EDITORIAL - Smelling fishy doesn't make them fishermen
(The Freeman) - April 15, 2013 - 12:00am

An investigation, any investigation, regardless of whoever undertakes it and for whatever purpose, has to have only one purpose -- and that is to determine the truth. Any investigation that fails to take into account that purpose is either half-hearted or a sham and thus a failure.

There is great fear that the investigation into the grounding of a Chinese fishing vessel on the Tubbataha Reef is headed in that direction. In fact, the filing of bribery charges against members of the crew of the vessel indicates the sorry state of what the Philippines knows.

Bribery is an offense, if indeed it was committed, after the grounding. That is the least of our worries given the state of our relations with China. To hell with bribery. What we should worry and find out about is what the Chinese were doing deep inside our sovereign territory. Illegal fishing on the fringes of our territorial jurisdiction is a common enough occurrence. It is quite easy for foreign nationals on fishing expeditions to lose their bearings and stray into unmarked sovereign maritime territories of other countries.

But it does not take an expert in geography to note that Tubbataha Reef is not on the fringes of Philippines territory but deep inside it. It is just short of being the navel of the Philippine archipelago.

The Chinese could not be fishing that deep into Philippine territory. In fact, other than their being on a fishing boat, no other indication would suggest they were engaged in any fishing activity. Not a single fish was found on the boat, for God's sake.

But the real tell-tale sign that the Chinese crew detained and charged by Philippine authorities could be anything but fishermen is the way they looked in all the photos published in the newspapers.

The detained Chinese nationals were young, clean-shaven, neat and untanned, in short every inch of what a fisherman is not. Why, the Philippine Coast Guard personnel shown with them in the photos could easily be mistaken for being the fishermen, not the Chinese.

More discerning observers immediately began to suspect that the apprehended Chinese were either military personnel or intelligence agents on some secret mission, the nature of which is what should prompt our action, not some silly bribery allegation.

BOAT BRIBERY CHINESE CREW DEEP DETAINED FISHING PHILIPPINE PHILIPPINE COAST GUARD TERRITORY TUBBATAHA REEF
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