Robredo: Crew of Chinese vessel should be tried by Philippine courts

Rosette Adel - Philstar.com
Robredo: Crew of Chinese vessel should be tried by Philippine courts
A handout photo taken on June 14, 2019, and released on June 15 by the Philippine Coastguard shows Filipino fishermen on board the BRP Ramon Alcaraz on Occidental Mindoro.
AFP / Handout

MANILA, Philippines— Vice President Leni Robredo on Sunday called on the Department of Foreign Affairs to demand justice from the Chinese government after a collision between a Chinese vessel and Filipino boat F/B Gen-Vir 1 near Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea on June 9.

In a statement, Robredo expressed her “deepest outrage” at the incident and decried the “irresponsible actions” of the Chinese crew who Philippine authorities say abandoned the 22 Filipino fishermen after the collision.

Robredo said she acknowledges the statement of the Chinese ambassador that their government will investigate the incident.

However, she still called on the government to demand justice for the Filipino crew of the Gen-Vir 1.

“If the Chinese government has already presented their own version of the events and will not even accept that a wrong was committed, how can we expect it to mete justice on those responsible?” Robredo said.

Crew of Chinese vessel should be tried in Philippine courts

“We strongly urge the Department of Foreign Affairs to demand from the Chinese government to find those responsible and recognize Philippine jurisdiction, so they can face trial before our courts,” she added.

The vice president said justice for the 22 Filipino fishermen “requires that our courts assume jurisdiction.”

Robredo also slammed the Chinese government for refusing to “acknowledge the culpability of those responsible for sinking the Philippine fishing vessel and abandoning its crew.”

“Those involved must be made accountable in accordance with the pertinent international treaties and Philippine laws,” she said.

On Friday, the Chinese Embassy in Manila issued a statement admitting that it was a Chinese fishing boat that hit Philippine fishing boat Gem-Vir 1.

It, however, denied the incident that led to the sinking of Gem-Vir 1 was a case of “hit and run.

The statement contradicted the statement of the Defense department that the 22 Filipino fishermen were left at the “mercy of the elements.”

Meanwhile, supporters of President Rodrigo Duterte—including blogger Sass Rogando Sassot, former TV host Jay Sonza, and former Palace official Mocha Uson—have cast doubt on the narrative of the incident. 

This, despite China's statement as well as statements from the Armed Forces of the Philippines regarding the incident.

'Policy should now be more assertive'

For Robredo, the incident calls for a change in policy “from being passive to being more courageous in asserting our rights.”

She said she had been warning and worrying about incidents like the Recto Bank collision since the Duterte administration opted to play down the 2016 arbitral tribunal ruling on China's nine-dash-line claim.

The president, who has yet to issue a direct statement on the June 9 incident, had repeatedly said the Philippines has no choice and cannot go to war with China. Critics of the Duterte administration's policy have repeatedly said war is not the only option.

“Its failure to consistently contest Chinese encroachment in our waters was inevitably going to result in less and less respect of our laws and sovereignty from China—and to the direct harm of our people. As our own history has repeatedly taught us, abuse, left unchallenged, will only encourage further abuse, giving rise to impunity,” Robredo said of the Duterte administration.

“It is still not too late. Now is the time for a shift in policy, from being passive to being more courageous in asserting our rights. From bowing our heads in subservience, to holding our heads up high as a free and independent people,” she added.

Senate Minority Floor Leader Franklin Drilon said earlier Sunday that the government's bilateral mechanism with China is not effective. He is pushing for a multilateral approach in the West Philippine Sea dispute that includes other claimant countries.

Meanwhile, the vice president thanked the Vietnamese crew who rescued the Filipino fishermen after being supposedly abandoned at sea.

“We will be forever grateful to the Vietnamese crew, whose timely arrival saved our Filipino fishermen from almost certain death,” she said.

Duterte, who earlier called for a Cabinet meeting to discuss the incident, still has not yet released any statement on the issue. The Palace earlier said the president is just being cautious.

The Cabinet meeting supposedly slated Monday has been cancelled, according to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.

READ: Cabinet meeting on sinking of Filipino fishing boat set, then called off






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