Chinese officials led by President Xi Jinping have been committing crimes against humanity with their continued “atrocious actions” in the disputed South China Sea that hurt the livelihood and significantly diminished the food security of Filipino fishermen and their families, two former government officials said Tuesday.
Former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario and retired Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, who filed a case against Xi before the International Criminal Court
, said “unlawful actions” by Beijing showed that despite assurances to the contrary, the Chinese seek to take control and exert dominance over the disputed maritime territories.
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“Even as now, with full accommodation being granted to Beijing by our government, we continue to be faced with unlawful actions from our northern neighbor, a modern-day Goliath, whose intentions and
activities are to force a doctrine of dominance and control on our region and beyond,” the two former officials said, in a statement.
Notwithstanding the 2016 Philippine victory at The Hague, which ruled that China’s claims to the South China Sea were excessive, China continues to do illegal dredging and artificial island building, which have degraded the marine environment and hurt the livelihood and food security of Filipino fishermen and their families.
“Today, our Filipino countrymen are increasingly focused on the presence of hundreds of Chinese vessels operating around Pag-asa that serves to harass, bully, and persecute our fishermen,” they said.
“To our poor fishermen, however, Beijing’s actions may be viewed as crimes against humanity, given that they are planned by the Chinese government, accepted by the Chinese government, and nothing is done by the Chinese government to stop these persistent inhumane actions against a civilian population of over 300,000 Filipino fishermen who appear helpless against a powerful Goliath,” they said.
Del Rosario and Morales made the statement after Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua on Monday described as “fabrication” their complaint before the ICC.
“We don’t think it is a proper action that is based on facts. It’s a fabrication and also a misuse of the mandate of the ICC,” Zhao said in an interview.
“It is a kind of political action viciously targeting the Chinese leadership,” he said.
Del Rosario and Morales disagreed, saying that the ICC is “a legal platform for us Filipino citizens to exact accountability for the injustices being particularly endured by our poor fishermen.”
“Our objective, therefore, is to hold as individually responsible President Xi Jinping, Foreign Secretary Wang Yi and Ambassador Zhao Jianhua for crimes against humanity committed against our fishermen in our territory during the period when the Philippines was (still) a state party to the Rome Statute,” they said.
The Philippine government officially withdrew its signature to the Rome Statute on March 16, 2018
. The Rome Statute is the treaty that established ICC.
READ: Manila pullout from ICC in effect, UN tells members
In an interview with the ANC news channel, Del Rosario said the Philippines’ diplomatic protest against the presence of hundreds of Chinese vessels near Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea was late, but a good first step.
“I don’t know how long this condition has been existing but on the basis of our observation, I think it’s coming a bit too late. But, nevertheless, better late than never,” Del Rosario said on ANC’s Headstart.
On Monday, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the military had recommended the filing of a protest against the Chinese presence.
Morales, meanwhile, described Panelo as “misinformed,” after he said the ICC case was a futile exercise.
“He is misinformed or he misread if at all he read the Rome Statute. What happened here is that a crime, a criminal case was committed within the territory of the Philippines at a time the Philippines was a member of the Rome Statute,” Morales said in an interview on ANC. “Whether or not the perpetrator subject to our communication belongs to a country which is a member of Rome Statute is immaterial.”