By Minka Klaudia Tiangco
Candidates from the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) denied that President Duterte is taking an “inactive” stance on the alleged increase of Chinese vessels in Philippine territory and harassment of Filipino fishermen.
Former Philippine National Police Chief Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, Maguindanao Representative Dong Mangudadatu, and former Interior Secretary Rafael Alunan III said this in response to critics who said Duterte was not properly enforcing the arbitral ruling on the West Philippine Sea.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo received flak for appearing dismissive when he was shown a documentary featuring fishermen from Masinloc, Zambales narrating how elements of the Chinese Coast Guard drive them away from Panatag Shoal, sometimes even confiscating their fish catch.
“How do they enforce that rule? Is it enforceable? If it’s enforceable, who will enforce it? You want us to force it unilaterally, the Philippines only? And when we enforce it and China snobs and humiliate us, do you want us to go to war with China?” Dela Rosa said in an interview at the sidelines of a PDP-Laban campaign sortie in Barangay Potrero, Malabon City on Tuesday.
He said the President is “crying inside” as he tries to figure out how to implement the law while still maintaining the government’s good relationship with China.
But Duterte is still “the number one foreign policy expert” for now, the former police chief said.
“Huwag nilang sabihin na si President Duterte ay hindi nationalistic, hindi patriotic na tao. Siya pa? Alam niya ‘yang kanyang pakikisama niya sa China, at the back of his mind, hindi niya talaga ibibigay ang Pilipinas (They should not say that President Duterte is not nationalistic and patriotic person. He knows that he is only being friendly with China, at the back of his mind, he will not give up the Philippines),” he said.
Meanwhile, Mangudadatu echoed Panelo’s sentiments and said the reports should be validated.
Alunan bared that Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Jr. told him that Duterte is standing his ground against China, but he does not want to do it openly.
“They probably don’t know what he’s saying behind the scenes. Hindi naman sila kasali dun sa usapan, eh,” Alunan said.
However, Mangudadatu and Alunan said the government should take action on the reports of alleged Chinese harassment.
“Big problem ‘yon para sa atin, diplomatic issue ‘yan. The Department of Foreign Affairs should file a diplomatic protest,” Alunan said.
“Dapat tuunan ng pansin ng gobyerno yan, dapat na mag-isip ng gagawin to counter that. Hindi po tayo papayag na meron kasi territory natin ‘yan, eh. Dapat magawan ng aksyon ‘yan as soon as possible,” Mangudadatu said.