Sereno slams Duterte's closeness to China

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 21 2018 03:35 PM

MANILA - Ousted Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Wednesday questioned President Rodrigo Duterte's closeness to China, as Chinese President Xi Jinping ended his state visit here.

The Philippines hosted Xi in a historic 2-day state visit, the first for a Chinese leader in 13 years. The trip saw the signing of 29 deals to highlight improving ties between the two countries under Duterte's leadership, and the prospect of a strategic cooperation.

But Sereno, an administration critic removed from her post in May through a petition filed by Duterte's chief attorney Jose Calida, questioned why Duterte turned to China whose values, she said, do not match that of the Philippines.

"We as a nation, especially our President, should not forget what is most important to Filipinos - love of God, freedom and dignity of every human being, preservation of the Philippines for Filipinos," Sereno said in a statement.

"China opposes and crushes those values. Why the closeness to China and the repudiation of our international friends who share these values? Don't negate who we are as a people, Mr. President," she added.

Sereno was the chief justice when the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in favor of Manila in its fight against Beijing's incursions in the West Philippine Sea, the country's exclusive economic zone in the disputed South China Sea. 

Former President Benigno Aquino III's administration lodged the case after a standoff in the Scarborough Shoal in 2012. 

But Duterte has opted to set aside the landmark court victory and instead sought closer economic and diplomatic ties with China. 

China has ignored the ruling as it continued island-building and militarization activities in the resource-rich South China Sea. 

On Tuesday, just as Xi arrived, Duterte's spokesperson Salvador Panelo said "no power on earth" could enforce the ruling, but said the victory "cannot not be taken away from us."

He has also shifted Philippine foreign policy away from its traditional alliance with the United States, the country's treaty ally and China's rival for Asia-Pacific dominance. 

--report from Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News