Thousands sign petition backing ICC case vs Xi Jinping
The petition, started by Quezon City resident Narzalina Lim at on Friday, has garnered 9,200 signatures as of yesterday afternoon.
Thousands sign petition backing ICC case vs Xi Jinping
Janvic Mateo (The Philippine Star) - March 25, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — In less than three days, almost 10,000 netizens have signed an online petition supporting the prosecution of Chinese officials before the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The petition, started by Quezon City resident Narzalina Lim at on Friday, has garnered 9,200 signatures as of yesterday afternoon.

It expressed support for former foreign affairs secretary Albert del Rosario and former ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, who asked ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to initiate a preliminary examination on the possible crimes against humanity committed by Chinese officials in relation to dredging activities in the West Philippine Sea.

“It is about time that concerned Filipinos take a stand against the Chinese government for its aggressive actions in the South China Sea including territory which belongs to the Philippine government,” read the petition.

“We stand fully behind Secretary Del Rosario and Ombudswoman Morales in whatever other steps that need to be taken to bring this case forward and call on all Filipino citizens, concerned about loss of control over sovereign Philippine territory; loss of livelihood for thousands of our fisherfolk; food security; massive destruction of our marine environment; and loss of control over a strategic waterway, to stand up and be counted before it is too late,” it added.

Some of the supporters who signed the petition stressed the importance of taking action against China’s aggression in the disputed territories.

“I signed because I care about the plight of our fishermen. This is a matter of life and death to them. I care about this country. Plain and simple,” one wrote.

“As a Filipino empathizing with the plight of poor fisherfolk deprived of their means of livelihood in Philippine waters, and angered by the wholesale destruction of our marine environment upon the orders of Xi Jinping, I fully support Amb. Albert del Rosario and Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales’ petition before the ICC,” another added.

In a communication sent last March 15, Del Rosario and Morales accused Chinese President Xi Jinping and other officials of committing crimes against humanity in relation to Beijing’s activities in the South China Sea.

They alleged China’s actions in the disputed region caused massive, near permanent and devastating destruction of the environment, depriving Filipino fishermen of food and livelihood.

“The grave consequences of these actions justify the Court’s involvement as it affirms one of the principles of the Rome Statute that ‘the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole must not go unpunished and their effective prosecution must be ensured,’” read the 17-page communication.

“Though widely publicized, these atrociously inhumane actions of Chinese officials in the South China Sea and within Philippine territory remain unpunished, and it is only the ICC that can exact accountability on behalf of Filipinos and the international community, respecting the rule of law,” it added.

Even as China is not a member of the tribunal, the two former officials maintained the incidents still fall under ICC’s jurisdiction as it happened within the Philippine territory at a time when the country was still a member.

“What we’re talking here is crime committed within the territory of a state party. The one who committed the crime does not have to belong to a country who is a state party or member to the ICC,” Morales said.

“Since we filed the communication at a time the Philippines was still a state party to the Rome Statute, then we have jurisdiction over Mr. Xi because he committed the crime within Philippine territory,” she said.

Del Rosario said the primary objective is to improve the lives of Filipino fishermen in the South China Sea. The effort is also to move the country’s arbitral tribunal victory that had been shelved by the administration.

“Whether we do it in conjunction with this case or we start another campaign, it behooves us to red line Scarborough because Scarborough would be their next target,” Del Rosario warned.

During the joint press conference with Morales, Del Rosario emphasized the Philippines was strong in terms of international law being applicable to all countries no matter what size. The Philippines had proven it when the country won the arbitral tribunal outcome in 2016, he said.

“We hope to win our point again in this ICC effort,” Del Rosario said.

He said Xi “directly” caused significant problems of the Philippines – building of artificial islands, deterioration of fish resources, the treatment of Filipinos, loss of livelihood and of various other enjoyments in life that everyone is entitled to.

“The first objective is to improve the lives of our fishermen in the South China Sea. So we were focusing on that,” Del Rosario said. “If we succeed in disciplining Mr. Xi Jinping, then I think the whole world will naturally follow us.”

“That he (Xi) is powerful does not deter anyone from filing a case against him. If we’re deterred from filing because he’s powerful, forget it. Don’t be pessimistic. Let’s all be optimistic. Are you reminded of the case of David and Goliath? That’s it,” Morales added.

“There appears to be some waltzing between China and Philippines. It’s not only a message to the Duterte administration. It’s also addressed to Filipinos, to similarly situated fishermen that we demand accountability from those who destroy marine resources, and that we want to check impunity as a deterrent for other countries to commit these crimes,” she said.

Futile move

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the complaint filed against the Chinese leader was futile and could be a political move.

Guevarra explained Del Rosario and Morales are aware that the complaint they filed last March 15 could be dismissed by the ICC for lack of jurisdiction over China, which is not a member and signatory to the Rome Statute.

This obvious deficiency in the case made Guevarra believe it was filed out of political motivation by the two officials identified with the political opposition.

“The complaint against President Xi is really a political statement more than a legal action, and is thus intended to achieve a political result rather than a legal victory,” Guevarra said when asked for his legal opinion on the matter.

Guevarra explained that jurisdiction of the ICC has limits specified in its charter.

Under its charter, the ICC may exercise jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for international crimes of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity only under certain conditions – when national courts are unwilling or unable to prosecute criminals or upon referral by the United Nations Security Council or individual states.

This means the ICC could only act on the complaint against Xi if it were filed by the Philippine government when it was still a member of the international tribunal.

China did not sign the Rome Statute in 1998 and therefore has since not been a member of ICC. The Philippines, on the other hand, withdrew its membership from the ICC in March last year, which took effect last March 17.

“These jurisdictional requirements are obviously not met, so we expect the ICC to dismiss the complaint,” he said.

Guevarra shared the opinion of Malacañang officials that the action taken by Del Rosario and Morales before the ICC was a “futile exercise.”

The Philippine government withdrew its membership from the ICC after a complaint was filed against President Duterte over his bloody war against illegal drugs.

Guevarra stressed the Chief Executive does not even need to formally respond to the charges in the complaints filed against him before the ICC following the country’s withdrawal from the international tribunal based in The Hague in the Netherlands.

“Answering or participating in any way will be inconsistent with our previous act of withdrawal from the ICC,” Guevarra explained. – With Pia Lee-Brago, Edu Punay

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