‘Verbal, unrecorded, informal deal with China unconstitutional’

Cecille Suerte Felipe - The Philippine Star
�Verbal, unrecorded, informal deal with China unconstitutional�
President Marcos can meet with former president Rodrigo Duterte to discuss issues in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), Pimentel noted.
STAR / Michael Varcas, file

MANILA, Philippines — Agreements made by Philippine leaders that are verbal, unrecorded and informal are unconstitutional, according to Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III.

“Let’s discourage that as a matter of government policy or state policy. Let’s discourage the leaders, even if you’re an architect of foreign policy, from entering into verbal, unrecorded and informal agreements,” Pimentel told radio dzBB yesterday.

“If you intend to enter (into such an agreement), it’s void because it’s contrary to public policy. I think that’s unconstitutional, that’s against the Constitution,” he added.

President Marcos can meet with former president Rodrigo Duterte to discuss issues in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), Pimentel noted.

The mechanism of a possible meeting between an incumbent president, former presidents and ranking officers of the legislative branch and Cabinet secretaries is provided under the setup of the National Security Council (NSC), the principal advisory body coordinating and integrating plans and policies affecting national security, he said.

Pimentel recalled that Duterte, at a press conference, indicated his intention to entertain Marcos and said “You (Marcos) can call me.”

At an April 11 press conference, Duterte admitted that in his reported “gentleman’s agreement” with China, he agreed not to have repairs done to the BRP Sierra Madre, which is marooned in Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.

Duterte said what he had with Chinese President Xi Jinping was a “handshake” sealing their agreement to maintain a status quo in the West Philippine Sea, or “as is, where is.”

He stressed that he did not concede anything to China.

Meanwhile, Pimentel described as “step one” Senate Resolution 82 filed by Sen. Risa Hontiveros, which pushes for a Senate inquiry into Duterte’s supposed agreement with Xi.

“We are in step one. Who is the source of the information? Former presidential spokesman Harry Roque. Let’s invite him first,” Pimentel said.

“I think the legislative branch can investigate (Duterte and Xi’s agreement) to find out what happened or officially happened. But just now based on Duterte’s explanation, I think I know that it was an exchange, it seems that this is only a personal level agreement,” he added.

Duterte does not need to be invited to the Senate probe if he would only reiterate his statement at the press conference, Pimentel noted.

“That’s the problem with the verbal, unrecorded and informal agreement, which will only be about recollection and memory. More on he said, she said,” he said.

Asked if a secret agreement is binding, Pimentel said, “After the term of that president, it is no longer binding in the country.”

“I hope our executive branch doesn’t make it too much of a problem. Just say once and for all that it didn’t work. It didn’t go through the treaty or executive agreement process. Verbal agreements are not the norm these days when there are a lot of computers. The executive branch can say that we will not continue this since the past president respected it for six years,” he said.

As for former Supreme Court associate justice Antonio Carpio’s plan to file anti-graft charges against Duterte, Pimentel said, “They should just do their arguments, there are elements of anti-graft law.”

“To persons who want to file a case against him, gather evidence aside from the person’s word (statements). Don’t just quote him. You can’t force a person to testify against himself,” he noted.

Constitutionally void

Duterte’s agreement with Xi to maintain the status quo in the West Philippine Sea is “constitutionally void,” House Deputy Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II said yesterday.

“The so-called ‘agreement,’ if any, is constitutionally void since it is tantamount to the surrender of our country’s sovereign rights over our EEZ (exclusive economic zone),” Gonzales, one of the resident legal luminaries in the lower chamber, stressed.

“Such an agreement will be equivalent to a new national policy, which must be enshrined in a treaty to be submitted to the Senate for ratification before it can take effect,” he added.

Gonzales is chair of the House special committee on the West Philippine Sea.

“Like the President, I am truly horrified by the idea that our country’s territory, sovereignty and sovereign rights may have been compromised by a deal guised as an ‘agreement’ to maintain the peace and status quo in the WPS,” he said.

Advocacy run

An advocacy run to raise awareness of the importance of the West Philippine Sea is scheduled on July 7 in Manila, Aug. 4 in Cebu and Sept. 8 in Cagayan de Oro.

The “Takbo para sa West Philippine Sea” would be sponsored by Coach Rio “as part of his commitment to corporate social responsibility” and is in partnership with the Philippine Coast Guard, NSC and the Philippine Information Agency, PCG-WPS spokesman Commodore Jay Tarriela yesterday posted on X, formerly Twitter. — Delon Porcalla, Evelyn Macairan

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