Duterte says PH-China ties unaffected with ICC communication against Xi

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Chinese President Xi Jinping and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 21) — The communication filed by two former Filipino officials against Chinese President Xi before the International Criminal Court has no bearing on Philippine-China ties, President Rodrigo Duterte said Thursday.

"They are entitled to file a case. They are Filipino citizens. And I think we just also have to defend our position vis-a-vis sa kanila. They think they have a good case, and I would say that there is no jurisdiction over this country and of China. Mas lalo na sa [Especially with] China. We will just go along that line," Duterte said in an ambush interview after the 122nd Philippine Army Founding Anniversary at Fort Andres Bonifacio in Manila.

Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales filed the communication before the international tribunal on March 15, two days before the Philippines formally withdrew from it. They argued the ICC can have jurisdiction over the "crimes against humanity" committed by China over their encroachment, militarization, and illegal reclamation in the South China Sea.

Duterte merely shrugged the communication off.

"The Philippines is a democratic country. And anybody can bring a suit against anybody. But whether or not it would prosper, whether or not we have the jurisdiction, that's something else," he said.

China is not a State Party to the Rome Statute, the treaty which forms the ICC. This strips the ICC of power to prosecute China, but the communication pointed out the ICC can do so since the crimes were committed within Philippine territory.

Duterte argued the Philippines was never a State Party to the Rome Statute as well, since the law was supposedly not published in the Official Gazette.

"Remember, China is not a member of the ICC. Dito [Here], we were never. We did not withdraw. Because there was no law at all," he said.

The President is known to have warm ties with China. During his term, the Philippines saw an influx of Chinese workers, a multitude of bilateral agreements including infrastructure deals with Beijing, and a softer stance on the South China Sea dispute.