder; extermination; enslavement; forcible transfer of population; severe deprivation of physical liberty; torture; rape or sexual slavery; political, racial, religious, ethnic or gender persecution; enforced disappearances; or other inhumane acts causing great suffering or serious injury to physical or mental health, hence even assuming that the Philippines was a State Party when the complaint was filed, there could be an issue as regards the jurisdiction of the ICC,” he said.
Panelo said if the case was dismissed by the ICC for lack of jurisdiction, critics and detractors “will have a field day criticizing the President.”
“They can claim that it was a mistake for the Philippine government to withdraw its membership from the Rome Statute as the ICC can no longer serve as a venue to prosecute President Xi for an alleged commission of crime against humanity,” he said.
Panelo said the government “is engaged in a diplomatic negotiation, through a bilateral consultation mechanism, over the West Philippine Sea issue.”
“We do not need the help or disturbance of a biased tribunal known to politically prosecute heads of state, the very reason why powerful countries like the United States, China, Russia, and Israel, to name only a few, have either withdrawn their membership as State Parties from the Rome Statute or declined to be members of the ICC,” he added.
READ: Two former Philippine officials sue China leader before ICC
READ: Duterte pooh-poohs ICC case vs China’s leader