By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
Malacañang affirmed President Duterte’s lack of knowledge on the reported harassment done by Chinese forces to Filipino soldiers in the Ayungin Shoal.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made the statement despite Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Cayetano saying last week that Duterte gave him ‘strong instructions’ regarding the issue.
Roque, in a press briefing Thursday, said that he would clarify with Duterte if he was really not briefed about the incident.
However, in a text message to Malacañang reporters, Roque simply said that he would defer to the statement of the President.
“Let it stand,” Roque said when asked by Palace reporters if Duterte was not really not really informed about the incident.
Duterte, in his arrival speech in Pasay City, seemed clueless when asked for his reaction about the issue, as he claimed that that was the first time he heard of the report.
“What kind of harassment in the first place before — before I commit myself to answer the question, what kind of harassment was this?” Duterte said Wednesday predawn.
Duterte said he would prefer to have more information on the matter first before commenting as he feared that it may cause a problem later on.
“I have to have a more… Not even… This is the first time I’ve heard of it,” he said.
“It would be dangerous for me to answer questions without really having the slightest idea of what it is all about,” he added.
Ground for protest
Meanwhile, Roque said that the video showing the Chinese Coast Guard taking the catch of Filipino fishermen in the Scarborough Shoal can be a ground for protest against China.
However, Roque said that the video seemed inconclusive and have asked GMA News to verify the authenticity of the video.
“If established, it’s a ground for protest. Have asked GMA to authenticate but video I saw was inconclusive,” Roque said in a text message.
“Didn’t actually see any bullying. Anyway, asked fishermen for their written statement,” he added.
A video obtained by GMA News showed a male Chinese taking the catch of Filipino fishermen in the Scarborough Shoal. The video was shown over the June 7 episode of “Reporter’s Notebook”.
A fisherman interviewed for the report told GMA News that Chinese nationals would just go through their catch and pick out the best ones.
The report came in less than two months after the military said it is trying to encourage fishermen to return to Scarborough Shoal. However, fishermen were hesitated to return to the said area for fear of being prevented from fishing.
The government has credited the government’s warmer ties with China for the return of Filipino fishermen there.
However, Filipino maritime law expert Jay Batongbacal said that the video obtained by GMA News only shows China’s effective control and occupation of the Scarborough Shoal.