ICC studying Morales, Del Rosario complaint vs China's Xi

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 30) — The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) is analyzing if it has jurisdiction over the communication filed by two former Philippine officials against Chinese President Xi Jinping, said their lawyer who delivered the complaint to the Hague-based court.

“The office is analyzing the allegations identified in your communication with the assistance of other related communications and other information available,” lawyer Anne Marie Corominas told CNN Philippines’ The Source, reading from an email from the ICC Office of the Prosecutor sent on the eve of the detention of former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales in Hong Kong.

Corominas assisted Morales and former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario in filing a complaint against Xi, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and China’s envoy to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua at the ICC over China’s alleged infractions in the West Philippine Sea.

The former Philippine officials said Beijing caused near-permanent environmental destruction in the area, putting the livelihood of Filipino fishermen at risk.

The complaint, called a communication under ICC rules, asks the ICC to determine if it has jurisdiction over the case.

Corominas said that if the international tribunal has jurisdiction, it will undertake a preliminary examination — a process of examining information to determine whether there is basis to proceed with an investigation.

However, the ICC prosecutor told them that “meaningful analysis” will take some time, even if it will be “carried out as expeditiously as possible.”

“They have to consider related information. They were not just considering the documentary evidence that we presented, part of which were already vetted by the arbitral tribunal. But they still had to consider other information that reached them and any subsequent information that may require us to submit,” Morales said.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told CNN Philippines that the ICC’s response is “standard.”

“First thing to do really is to determine whether the ICC has jurisdiction over the subject matter and, maybe, over the person of the respondent. If none, the complaint or communication will be dismissed outright,” Guevarra said in a text message.

Morales and Del Rosario filed the communication before the ICC two days before the effectivity of the Philippines’ withdrawal from the international tribunal. Meanwhile, China is not a member of the ICC.

READ: What’s next after the Philippines’ withdrawal from the International Criminal Court?

The two former officials insist that since the East Asian giant committed the alleged crimes in Philippine territory, its officials may be hauled to the ICC even if it is not a member of the court.

"We are confident [that the ICC has jurisdiction.] We studied the case, we studied the law," Morales said. "Crimes were committed within the territory of the Philippine sea, and therefore the Philippines can complain before the Office of the Prosecutor."

Barred from Hong Kong

Corominas said she received the email from the ICC Office of the Prosecutor on May 22, even if it was dated May 20 — the eve of the detention of Morales in Hong Kong, where she was briefly barred entry over "immigration reasons."

The former graft buster said she was never informed of the reasons for her detention at the airport.

"I was a Supreme Court justice of the Republic of the Philippines. And I was also an Ombudsman of the Republic of the Philippines. I was never subjected to this kind of ordeal, to this kind of humiliation," Morales recalled telling airport officials.

She wanted to bring her grandchildren to Hong Kong Disneyland as she has already brought them to DisneySea in Tokyo and to Universal Studios in Osaka in Japan.

However, instead of joining her grandchildren at the theme park, she went home hours after she arrived in Hong Kong, even if she was eventually allowed to enter the special administrative region of China.

After her ordeal, Morales said she would never return to Hong Kong.

"I don’t like to go through that ordeal again. And at all events I don’t like to contribute a single Hong Kong dollar to the economy of Hong Kong," she said.

CNN Philippines Executive Producer and Correspondent Tristan Nodalo contributed to this report.