Hontiveros: ‘Drive out tambay in South China Sea, not those in the streets’
Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - June 20, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Risa Hontiveros yesterday challenged President Duterte to drive out Chinese occupants in Panatag or Scarborough Shoal before apprehending the tambays in the streets.

“That’s the problem with President Duterte – he’s only tough on the poor, the jobless, and defenseless bystanders, but he crumples under China who have been forever loitering in Panatag Shoal,” Hontiveros said.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said the Chinese and Filipinos share privileges over Panatag as they “co-control” the area.

“I believe, at this point in time, we have ‘co-control’ with them (Chinese) because we can go there freely,” Cayetano told reporters on Monday during the anniversary celebration of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Duterte wants China out of the Philippine-claimed areas in the West Philippine Sea, but reiterated he would not declare war over the maritime row as Beijing is not a pushover that can be scared easily.

“Definitely, when President Duterte came in, it (some of the islands) was controlled by the Chinese. Now, we can use semantics, we could debate with them: how much control do we have, how much we do not control?” Cayetano said.

“All I can say is this: our situation now is much, much better than two years ago,” he added. 

Although the Philippines definitely wants “total control” of Panatag, Cayetano said this would take lengthy negotiations. 

“China does not expect us to change our position, so why would we expect them to already change their position right away?” Cayetano said.

“The best thing to do is to find a protocol that is acceptable to both Philippines and China, but not to politicize the issue,” he said.

Hontiveros, for her part, issued the statement in relation to reports of Chinese coast guard harassing Filipino fishermen seizing their haul off Panatag (Scarborough Shoal) in Zambales.

The report also showed Chinese coast guard personnel boarding the ships of Filipino fishermen and seizing their best catch in exchange for items like cigarettes, noodles and bottled water as “barter.”

Malacañang said the “unfair barter trade” between the Chinese coast guard and Filipino fishermen in Panatag is unacceptable.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the terms of a barter trade should be acceptable to the parties involved and should not favor just one side. 

“What the President said is assuming it was indeed barter, the parties should agree on the valuation. It won’t be acceptable if the Chinese are the only ones dictating the value of the items they are giving in exchange for the fish they are getting,” Roque said.

Asked whether the Philippines’ protest against the Chinese coast guard would continue, Roque replied: “It will continue because it cannot be said that... the Filipinos and the Chinese really agreed on the terms and the will of the two parties were followed.” 

Duterte on Monday said the incident in Panatag Shoal was a “barter trade” and not an outright seizure of fish catch.

Hanging out

Hontiveros had stressed Duterte should act against the Chinese “loitering” in Panatag.

She also noted reports that police authorities wrongly detained a group of people who were “loitering” outside their friend’s home in Makati City.

“What kind of logic is operating behind this so-called order? Bystanders are automatic criminals? Hanging out will lead to crimes? What’s next? Is the President also going to criminalize the use of motorcycles because it is the vehicle of choice of riding-in-tandem criminals? It is absurd,” Hontiveros said.

“Hanging out is not a crime. As a lawyer, he should know that his order has no legal basis. The vagrancy law has been repealed. President Duterte’s arrest-all-tambays (loiterers) order is unconstitutional,” she added.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson warned Duterte’s order to apprehend loiterers could be questioned before the Supreme Court since vagrancy has been decriminalized in 2012 with the passage of Republic Act 10158, which amended the anti-vagrancy provisions of the Revised Penal Code.

“Unless there are other existing laws the authorities can use to apprehend those who have nothing to do but loiter and talk endlessly on the streets and street corners, these actions by the police can be questioned before the Supreme Court,” Lacson said. – With Pia Lee-Brago, Alexis Romero, Rhodina Villanueva

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