Duterte’s grant of EEZ fishing privileges to China an impeachable offense -De Lima

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Mr. Duterte may be committing an impeachable offense when he asserted that the Chinese fishermen could fish in the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the South China Sea (SCS), Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has claimed.

“By allowing the Chinese to fish in the Philippines’ EEZ, Duterte has committed three of the six grounds for impeachment: culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, and betrayal of public trust,” she said in her recent Dispatch from Crame No. 544.

“If it is eventually proven that his motivation for this grossly unconstitutional act is his acceptance of a generous bribe from China,

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hen that would also include bribery and graft and corruption, or five out of the six grounds for impeachment,” she added.

Among the possible bribes from China that De Lima listed include campaign donations for Duterte or a share in Chinese business interests in the Philippines.

De Lima, a former justice secretary, further noted that she believes that “no other president has probably committed more impeachable offenses than Duterte.”

Last June 26, Duterte reportedly said he cannot “drive away” Chinese fishermen from Philippine waters because of a supposed agreement between him and Chinese President Xi Jinping to allow China to fish in the Philippine EEZ.

After the President immediately received backlash for his statement, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo claimed hours after that the Chief Executive never meant to say he would let the Chinese fish within the Philippines’ EEZ.

“It appears that what the President meant was China would not allow their nationals from fishing in our EEZ since they treat us as their friends,” Panelo was quoted as saying.

With a Duterte-controlled Congress, the lady Senator from Bicol maintained that it is expected for Mr. Duterte to not be held accountable for all his impeachable offenses anytime soon.

“The mechanism for a remedy is there, but it has been ill-suited for a political culture that values patronage and power over and above the rule of law, sovereignty, and national pride,” she pointed out.

“Hindi nga naman makakain ang pride at soberenya, pero sobra-sobra kung makapagpabusog ang pork barrel at ang kapangyarihang inutang sa Malacañang kapalit ng pagiging sunud-sunuran,” she added.

De Lima also underscored the urgency of resolving the petition of Palawan fishermen and farmers before the Supreme Court to hold members of the Duterte Cabinet accountable for their failure to assert the Philippines’ rights in the WPS.

“It may well be our last hope in stopping Duterte’s unprecedented betrayal of the national interest,” she said. The said petition, filed with the Supreme Court last April 16, urges the government to enforce the country’s sovereign right in the West Philippine Sea under United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea, the Philippine Fisheries Code, and the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the case of Philippines v. China.

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