Lawyering for China? Panelo twits Lacson's 'shallow analysis'

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 21 2019 02:12 PM | Updated as of Jun 21 2019 02:25 PM

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo and Senator Panfilo Lacson. File

MANILA- Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo rejected Friday the statement of Senator Panfilo Lacson that he was speaking like China's defense counsel over the allision of a Chinese ship and a Filipino fishing boat.

Earlier this week, Lacson said Panelo's remarks on the allision makes him appear as if he was a "defense counsel" for Beijing after the presidential spokesman said conflicting accounts on the incident would cast doubt on the testimonies of the Filipino fishermen.

Panelo, also the chief presidential legal counsel, said Friday Lacson's remarks are a "shallow analysis" of his examination of the incident.

"The perception that my pointing out of certain circumstances surrounding the Reed Bank incident previously unknown to us, creates the impression that I’m acting as China’s counsel, is sheer non sequitur as well as a shallow analysis of my examination of the incident," Panelo said in a statement.

"As a lawyer I have been trained to dissect a situation, to arrive at an intelligent and rational study of the whys and wherefores of a subject of an inquiry," he said.

Panelo also noted that Lacson appears to be "smarting" from his earlier rejection of the senator's call to invoke the mutual defense pact with the United States over the allision of vessels.

"The Reed Bank incident is being dressed with misplaced emotionalism and pretended nationalism by those who are bent on politicizing an otherwise ordinary navigation incident into an international fracas," he said.

Under the Mutual Defense Treaty, Washington can send patrols to the disputed waters and can make China pause its actions, Lacson said.

Twenty-two Filipino fishermen were reportedly abandoned by a Chinese crew that bumped into their boat on June 9, prompting the Philippines to file a diplomatic protest.

"We maintain our stand that regardless of the nature of the allision, we condemn the uncivilized and inhuman act of abandoning the Filipino fishermen thereby putting them into the precipice of extinction after their vessel submerged. There must be accountability and compensation," Panelo said.

Manila on Friday rejected Beijing's proposal for a joint investigation over the incident, saying both countries will conduct separate probes.

"Both countries must ascertain the truth of the Reed Bank incident and proceed to put to rest the conflict, consistent with the principles of justice and the law of the seas," Panelo said.

Panelo also reiterated that the Philippines' sovereignty remains "non-negotiable" amid criticism on the softer stance of the government on the issue.

He also appealed to "major players and kibitzers" of the allision to "hold their horses and let emotions settle down, as we pursue to find a satisfactory and principled end to the issue."

"While we are friendly to all countries and enemies to none, we remain steadfast in asserting and protecting our sovereignty against any assault and/ or intrusion from whatever source. Our sovereignty, we repeat, is non-negotiable," he said.