For Vice President Leni Robredo, the complaint filed against Chinese President Xi Jinping at the International Criminal Court (ICC) brings hope for the Philippines.
“Natuwa ako noong nakita ko iyong ginawa, kasi parang dumating kasi tayo sa punto na parang nawawalan tayo ng pag-asa-sinasakop tayo nang sinasakop, tapos nawawalan tayo ng pag-asa, na wala tayong magagawa,” Robredo said in a statement Saturday.
[Translation: “I was happy with the filing because it seems we have reached a point where we have lost hope – we are being occupied and occupied, then we are losing hope, because we can’t do anything.”]
She lamented that nothing has come out from the country’s win at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in July 2016. Its landmark ruling invalidated China’s sweeping claims in the South China Sea and recognized the Philippines’ sovereign right in areas within its 200-nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone.
China has built artificial islands, prohibited Filipino fishermen from fishing and interfered in petroleum exploration in those areas, as it continues to reject the arbitral ruling. President Rodrigo Duterte, who has sought friendlier ties with China, refused to bring the decision up with China but promised to do so within his term.
“At least ito (filing), mayroong mga naglakas ng loob na i-bring to the attention of authorities iyong pagsabi na mali na ba talaga iyong ginagawa o hindi,” Robredo said.
Translation: “At least with the filing, someone took the courage to bring to the attention of authorities to say if something wrong is being committed or not.”
Robredo thanked former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales for leading an effort to make Xi and other Chinese officials accountable for their actions in the West Philippine Sea.
In a press briefing on Friday, del Rosario and Morales said they are hoping for the arrest of the Chinese officials, whom they said caused significant problems in the West Philippine Sea, including the building and militarization of artificial islands, damage to marine environment, and harassment of Filipino fishermen.
Morales likened the legal challenge to the biblical story of David who killed the giant named Goliath. “That he (Xi) is powerful does not deter anyone to file a case against him,” she added.
Robredo on Saturday said, “Parang dinugtungan ulit iyong pag-asa sa ating mga puso, na mayroon pa naman pala tayong lakas na labanan iyong isang malaking entity kagaya ng China.”
[Translation: “It brought hope to our hearts, that we still have the strength to fight a giant entity like China.”]
Malacañang, however, said the filing of the complaint, which the ICC calls a communication, may be a “futile exercise” because China is not among the 122 state parties of the international court. Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo in a statement on Saturday also maintained that the Philippines was never part of the ICC although the government withdrew from the court on March 17, 2018 – a move that took effect this year.
The communication at the ICC was filed March 15, two days before the withdrawal took effect. The complainants stressed that the ICC can prosecute China because the Philippines was a state party when the supposed crimes were committed.