Despite Duterte openness, Locsin rejects joint PH-China probe

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Despite President Rodrigo Duterte's openness to it, Foreign Secretary Teodoro "Teddyboy" Locsin Jr rejected the proposed joint investigation between the Philippines and China into the sinking of a Filipino fishing boat in the West Philippine Sea.

Locsin was reacting on Friday, June 21, to an ANC interview with international affairs analyst Aaron Jed Rabena, who said the the terms of a possible joint investigation into the Recto Bank incident should be clear.

"Who the fuck is this guy?" Locsin tweeted in reaction to Rabena's statement.

"There will be NO joint investigation. China and the Philippines will conduct their respective investigations," said Locsin.

Locsin made this statement a day after Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said President Rodrigo Duterte  was open to a joint investigation into the Recto Bank incident. 

"The President welcomes a joint investigation and an early resolution of the case," Panelo said in a text message on Thursday, June 20.

Panelo, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana urged the same joint investigation into the Recto Bank incident.

The Chinese foreign ministry also pushed for a joint investigation into the Recto Bank incident, the most heated issue in the West Philippine Sea in recent history. (READ: TIMELINE: Sinking of Filipino boat in West PH Sea by Chinese ship)

Locsin is the only Cabinet secretary publicly opposing a joint investigation into the Recto Bank issue.

The foreign secretary tweeted on Wednesday, June 19: "A joint investigation trenches on each other's sovereignty. So separate investigations by each side; differences discussed by the two sides. If both sides satisfied, each side issues its conclusions hopefully the same. That fosters better bilateral relations."

Reacting to Locsin's position, Senator Panfilo Lacson said Locsin "is just about the only rational soul in the Cabinet having a say on the Recto Bank joint investigation issue."

"And for good reason. He said, 'One cannot be a judge of his own case,'" said Lacson in a tweet on Friday.

Lacson said that as for the others – Panelo, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, and Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol – "I'm not sure."

Only option?

In an ANC interview on Friday, Nograles said a joint probe with China was the only way "to seek compensiton for the fishermen, get to the bottom this, put closure to this incident and move on and better our relations with our neightbors.

"It’s an option that we are willing to explore," the Cabinet Secretary said on Friday.

Nograles added that having a joint probe would also ensure that the Chinese side would agree to be bound by the findings. 

"What other options do you have if not this? Even if you seek the international tribunal, you still have to get the other government to participate in that tribunal," he said.

Nograles said in the same interview that it would be the DFA that would "advise the President on this matter" but Duterte would make the final decision.

Duterte  recently adopted China's position on the boat sinking issue, as the Philippine military's commander in chief dismissed it as a "maritime incident." Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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