Marcos to Duterte: ‘What did you compromise?’

Marcos to Duterte: ‘What did you compromise?’

/ 05:30 AM April 14, 2024

President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. stressed that the camp of former President Rodrigo Duterte still has not given a “straight answer” regarding the so-called gentleman's agreement between the Philippines and China.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and former President Rodrigo Duterte FILE PHOTOS

WASHINGTON, DC — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said he was convinced that former President Rodrigo Duterte entered into a secret deal with China on the West Philippine Sea and demanded that his predecessor come clean and disclose everything that he had agreed to with Beijing.

“Maliwanag para sa akin, may tinago. May usapan sila na tinago nila sa taumbayan. (It is clear to me that something was concealed. There was a deal that they kept secret from the people),” he told Filipino journalists on Friday in Washington where they covered his trilateral meeting with US President Joe Biden and Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.


READ: China insists ‘gentleman’s agreement’ under Duterte administration


“Now we need to know. What did you agree to? What did you compromise?” Marcos said, addressing Duterte and officials of the previous administration. “Ano ’yong pinamigay ninyo? Bakit nagagalit ang kaibigan natin sa China na hindi kami sumusunod [sa usapan]? (What did you give away? Why are our friends in China mad at us for not sticking [to the deal]?)”

Duterte and the Chinese government separately admitted on April 11 that he had made a “gentleman’s agreement” not to repair or reinforce the dilapidated World War II-era warship BRP Sierra Madre, which has been serving as a Philippine military outpost at Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal since it was grounded there in 1999.

Duterte said the aim of the agreement was to prevent armed confrontation between Filipinos and Chinese over their maritime dispute in the South China Sea. It was a “status quo” agreement where only food and water supplies were allowed to be brought to the troops manning the decrepit vessel. No construction materials were permitted, he said.

READ: Carpio: ‘Gentleman’s agreement’ will lead to PH losing Ayungin

Duterte said he would be “expounding” on his agreement with Beijing after he reviewed “all documents of Malacañang about foreign policy” and various agreements he and the defense department had entered into during his presidency.

He did not say what authority he had as a former president in possessing such sensitive, and possibly even top secret, documents.


It was Duterte’s former spokesperson, Harry Roque, who first disclosed the “gentleman’s agreement” between Duterte and China’s President Xi Jinping in an interview with the Politiko news site on March 27.

Roque said that the agreement was intended “to observe status quo. [It] did not include removal of Sierra Madre.”

Marcos spoke for the first time on Roque’s disclosure on April 10, saying he was unaware of the agreement. Such an agreement would be difficult to implement if it required getting permission from another country to move around in Philippine territory, he said.

“I am horrified by the idea that we have compromised through a secret agreement the territory and the sovereign rights of the Filipinos,” he said then.

Retired Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio, a vocal critic of Duterte and Chinese incursions into the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), said the agreement would cause the further deterioration of the Sierra Madre and eventually lead to the loss of Ayungin to China.

“Ano ’yong dapat naming gawin? Ano’ng laman ng secret agreement na ’yan? At pangatlo bakit secret? ’Pagka masagot natin ’yang tatlong ’yan magiging mas maliwanag ’yong issue. (What is it that we need to do? What is contained in that secret agreement? And third, why was it a secret? Once we answer these three questions, the issue would be clarified),” Marcos said at the press briefing in Washington.

The President said he could not understand how Duterte, a “very experienced lawyer,” had nothing written down on the agreement with China.

“Bakit walang nakasulat na kahit isang papel? Bakit walang video? Bakit walang announcement? (Why was nothing written even on a single sheet of paper? Why was there no video? Why was there no announcement?) Nothing,” he said.

‘Deliberate’ concealment

Marcos said that if the previous administration wanted to keep the matter a secret “for whatever reason,” it could have told the incoming officials about it, but this, too, was not done.He said that not keeping a record or writing down what was agreed upon with China was a “deliberate” act by the Duterte administration.

“It was decided in the last administration that we will not record this. It was decided in the last administration (that) we will not announce it to the Filipino people, therefore it is a secret agreement,” he said.

Expressing frustration over receiving no answers to his questions from former administration officials and Duterte himself, Marcos asked the media to make inquiries from former Cabinet members who may know about the agreement.

“What was the process that happened, how it happened, because to me, in my mind, there really is a secret, clandestine discussion,” he said.

Echoing remarks made the previous day by the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson in Beijing, China’s embassy in Manila on Friday said the Marcos administration initially agreed to continue the “gentleman’s agreement.”

“But since February 2023, the Philippine side has ceased to abide by the agreement, categorically denied its existence, and kept stirring up trouble to provoke incidents. This is the reason behind the constant volatility in Ren’ai Jiao in the past year,” it said, using the Chinese name for Ayungin Shoal.

In another statement on Saturday, the embassy insisted that the Philippines should honor supposed “commitments and understandings” and stop “provocations” to ease the tension at Ayungin.

It again demanded that the Sierra Madre be towed away and all Philippine troops and facilities withdrawn from Ayungin. However, it said China would allow “living necessities” to be sent to the military personnel manning the ship before it is removed.

It warned that it would “resolutely stop” the delivery of large amounts of construction material to the ship.

Fortify Sierra Madre

Senators Risa Hontiveros and JV Ejercito, however, want to reinforce the crumbling warship.

Hontiveros, who had called for a Senate inquiry into the Duterte-Xi deal, agreed with Carpio on the possible loss of control by the Philippines over Ayungin if the Sierra Madre is left to rust away.

“It’s our duty to fortify BRP Sierra Madre,” she said in an interview with dwIZ on Saturday.

“If we don’t reinforce Sierra Madre,” she added, “we will lose a very important and strategic outpost, and we will fail to defend our sovereignty.”

According to Ejercito, the ship has become a “landmark of our territorial waters” in the West Philippine Sea.

“It should be kept there and … should be improved to become our permanent base,” he said.

Ejercito noted that it was his father, then President Joseph Estrada, who ordered the military in May 1999 to beach Sierra Madre at Ayungin.

His half-brother, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, chair of the Senate national defense committee, said he may invite Duterte if his panel would be tasked with investigating the Duterte-Xi verbal agreement as proposed in a resolution filed by Hontiveros.

“I am more than willing and ready to have a committee hearing in that regard,” Estrada said.

“But if I may reiterate, (Duterte being) the chief architect of our country’s foreign policy during his administration, I don’t think I am in a position to question the alleged gentleman’s agreement between former President Duterte and China,” he said.

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“I would suppose a decision of such importance would have gone through a thorough policymaking process and I’m confident that our national sovereignty, territorial integrity and national interests would have been given top priority.” —WITH A REPORT FROM MARLON RAMOS 

TAGS: Ayungin Shoal, BRP Sierra Madre resupply, Duterte-Xi deal, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., gentleman's agreement, WPS

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