MANILA – Two former senior government officials on Thursday said they are not against President Rodrigo Duterte but are only after demanding accountability from China in the West Philippine Sea.
“I would like to say to him that we are here not to oppose his policies, but we are here to encourage him to do what is right for our people; that we are here to remind him that our people should have primacy over China,” said former foreign affairs secretary Albert del Rosario.
Their fight may be an unpopular one but Del Rosario and former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales believe they have the support of the Filipino people.
"If the support of the public is any indication we don't feel that we are in an unpopular fight. On the contrary, they are supporting us," said Morales.
Morales said they took on the fight as they saw that there seems to be no action on the part of the government to support the fishermen.
"We take cudgels for our poor fishermen. We saw that there has been injustice. There has been abuse. So the ambassador, initially he was alone, thought of filing the communication to demand accountability," she said.
Del Rosario said that recent survey also showed that Filipinos care about the West Philippine Sea issue.
"I think we all know that the president enjoys 80+ percent rating, that he is very popular. In the same survey, are our people happy about the way we are asserting our sovereignty in terms of this tribunal outcome, 9 out of 10 Filipinos would like the government to assert its sovereignty," he said.
Morales also mentioned that the petition calling for support for their efforts initiated by Nazarlina Lim last March on Change.org is still gaining numbers.
"After the secretary and I were denied entry to Hong Kong it zoomed to a greater number that is now approximating 75,000 (signatories)," she said.
HARASS AND INTIMIDATE
Morales was initially barred from entering Hong Kong while on a vacation trip with her family in May.
Del Rosario also experienced the same immigration problem last week when he was denied entry to the special administrative territory of China.
Morales was later cleared but decided to just go back to Manila. Del Rosario, on the other hand, was sent back after being held for a few hours.
"I think there was some attempt to harass and to intimidate because if it was their intention to deport they should have done that right away rather than hold me for 6 hours," said Del Rosario.
Del Rosario and Morales, along with a group of Filipino fishermen, had filed a communication against China's President Xi Jinping for alleged crimes against humanity over Chinese incursions in the West Philippine Sea, the country's exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea.
"We were signatories to this ICC submission calling for crimes against humanity. We were the proponents for that. It’s clear, it’s in retaliation for that action," Del Rosario said.
After the incident, the Department of Foreign Affairs said it would cancel all courtesy diplomatic passports and would stop issuing such special travel document to former DFA chiefs and envoys.
But Morales pointed out that the Philippine Passport Act allows the issuance of diplomatic passports to those who are qualified.
"That is a law. A mere order by the Department of Foreign Affairs cannot overrule that law. It is my opinion that the Philippine Passport Act prevails," said Morales.
Del Rosario believes that the use of diplomatic passport was merely a distraction from what he called a real problem: the ramming of Filipino fishermen's boat near the Recto (Reed) Bank.
"The resources--mineral and fish resources--in the South China Sea are huge and they are going to be enjoyed by generations after us. I think the economic benefits is such a tiny fractions of what this benefits will provide for our people for generations to come," he said.
"To be able to reserve this for them would mean we have to defend our position in terms of exclusive rights, that's exclusively ours," he said.