De Lima backs ex-gov’t officials’ decision to pursue ICC complaint vs China

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Senator Leila M. de Lima has supported former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales and former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario’s decision to pursue their case against Chinese President Xi Jinping and his other officials for their crimes against Filipinos in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

De Lima made the remark after Morales and Del Rosario vowed to continue pursuing their complaint against Xi Jinping for violations in the WPS despite the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) claim that it has no territorial or personal jurisdiction over the case.

“The decision of the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of the [ICC] published in its report dated 5 December 2019 denying due course to the Morales-Del Rosario communication against Xi Jinping relied mostly on its preliminary, if not premature finding that the situs of the alleged crimes did not take place within the territory of the Philippines,” she said in her recent Dispatch from Crame No. 668.

“In reaching such conclusion, the OTP apparently did not consider the fact that the Philippines is in complete control and possession of several islands in the Spratly Islands known as the Kalayaan Group of Islands, and that these were already declared Philippine territory under Philippine law as early as the 1970s,” she added.

In a report issued last Dec. 5, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said the tribunal does not have jurisdiction over the former government officials’ complaint against China’s alleged crimes against humanity in the WPS.

While the alleged crimes of Xi Jinping and other Chinese officials occurred in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, Bensouda noted that it cannot be considered a territory of the state.

The ICC Prosecutor, however, clarified that its findings in the preliminary examination may be reconsidered upon new facts or evidence, which Del Rosario and Morales vowed to provide.

Last March 15, the two former officials filed a communication before the ICC – or two days before the Philippines’ unilateral withdrawal from the international tribunal, arguing that the “atrocious actions of Chinese officials within the WPS “constitute crimes against humanity that the ICC can prosecute.”

De Lima maintained that most of the acts complained of as committed by China occurred within the PH-occupied or PH-claimed territory in the Spratly Islands, and which the Philippines has long considered as part of its territory as the Kalayaan Group of Islands.

“The Philippines continues to exercise complete control and authority, if not dominion and sovereignty, over the Kalayaan Group of Islands. For all intents and purposes, these are already considered Philippine territory by the Philippines,” she said.

“Under international law, these islands that are controlled and occupied by the Philippines, and which never previously belonged to any other country before such occupation by the Philippines, can be considered Philippine territory by right of occupation,” she added.

Subject to the OTP’s further review and consideration of the issue of territoriality in the case of Morales and Del Rosario against Xi Jinping, De Lima expressed optimism that the Chinese President and and China can still be hailed to the ICC for their continuous acts of harassment against Filipino fisherfolk in the WPS.

“Unlike the Philippines, China has no occupied islands in the Kalayaan Group of Islands. What it has done instead is to illegally create artificial islands on top of submerged reefs in international waters, in violation of international law and the UNCLOS,” she maintained.

In the 17th Congress, De Lima filed Senate Resolution (SR) No. 766 calling for a Senate investigation into the reported harassment of Filipino fisherfolk by members of the Chinese Coast. (30)

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