Duterte execs skip House hearing on 'secret deal' with China

Duterte execs skip House hearing on 'secret deal' with China
This frame grab from handout video footage taken and released on April 30, 2024 by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) shows the Philippine Coast Guard ship BRP Bagacay (C) being hit by water cannon from Chinese coast guard vessels near the chinese-controlled Scarborough shoal in disputed waters of the South China Sea. The Philippines said the China Coast Guard fired water cannon on April 30 at two of its vessels, causing damage to one of them, during a patrol near a reef off the Southeast Asian country.
Photo by Handout / Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) / AFP

MANILA, Philippines — A joint committee of the House of Representatives agreed to issue a show cause order against former Cabinet members under then-President Rodrigo Duterte after they failed to attend the first hearing on the former president's alleged secret deal with China.

Of the three invited key officials who handled security matters during the Duterte administration, only former Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea sent a representative and a formal letter explaining his absence, while former Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and former National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon did not, said Rep. Raul Tupas (Iloilo, 5th District), vice chairperson of the defense committee.

The House joint panel on defense and WPS on Monday began its investigation into the alleged gentleman's agreement believed to have bolstered China's interference in the Philippines' territorial waters, and more recently, given Chinese vessels the pretext to blast Filipino vessels with water cannons. 

Rep. Jefferson Khongun (Zambales, 1st District) said that the panel invited all resource speakers deemed important to uncovering details about the alleged secret deal. 

"Ngunit nakakaramdam ang inyong lingkod na parang umiiwas ang mga opisyales ng dating administrasyon dahil walang nagpunta sa kanila," Khongun said.

(But I feel as if the officials of the previous administration are avoiding (this hearing) because no one attended today.)

Tupas said, without naming who, that besides Medialdea, "one provided an explanation through another channel," while the other former official has yet to respond to the committee.

Rep. Romeo Acop (Antipolo City, 2nd District) moved to issue a show cause order against the absent officials to seek their reasons for not showing up "in the spirit of following existing protocols." Rep. Neptali Gonzales II (Mandaluyong), chair of the defense committee, approved his motion.

Meanwhile, Rep. Jose Aquino II (Agusan del Norte) said he also wants former presidential spokesperson Harry Roque and former presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo to attend the hearing due to their "conflicting" statements about the issue.

Similarly, Rep. France Castro (ACT Teachers) also urged the committee to invite Duterte himself, saying that the alleged agreement and confusion over it has led to escalating tensions in the WPS.

"Ito ang bunga: lalong lumalalala ang harassment na ginagawa ng Chinese government sa WPS. Kaya dapat na malinawan tayo dito," Castro said.

(This is the result: the Chinese government's harassment of the WPS is getting worse. So they should clarify matters here.)

Gonzales said that before the House committees invite them, it must first "take advantage of the resource speakers already here." — Cristina Chi

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