Malacañang open to Chinese claim vs Filipino fishermen

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang defended President Rodrigo Duterte's silence on the sinking of a Philippine boat by a Chinese vessel, saying he is waiting for "all the facts," including the investigation of the Chinese government, before acting.

This indicates Malacañang's openness to China's claim denying that a Chinese vessel intentionally rammed, sank, and abandoned Filipino fishing boat Gem-Ver in Recto Bank (Reed Bank) in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

The Chinese embassy had claimed the Chinese vessel was in fact "besieged by 7 or 8 Filipino fishing boats," preventing it from rescuing the Filipino fishermen from their sunken boat.

"Tingnan natin kung totoo ang contrary claim nila (Let's see if their contrary claim is correct)," Panelo said.

He claimed Malacañang is "not doubting" the account of the Filipino fishermen, "but we want to know the facts, since there is a contrary claim."

On Duterte's silence, Panelo said, "As a lawyer, abogado ito, kaming mga abogado (he is a lawyer, we lawyers), we wait for the facts to come in, all the facts."

"Let the facts set in and the President will respond to the same," Duterte's spokesman added.

At the same time, Panelo on Monday, June 17, refuted Gem-Ver's owner, who said it feels like Filipinos "are slaves of China" who have no rights over their own waters.

"Baka it's a rhetorical question. Siyempre the response is we can never be slaves to anyone," Panelo said in a media briefing on Monday.

(Perhaps it's a rhetorical question. Of course the response is we can never be slaves to anyone.)

When asked if the Philippines is a slave to China specifically, Panelo responded, "Not to anyone nga eh (as I said). That includes every country in the world." – Rappler.com

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and 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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