Press Release
June 24, 2019

Transcript of Interview with Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon

SFMD: The difficulty of the joint panel is the participation of China. This has serious implications to our mind. The incident happened within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, as declared by the arbitral award. So, maliwanag na yung Recto Bank ay kasama sa ating exclusive economic zone. Ngayon sa ating Fisheries Code, may kapangyarihan ang ating bansa na proteksyunan ang ating mga mangingisda at to exclude foreign vessels from the exclusive economic zones. There is no question that the Chinese vessels being in the exclusive economic zone violated our laws. The issue, therefore, is that, why should we allow a third party, meaning China, to participate in the investigation. To our mind, that is derogation on our sovereignty. Kaya ako what I will propose, that instead of a joint panel we should create an independent probe body similar to what was formed in the past during the time of former President Arroyo. If you recall, the Feliciano Commission was formed to look into the Oakwood incident and the Melo Commission was created to look into the political killings.These men of integrity, probity and independence were able to deliver a report credible enough and make recommendations to the appropriate governmental agencies. Similarly, such body should be the one to investigate, created by the President; and give that investigative body jurisdiction to make recommendations, inquire into the Recto Bank incident, and submit the report to the President and the Congress. This body, I would propose, should be composed of men of integrity, probity and independence. A retired Supreme Court justice to head this is preferable. By having this, we are able to resolve this issue with credibility and, at the same time, we are able to maintain the sovereignty of our country or our national pride.

Q: Kung hindi joint, how are we supposed to invite, for example, the captain of the Chinese vessel?

SFMD: There are limitations but I am certain that once this body is formed - and they should be given the power to issue subpoena and put a witness under oath to testify - this is precisely the purpose in having the body composed of men of women of probity and independence.

Q: Wala pa rin po bang credibility yung joint probe if ever may third party?

SFMD: It's not credible. And not only the credibility is the issue, because you have a lot of legal complications and sovereignty issues. If we are saying that the Recto Bank is within the exclusive economic zone of the country - which fact is confirmed by the arbitration ruling - then, why are we allowing non-Filipinos to inquire into this? We should do it ourselves. If China wants to make its own inquiry, that's fine with us.

Q: In your proposal, how do you intend to invite or summon the Chinese crew?

SFMD: The reality is, even if we invite them and they do not appear, you have no means to compel them. We can investigate on the basis of the testimonies available to us. Up to now, the testimonies under oath of the 22 fishermen have not been secured. It's a question of gathering evidence and when you gather evidence it doesn't mean that you really have to call the crew of the Chinese vessel.

Q: Just the composition of this probe body, if the names would come from the Presidency, obviously, there will be a question of partiality?

SFMD: The appointing power is with the President and he is answerable to the people if he names lackeys. He will be the one to suffer because the findings will not be credible.

Q: Ang sabi ni Sec. Panelo, kapag daw joint mas may katwiran at hindi biased?

SFMD: Precisely we are suggesting that men and women of integrity and independence should be appointed to the commission, so that questions of partiality will be resolved by the very background of the people to be appointed.

Q: Ano po yung long-term solutions na nakikita niniyo para hindi na maulit ito?

SFMD: Precisely, we are asking that this body be formed so they can recommend measures, so that this incident will not be repeated.

Q: How will this impact the findings of this investigative body yung hard stance the Chinese government?

SFMD: You cannot control whatever stance they take. What is important to us is that, we will be satisfied that the recommendations of this body will be best available step that we will take, given the source, presumably the people of independence and integrity. That's how it works.

Q: If ever mapatunayan na Chinese nga yung may kasalanan, what's the next thing to do?

SFMD: The only thing that can be done here is to constantly expose it to international public opinion. We have a very strong decision from the arbitration body but we could not enforce it, but we should not give up and we should keep on bringing this to the attention of world organizations. This is not a monopoly of the Philippines. There a lot of incidence involving sovereign nations confronted with this situation.

Q: Kunwari hindi nila iniharap yung Chinese crew, magiging kumpleto naman yung investigation?

SFMD: Yes, why not? We can come up with the credible judgment, unbiased.

Q: Yung China since kaibigan ng Pilipinas dapat maging cooperative sa investigation?

SFMD: Whether they cooperate or not, what we are saying is we do this on our own. If they cooperate, that's good. If not, we should still be able to satisfy our people that indeed, we did something in order to resolve this issue.

Q: Wala man lang nag-sorry sa China?

SFMD: Hindi mo maipipilit iyan. You cannot compel them to say 'I'm sorry.'

Q: Yung independent probe, that's concurrent doon sa na file na case sa IMO?

SFMD: That's independent of it.

Q: Hindi ba confusing kasi ang sabi ni Sec. Panelo tinanggap na yung joint probe pero ang sabi ni SFA ayaw niya.

SFMD: I would not answer for them. It's up to them. In this issue, I believe the SFA is correct that given everything we should not allow third parties to interfere in what is, principally, a Philippine issue.

Q: Entitled ba yung former DFA secretaries and ambassadors ng diplomatic passport for courtesy?

SFMD: Precisely it's courtesy. The courtesy is extended to retired ambassadors.

Q: And DFA secretaries?

SFMD: The DFA secretary is a former ambassador.

I am saddened by that act. Mukhang kinakampihan pa natin ang China. But China is a sovereign country and has the right to exclude anyone from its territory in the same manner that we have the prerogative to bar the entry of any one.

Q: On committee chairmanship

SFMD: I will let the Senate President, out of respect to him, do the announcement insofar as the committee assignments are concerned, because committee chairs are chosen by the majority, so I would defer to the Senate President. What I can just say is, without going to the specifics, we have come to broad agreements on the treatment of the minority senators. It will not be an issue. I repeat that the matter of the committees for the minority has been satisfactorily resolved.

Q: Yung investigation ba dapat kasama yung presence ng Vietnamese fishermen?

SFMD: No. As I've said, this is a purely domestic issue and we should resolve as a domestic matter. Because to allow a non-Filipino or a foreigner has a lot of legal and emotional implications. So, there should be no third parties.

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