MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte showed confidence on Thursday, March 21, that the case filed by former Philippine officials against China at the International Criminal Court (ICC) will not jeopardize his country's ties with the Asian giant.
"No. I'm sure it won't. The Philippines is a democratic country and anybody can bring a suit against anybody, but whether or not it would prosper, or whether or not we have the jurisdiction, that's something else," said the strongman leader in an interview with reporters.
"Remember, China is not a member of the ICC," he added.
Duterte made these remarks after former foreign secretary Albert del Rosario, former ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, and a group of fishermen filed a complaint with the ICC against Chinese President Xi Jinping and other officials.
The complainants accused Xi and the Chinese officials of crimes against humanity for environmental damage in the South China Sea.
Del Rosario, Morales, and the fishermen told the ICC's Office of the Prosecutor that Xi and other Chinese officials have committed crimes "which involve massive, near-permanent, and devastating environmental damage across nations."
Right after commenting on the case against Xi, Duterte went on to defend the Philippines' decision to leave the ICC. "We did withdraw because there was no law at all," Duterte said.
The President was referring to his argument that the Philippines' ratification of the Rome Statute, which created the ICC, never took effect in the Philippines because it was never published in the Official Gazette. (READ: Duterte throws out decade-long fight for International Criminal Court)
The Philippines' withdrawal from the ICC took effect on March 17, but Del Rosario, Morales and the group of fishermen filed their complaint against China on March 15. The complainants argued that the ICC continues to have jurisdiction over the case.
The complaint comes as Duterte forges stronger ties with China despite the Asian giant's claim over the West Philippine Sea, which belongs to the Philippines.
On Thursday, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr also ended his first official trip to Beijing, where he blasted the West and heaped praises on China in the presence of his counterpart, Wang Yi. – Rappler.com
Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at email@example.com.