Joint Recto Bank probe 'defies logic': ex-top diplomat Del Rosario

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 24 2019 09:53 AM | Updated as of Jun 24 2019 10:31 AM

Former DFA Secretary Albert Del Rosario answers questions from the media as he arrived at the NAIA Terminal 3 on June 21, 2019. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA -- The Philippines and China's joint investigation into the sinking of a Filipino boat by a suspected Chinese militia vessel "defies logic," Manila's former foreign affairs chief Albert del Rosario said Monday. 

"The way it is being approached defies logic... If there is an offense, you don't ask the offending party to investigate itself," Del Rosario told ANC. 

"You have one party that is looking for the truth and another party that is out to suppress it so it's not gonna work," he added. 

Filipino ship F/B GEM-VER was anchored near Recto (Reed) Bank when it was hit by a Chinese vessel, causing it to sink and leaving 22 crew members adrift for hours before they were picked up by a Vietnamese vessel. 

A joint investigation by Manila, Beijing and a neutral third country will "promote the expedient resolution of the issue" and "will also be in accordance with international law... which places paramount emphasis on the use of peaceful means to resolve international disputes," Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said last week. 

Del Rosario, however, said "we need to give primacy to the Philippines, the Filipinos." 
 
"We should be investigating that on our own," he added. 

China is claiming nearly all of the South China Sea, conflicting with partial claims of the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan. 

Del Rosario, former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales and a group of Filipino fishermen had filed a communication against Chinese President Xi Jinping for alleged crimes against humanity over Beijing's incursions in the West Philippine Sea, the country's exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea. 

HONG KONG PLIGHT 

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Last week, the 79-year-old Del Rosario was denied entry to Hong Kong, a special administrative territory of China, and sent back to Manila. 

Del Rosario reiterated that the Philippines was disrespected when Hong Kong authorities deported him despite his diplomatic passport. 

"My diplomatic passport carries the seal of the Republic of the Philippines. To show disrespect for the passport is to show disrespect for the republic," he told ANC. 

The Department of Foreign Affairs on Saturday said it would cancel all courtesy diplomatic passports and would stop issuing the special travel document to its former agency chiefs and envoys. 

But the Passport Act provides for the issuance of diplomatic passports and the cancellation of these should be approved by Congress instead of a department order, said Del Rosario. 

"A department order... is illegal. It cannot supersede the Passport Act, which has to go through Congress for approval," he said. 

He also denied that he was politicizing the issue

"I think we should consider that what we are doing is to be able to promote the primacy of the rights of Filipinos. We think that this government is not doing that," he said. 

Morales in May was also initially barred from entering Hong Kong while on a vacation trip with her family. She was later cleared but just decided to go back home.