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Solons agree: House must probe Duterte-China deal

By: Gabriel Pabico Lalu - | April 14,2024 - 07:03 PM

Duterte China

LOS ANGELES, United States — Several lawmakers from both the majority and minority blocs of the House of Representatives have agreed on the need to place under investigation former president Rodrigo Duterte’s so-called “gentleman’s agreement” with China,  as the public must be informed of its every detail.

Minority official and ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro said on Saturday (Pacific Standard time) that since Duterte has already admitted on having a deal with China to maintain the status quo in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), House Resolution (HR) No. 1216 which they filed must be deliberated already.

Last March 19, Castro reiterated the need to discuss HR No. 1216 amid rising belief that it was Duterte who was behind the supposed deal to remove BRP Sierra Madre from Ayungin Shoal.  Duterte’s former presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo meanwhile said that such a probe will just be a waste of time since Duterte did not enter into such a deal.

READ: Marcos to Duterte: ‘What did you compromise?’

“Now that Duterte has finally admitted to entering a secret deal with China, it is imperative that Congress hear House Resolution 1216 that we have filed as early as last year.  We must know all that there is to this unpatriotic deal, and the ones responsible should be held accountable,” Castro said.

“Baka naibenta na pala ni Duterte ang West Philippine Sea ay di pa natin alam (Duterte might have sold the entire West Philippine Sea without us knowing),” she added.

Full disclosure

Castro said a full disclosure of the agreement between Duterte and China should done so that the people would know details of the deal.

READ: Duterte denies he ‘conceded’ anything in WPS deal with China

“We demand full disclosure of the details of this secret agreement. The Filipino people have the right to know what compromises were made and what implications these have on our country’s territorial integrity,” she added.

“We call on our fellow lawmakers to swiftly address this issue and ensure that the interests of the Filipino people are protected. It is crucial that we uphold our sovereignty and hold those accountable for any actions that may compromise it,” she added.

House Assistant Majority Leader and Zambales 1st District Rep. Jay Khonghun said it is crucial to identify details of the agreement and at the same time ensure accountability if the deal was disadvantageous to the Philippines.

READ: Pimentel: Duterte’s undocumented China pact not binding for PH

“It’s crucial to ascertain the truth if indeed the Duterte administration struck such a deal with China,” Khonghun, a member of the House’ youth movement, said.  “This isn’t just about conflicting narratives; it’s about upholding integrity and accountability.”

“We cannot allow uncertainty to cloud our national interests. The Filipino people deserve clarity and honesty from our leaders,” he added.  “As lawmakers, it is our duty to seek out the truth and hold accountable those responsible for any wrongdoing.”

Status quo in the WPS

Last March 27, Duterte’s former presidential spokesperson, lawyer Harry Roque, confirmed to reporters that Duterte and China had a deal to maintain the status quo in the WPS.  This means both the Philippines and China would refrain from constructing and repairing installations in the area.

READ: Carpio: Duterte surrenders PH’s Ayungin rights in China agreement

Roque however admitted that the deal was non-binding and could not apply during President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s tenure.

However, Roque’s claim was countered by another former presidential spokesperson in lawyer Salvador Panelo, who said that Duterte did not enter into such an agreement with China.

Duterte eventually, along with China, admitted that such an agreement existed.

READ: China claims sovereignty over Pagasa Island; accuses PH of encroachment

The agreement has raised concerns among officials in the country, including President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. himself, who asked Duterte as to what his administration gave and compromised in the deal.

Secret deal

Marcos also said at the press briefing in Washington, during his official visit to the United States, that he prefers to call the agreement a secret deal because it was deliberately hidden from the public.

According to Marcos, Duterte and his past officials should clarify matters because it would explain why friends from China have been irritated with the Philippines’ actions over the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

In the second year of Marcos’ term, China has become increasingly aggressive over the WPS, particularly when the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) assists resupply missions to Ayungin Shoal, where Filipino military troops are stationed.

The soldiers are manning BRP Sierra Madre, a Navy ship which was deliberately ran aground at Ayungin Shoal in 1999.

Ayungin Shoal, which sits around 315 kilometers from the tip of Palawan, is well within the 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone of the country.

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TAGS: Agreement, China, PROBE, Rodrigo Duterte

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