In this July 4, 2019 photo, human rights lawyer Chel Diokno speaks regarding protecting the Filipino fishermen as well as the exclusive Economic Zone in the West Philippines Sea during a press conference in Quezon City.
The STAR/Michael Varcas
Diokno sees government hand in fishers' withdrawal from Kalikasan plea
Patricia Lourdes Viray (Philstar.com) - July 10, 2019 - 10:06am

MANILA, Philippines — Human rights lawyer Jose Manuel "Chel" Diokno on Wednesday questioned the circumstances behind the withdrawal of fishermen from Palawan and Zambales as petitioners for a writ of kalikasan in the West Philippine Sea.

The petition seeks to compel the government to protect and rehabilitate the Scarborough Shoal, Ayungin Shoal and Mischief Reef, which China claims, and are in the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.

Diokno and lawyer Andre Palacios, both representing the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, filed the case on behalf of the fishermen.

Solicitor General Jose Calida, however, announced Tuesday that 19 of the fishermen have "disowned" the petition and are backing out of the case.

Diokno pointed out that the fishermen filed the writ of kalikasan plea because they are seeking protection from the Philippine government.

"They did this with full knowledge and consent, dahil ang gusto lang naman nila e makapangisda sa sarili nating dagat, at kumita ng sapat para mabuhay ang kanilang pamilya (they just want to fish in our own sea and to earn enough to support their family)," Diokno said in a statement.

'Another Recto 22'

The human rights lawyer noted that the fishermen withdrew from the case after speaking with the counsel of the Philippine Navy.

"Hindi raw kanila ang kaso. Hindi lang kahina-hanila na patagong nakipag-usap ang gobyerno sa mga kliyente namin, legal ethics 'yan. Mukhang na-Recto 22 na naman ang mga Pilipino," Diokno said.

(They said the case was not theirs. The government secretly talking to our clients is not only dubious but also an issue of legal ethics. It looks like this is another case of Recto 22.)

Diokno was referring to the 22 fishermen whose fishing boat was sunk by a Chinese vessel near Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea.

President Rodrigo Duterte referred to this incident as a "little maritime accident" and crew of F/B Gem-Ver 1, the boat that sank, tempered their initial statements that the Chinese vessel rammed their boat, after visits from two Cabinet officials and a donation of small boats.

RELATED: Recto Bank fishermen clam up on boat collision

Looming withdrawal raises concerns for fishers' safety

Amid the looming withdrawal of the writ of kalikasan petition, Diokno raised concerns over the safety of Filipino fishermen in the West Philippine Sea.

"Pinakita na ng administrasyong Duterte na walang makakapigil sa lakas nito. Sana gamitin nila 'yan para protektahan ang kapwa Pilipino," the lawyer said.

(The Duterte administration just showed that no one can go against its power. I hope they use that to protect Filipinos.)

Calida claimed that the case is "moot and academic" as both parties have agreed to dismiss the case by Friday.

Diokno and Palacios, however, only said they would "explore the filing of a joint motion in the premises and were given until Friday to do so."

CHEL DIOKNO SOUTH CHINA SEA SUPREME COURT WEST PHILIPPINE SEA
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