Sotto: Impeach bid vs Duterte over China a ‘very good test case’
MANILA, Philippines— An impeachment case against President Rodrigo Duterte would be a “very good test case” if he indeed violated the Constitution by allowing China to fish in the exclusive economic zone (EZZ) of the Philippines.
“I suggest that they file an impeachment and let’s see if they are right,” Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III said in an interview aired over ABS CBN News Channel on Thursday.
“It’s very difficult to say that there’s exclusivity when its under water,” he pointed out.
“The fish could be coming from China, and the fish from the Philippines could be going to China if we want to be technical about it and relate it to the constitutionality of what should be owned by us.”
Sotto explained that there are fish that are only found in China but could be found in Philippine waters probably because of migration.
“(I think it would) be a very good test case that it is a constitutional violation,” he said.
He, however, refused to comment if Duterte’s move on China was a ground to impeach him, noting that the Senate would become an impeachment court if indeed a complaint is filed against the Chief Executive.
But even the Senate leader sees nothing wrong in allowing trawlers from China or from other nations to fish in the EEZ of the Philippines.
“As long as we’re allowed to fish also in their zones, then I don’t see anything wrong because they will treat us as friends likewise,” Sotto said.
After all, he said, , “the buck stops” with the President.
Opposition Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan earlier said it would be in violation of the Constitution to allow Chinese and other foreigners to fish in Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea where a Chinese vessel reportedly hit a local fishing boat last June 9.
“The Recto Bank is part of the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). It is ours. Allowing Chinese or other foreigners to fish there violates our Constitution,” he said.
“While the President can enter into agreements involving mineral resources under the last paragraph of Article XII, Section 2 of the Constitution*, he cannot do so with respect to marine resources.”
Asked about Duterte’s alleged failure to invoke the country’s victory in the arbitration case against China’s “nine-dash line” claim in the South China Sea, Sotto said the Philippines “may try to “diplomatically” enforce it “but that’s about it.”
“That’s the only thing we can do,” he said, “What do they expect the President to do? What do they expect the government to do?” (Editor: Mike U. Frialde)
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