Poe hits Duterte over sea dispute strategy

Christina Mendez - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Independent presidential bet Sen. Grace Poe took a potshot at rival Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte over his plans to personally go to the disputed Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, plant a Philippine flag and leave his fate to the Chinese military.

Poe said the country’s dispute with China should not be trivialized because it affects the people and the economy.

Unlike Duterte who wants to play hero upon his election, she would not personally engage the Chinese.

“I would not personally go there to shoot it out – that’s foolishness. The president draws the plan and sends the best people to execute the plan,” Poe said in Filipino.

In a speech in Olongapo last Wednesday, she vowed to put the right people on the job to resolve the West Philippine Sea issue.

Poe, who supports the arbitration process started by the Aquino administration, shared the view on the need to upgrade the country’s defense system as she lamented that Filipino fishermen have been displaced and get bullied by their Chinese counterparts.

“We need to strengthen our Coast Guard,” Poe added.

Duterte also supports arbitration at the United Nations to settle the sea dispute.

“We have submitted ourselves to arbitration… If we win and China still doesn’t recognize it, I will not go to war.  I will go to China. If they still refuse, then I will ask the Navy to bring me to the nearest boundary in Scarborough, I will ride a jet ski carrying the Philippine flag and then plant our flag there. Then I would say, ‘This is ours, and do what you want with me. It’s up to you,’” Duterte said.

He added that he has long wanted to become a hero and that it would be up to the people to weep for him if he gets killed.

Duterte reiterated that he “will just be the one to go there” because he would not allow the “massacre” of Philippine soldiers.

With just a little over a week left before the elections, Poe urged the electorate in Legazpi City yesterday to be discerning and to think about the future of the country in choosing their next leader.

“I have children, you all have children. What kind of Philippines do you want for them? I believe that the people should not be fearful of the government. It is the government that should be fearful of the people if it doesn’t perform its duties well,” Poe said.

She added that people should choose someone who would “be able to take us out of poverty.”

“The answer to our problems is not bullets. We will regret this because we have gone through this before,” Poe stressed, alluding to the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos Sr.  She also aired her concern on the way Duterte boasted of killing suspected criminals.

It is very dangerous for people who are merely suspected of committing crimes and are judged without due process, she added.

“Usually, it is the poor who are suspected. We need a president who is stable, one who does what he says and who does not threaten people,” Poe added.

Duterte occupied the top spot in the pre-election surveys, overtaking Poe who was the topnotcher in the previous months.

Viewed as the only other candidate who stands in Duterte’s way of becoming the next president, Poe said the situation could also be seen in reverse - with Duterte standing in her way.                        – With Marvin Sy

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