PRESUMPTIVE President Rodrigo Duterte could face an impeachment complaint in connection with his pronouncement that the Philippines already lost its claim to the contested Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th said on Monday.
Trillanes, who played as backchannel negotiator with China in 2012 in an effort to ease tension in the shoal in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea), noted that Duterte has no basis in saying the Philippines lost its claim to Scarborough.
“As President of the country, he [Duterte] should be protecting the territorial integrity of the Philippines,” the senator insisted.
Duterte, on several occasions, questioned Trillanes’ supposed dealings with China over the disputed shoal.
In a recent interview, he was quoted as saying that the Philippines “lost the Scarborough Shoal” and blamed Trillanes and President Benigno Aquino 3rd for it.
“After a certain senator, si Trillanes, went back and forth at the behest of the President and there was already a ruckus there in [the]Spratlys and finally after the 16th visit we lost Scarborough,” Duterte said in an interview posted in the Internet.
The Spratlys are a group of islets and islands in the South China Sea.
In a news conference also on Monday in Davao City, of which he is mayor, Duterte again said the Philippines lost the shoal and he wanted to know why.
Trillanes said Duterte’s statement is “very dangerous” because it could compromise the country’s territorial claim.
The Philippines has a pending arbitration case against China in connection with the Scarborough Shoal dispute.
“It [Duterte saying the Philippines has lost Panatag] is a violation of the Constitution, because he [Duterte] should be pursuing our territorial claim,” Trillanes said when asked what could be the ground for an impeachment complaint against Duterte.
“No official of the government could confirm or would categorically say that we have indeed lost it [Scarborough],” the senator added.
According to Trillanes, he was appointed by Aquino as a backchannel negotiator to deescalate the tense situation in Panatag Shoal in 2012 and he was able to accomplish his mission within the authority given by the President without compromising the country’s claim.
“Just to inform Mayor Duterte, there is no reclamation in Panatag and I have our National Security officials on record during two Senate hearings that we have not lost Panatag contrary to some unfounded media reports,” the senator said.
When asked why Duterte would claim that the Philippines already lost Scarborough, Trillanes replied that it is possible that the presumptive President could just be laying the groundwork in case the Philippines, under his leadership, lost the shoal.
“I hope he won’t do that, because it would seem that he is giving China the license to occupy the area and blame me and the President for it,” the senator said.
“I will not allow that [the Philippines losing Scarborough to China]to happen because we have it on record that before he assumes office, Scarborough is ours, no reclamation is being conducted and our aerial reconnaissance and patrol boats continue to patrol the area,” he added.