‘MERE POLITICAL’ | ICC complaint vs. Xi Jinping not aimed at legal victory – Guevarra

3 weeks ago

(MARCH 25, 2019) – Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra downplayed the complaint filed by two former high-ranking officials against Chinese President Xi Jinping before the International Criminal Court (ICC), saying it was merely political and not aimed at a legal victory.

Former Ombudsman Conchita-Carpio Morales and former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario had filed the communication for the supposed atrocities done by Beijing in the disputed West Philippine Sea (WPS).

“I believe that the complaint was filed not with the hope of a favorable judgment by the ICC (jurisdictional issues and legal standing are huge stumbling blocks), but probably to impress upon China that if the Philippine government is not willing to vigorously assert its West Philippine Sea arbitration victory at this time, there are Filipinos who are unwilling to defer further action to enforce the arbitral ruling,” Guevarra said in a televised interview.

Guevarra was referring to the 2016 Hague ruling which favored the Philippines and invalidated China’s nine-dash line claim to the WPS. The landmark ruling likewise recognized the Philippines’ sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone. Beijing, however, has refused to honor the ruling.

The justice secretary also claimed that the complaint was meant to stress that the Philippines’ withdrawal from the Rome Statute, which created the ICC, was a mistake.

“[Because] this (ICC) is one forum where enforcement action in the WPS may actually be sought,” Guevarra said.

The country’s departure from the tribunal took effect on March 17 after the Supreme Court failed to act on petitions filed again the withdrawal, which was announced by President Rodrigo Duterte a year ago.

Guevarra, who was part of the Philippines’ legal representation in the arbitration case on the WPS, stood by Duterte’s decision to withdraw from the ICC.

“I trust that the president has the greater interest of the country in mind in pursuing his kind of foreign policy, and for that reason we ought to give him all the leeway and flexibility he needs,” he said.

WHY ONLY NOW?

Meanwhile, Malacañang on Monday questioned why the two former officials filed the complaint only now that they’re out of office.

Citing an unnamed source, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said then-DFA chief Del Rosario had “ignored” official notices sent to his office about China’s structure-building in the WPS.

The supposed inaction, Panelo said, was due to Del Rosario not wanting to “rock the boat.”

“Bakit ngayon ka lang naggagagalaw? Noong naitayo na saka kayo nag-iingay,” the Palace official said in a press briefing.

Interestingly, Del Rosario was part of the team which defended the Philippine position on the disputed WPS.

In the same briefing, Panelo reiterated that the ICC complaint would not prosper since both China and the Philippines are not party to the Rome Statute.

The ICC complaint, however, argued that Xi Jinping and other high-ranking Chinese government officials could still be held liable since the alleged crimes against humanity were committed during the period when the Philippines was still a State Party to the ICC.