De Lima fears whitewash in boat ramming incident joint probe
MANILA, Philippines – The planned joint investigation on the sinking of a Philippine-registered fishing boat in Recto (Reed) Bank in the West Philippine Sea by a Chinese vessel would just be an attempt to “whitewash” the incident, detained opposition Senator Leila de Lima said Monday.
“After the Duterte administration’s orchestrated response to downplay the incident and to silence the crew of FB Gem-Ver 1, this joint investigation is simply the logical step to a whitewash. ‘Mutually recognized results’ supposed to be arrived at in the joint probe means a ‘lutong macao’ to be cooked up by both the Duterte administration and China,” De Lima said in a dispatch from Camp Crame in Quezon City.
To give China an equal role in the investigation of a crime committed by a Chinese boat within Philippine jurisdiction “can be considered the height of stupidity, if only we were not already aware that treason is what actually motivates the Duterte administration in making China a part of the Recto Bank investigation,” De Lima added.
The lawmaker also echoed other senators’ worry that the joint probe will be tantamount to yielding the country’s jurisdiction over the area.
Several senators have also nixed the joint probe which Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said President Rodrigo Duterte had accepted.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said allowing China to take part in the marine inquiry would “derogate our jurisdiction and prejudice our claim” in the West Philippine Sea.
“The law is on our side. There are clear violations of international treaties and our local laws committed by the Chinese vessel. A joint investigation will only serve their interest, not ours,” the opposition senator said.
Lu Kang, a spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry earlier said China proposed the joint marine inquiry to look into the sinking of a Philippine fishing boat with 22 fishermen which Duterte had dismissed as a “little maritime incident.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Geng Shuang likewise said that the boat ramming was “an ordinary maritime traffic accident.”
Even Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. is opposing the joint marine inquiry.
“First principle of justice: no one can be [the] judge of his own case,” Locsin said.
“A joint investigation trenches on each other’s sovereignty.” /gsg
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