De Lima describes Duterte ‘plastic and fake as the dolomite beach’ after his UN speech
MANILA, Philippines — “Plastic and as fake as the dolomite beach.”
So said Senator Leila de Lima in describing President Rodrigo Duterte when he invoked the Philippines’ arbitral victory against China over the South China Sea dispute before the general assembly of the United Nations.
“I have only one word to describe the Duterte who spoke last night before the UNGA (United Nations General Assembly). Plastic. As fake as the dolomite beach his government wasted millions on in the middle of a pandemic,” De Lima, one of Duterte’s staunchest critics, said in a written dispatch from Camp Crame where she is currently detained.
Manila and Beijing have long been locked in a maritime dispute and in 2013, the Philippines filed a case with the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at The Hague challenging China’s sweeping claim of nearly the entire South China Sea, including parts of the West Philippine Sea.
In July 2016, the Hague-based court ruled in favor of the Philippines invalidating China’s nine-dash line claim but Beijing has repeatedly refused to recognize the ruling.
Duterte has been criticized for setting aside the landmark 2016 arbitral ruling and also earlier drew flak for saying that he was “inutile” and “cannot do anything” to counter China’s aggression in the South China Sea.
But the President, in a recorded speech before the United Nations early Wednesday (local time), said Manila’s win is “now part of international law, beyond compromise and beyond the reach of passing governments to dilute, diminish or abandon.”
De Lima said it was “almost unbelievable” that the President was able to behave in his pre-recorded address before the international body.
“Inasmuch as he did not have a live audience during recording, we all know that this is not the Duterte that we watch in his late-night show every Monday,” she said.
“That is why we also highly doubt if what he said was his own, or simply what was fed to him,” she added.
De Lima said the only indication that it was indeed the chief executive who was speaking was his “usual attack” against human rights defenders.
“However, the indications that it is not the Duterte we know who was speaking last night are several,” she added.
De Lima said she was surprised by Duterte’s “sudden” invocation of Manila’s 2016 victory.
Duterte is now asking the United Nations to recognize the historic ruling after four years of “betraying the hard-won…decision in order to curry favor with China,” according to the senator.
She added that the President did not have to remind the United Nations to recognize the said ruling.
“The UN recognizes the validity and legal force of international arbitral awards as a matter of international law. It is only Duterte who has renounced it in his four years of kowtowing to China,” De Lima said.
‘Smacks of cavalier double-speak’
According to her, Duterte’s “volte-face” on the maritime row between Manila and Beijing in his speech is “highly dubious and smacks of cavalier double-speak on a matter of foreign policy that he has long decided in favor of China.”
De Lima said it is now too late for the chief executive to be a “defender” of the Philippines’ arbitral award and sovereignty after “he has repeatedly bowed to China as its number one lapdog in Asia and the whole world.”
The senator was also puzzled that Duterte “had a lot to say” about law, justice and human rights.
“This is not what we hear Duterte says before a Filipino audience. We know that he hates human rights and has in fact instigated the summary execution of the poor countless times,” she said.
“He also had a lot to say about climate change and the environment. But in reality, his government has just dumped tons of harmful dolomite on Manila Bay as a window-dressing gimmick to counter public dismay over his regime’s floundering response to the pandemic amidst corruption scandals in PhilHealth and other key government agencies,” De Lima also said.
While De Lima criticized Duterte’s speech before the United Nations, several of her colleagues lauded the chief executive for invoking the 2016 arbitral award.
Nevertheless, Senators Francis Pangilinan and Risa Hontiveros said Duterte’s invocation of the ruling should now be put into action.
“I welcome President Duterte’s public recognition of our 2016 legal victory against China over our disputed waters. This declaration is a crucial, much-needed step toward truly asserting our rights over the West Philippine Sea,” Hontiveros said in a separate statement.
“I do expect that when he addresses us, his compatriots, he stays true to his resolve to reject any attempts to subvert this ruling…The President’s resolve must also mirror reality,” she added. [ac]
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