President Rodrigo Duterte has asserted that the previous administration lost control of the Scarborough Shoal in the West Philippine Sea in a showdown with China when then-Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario ordered a retreat of local forces without the permission of then-President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.
In his weekly televised public address Monday night, Duterte said that for him, the people who allowed China to enter the WPS were Del Rosario and his predecessor’s government and included in the blame now-retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio.
“For me, the people who allowed China to enter the West Philippine Sea—that is them because the Philippines retreated. It was the order, as a matter of fact, of Albert (Del Rosario). Sources say that he never got the permission from the President at the time, President Aquino,” Duterte said.
For his part, del Rosario reminded Duterte that “whether or not you promised to retake the West Philippine Sea and pressure China, it is the duty of the President under the Constitution to protect what is ours and our fellow Filipinos are relying on the President to do so.”
The former Department of Foreign Affairs envoy stressed that on the issue of Scarborough Shoal, China is the aggressor and the one occupying our territory.
“We would like to ask why you would believe Chinese President Xi Jinping over your own people?” he asked the President.
“To address an impasse, it was Xi Jinping who deceitfully breached the Scarborough agreement brokered by the U.S. for the withdrawal of all ships on both sides by a certain hour. We withdrew while Beijing did not. Until now, China refuses to withdraw its vessels to the prejudice of the Filipino people,” Del Rosario lamented.
Duterte, however, said del Rosario, the country’s former ambassador to the United States under the Arroyo administration, was not a Filipino.
“Albert showed up pretending to be—in public, and I have seen that long ago, he acts like with finesse. He pretends to be a diplomat of the making of the century. But I do not believe you—you are not a Filipino,” Duterte said.
“You do not look like a Filipino. Why should I believe you? I dare you to show us your resident certificate to prove you are Filipino,” he said to Del Rosario.
“Ask them why they recommended the retreat? If we had war back then, the two of you (Del Rosario and Carpio) would have been finished. You two are the lynchpin who brought misery to our country. Now that history is being made, recorded every day, you want yourselves to be free from any liability,” the President added.
“They think they are more intelligent than anyone. That’s the problem when these self-proclaimed cockeyed scholars begin to tinker in the affairs of the country, or if you allow them to have a wide elbow room so as to commit and discredit the country in the process. That is the reason,” Duterte said.
The President said his administration had a lawyer—Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque—who was just as well-versed in the issues of the West Philippine Sea as Del Rosario and Carpio.
“He was one of the lawyers who filed a case in connection with this tug-of-war in the West Philippine Sea. Secretary Roque is well-versed, well-equipped and he has the knowledge of what really happened. He is the human recorded history, and he will out-talk you all, and that is maybe to you sadness and chagrin,” Duterte said.
Still, Del Rosario urged President Duterte to implement the 2016 Arbitral Award rendered by the Permanent Court of Arbitration that invalidated China’s massive claims over the South China Sea through its nine-dash line and upheld the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone in the WPS.
“Mr. President, our respectful plea is the same: may we urge you to enforce the Arbitral Award and protect the West Philippine Sea for our country and our people,” he said.
“May we urge you, Mr. President, not to trade our lands and waters for prospects of money given by China,” the former envoy added.
On the comment made by the President that he will punch Del Rosario when he sees him, Del Rosario said: “May we convey that we wish him well and may he uphold his sworn duty to the Filipino people.”
The President also insisted he did not promise to retake the WPS from China during his 2016 presidential campaign, Roque said Tuesday.
The President said he avoided discussing the country’s territorial dispute with China during the campaign because he recognized it was a serious matter that required diplomatic discussions.
“I never, never in my campaign as [sic] president promised the people that I would retake the West Philippine Sea. I did not promise I would pressure China,” Duterte said.
“I think the President should be construed literally. He did not promise to take back the territory because of the fault of the previous administration,” Roque said in an online press conference.
Duterte, he added, only said that he would ask Beijing to honor the country’s sovereign rights.
Roque also waved aside Duterte’s “joke” at the time that he would take a jet ski to Scarborough Shoal to plant the Philippine flag there to assert the country’s sovereignty.
Tension in the region has been high after the Philippines protested the presence of over 200 Chinese ships at the Julian Felipe (Whitsun)
Reef in March. The ships have dwindled at the reef but others merely dispersed to other parts of the West Philippine Sea.
Carpio criticized Duterte for denying that he promised to retake the islands in the disputed waterway during his campaign for president in 2016.
Carpio, lead convenor of the 1Sambayan coalition of various opposition forces, recalled that Duterte declared in a debate in April 2016 that he would personally ride a jet ski to the features claimed by China and plant the Philippine flag, a statement later dismissed by the President as a hyperbole.
Carpio noted that Duterte’s campaign stated at the time that he “fully supported” the arbitration case filed by the Philippines against
China’s claim over nearly the entire South China Sea, a portion of which Manila refers to as the West Philippine Sea.
“President Duterte cannot now say that he never discussed or mentioned the West Philippine Sea issue when he was campaigning for president.
Otherwise, he would be admitting that he was fooling the Filipino people big time,” said Carpio, a critic of Duterte’s friendly approach to China amid the maritime dispute.
“There is a term for that – grand estafa or grand larceny. Making a false promise to get 16 million votes,” Carpio said.
A political science professor from the University of the Philippines on Tuesday said it is wrong for Duterte to blame former Foreign
Affairs secretary Albert del Rosario for the withdrawal of Philippine ships from Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal to end the 2012 standoff there with China.
“The US mediated. That means, we're honorable people because we honored the agreement and China did not. Maybe we need to be more smart about it,” she said in Filipino.
Del Rosario said in a previous statement that China’s seizure of the Scarborough Shoal nine years ago was due to Beijing’s non-compliance with a US-brokered agreement with Manila to jointly pulled out their ships at a certain time.
But Duterte continued to blame the Aquino administration and its officials for the loss of Scarborough Shoal.
COMMENT DISCLAIMER: Reader comments posted on this Web site are not in any way endorsed by Manila Standard. Comments are views by manilastandard.net readers who exercise their right to free expression and they do not necessarily represent or reflect the position or viewpoint of manilastandard.net. While reserving this publication’s right to delete comments that are deemed offensive, indecent or inconsistent with Manila Standard editorial standards, Manila Standard may not be held liable for any false information posted by readers in this comments section.