Interview on CNN Philippines: Maritime ‘Hit-and-Run’ at West Philippine Sea; New Irregularity at PhilHealth | June 18, 2019

In an interview on CNN Philippines, Sen. Lacson answered questions on:
– President Duterte’s take on the ‘hit-and-run’ at the West Philippine Sea
– newly discovered irregularity involving the PhilHealth board

Quotes from the interview…

On President Duterte’s take on the sinking of a PH boat by a Chinese vessel in WPS:

“It is very disappointing to say the least. Not much because of his insulting remark against those who are making comments because malaking issue ito; but because very self-limiting ang kanyang course of action na kino-consider, which is going to war with China, which is really a suicidal course of action. But he forgot that we have a Mutual Defense Treaty with the US and that’s a clear option, not because we are hoping that there will be World War III – two superpowers will never want to go to war with each other; but because our only hope is to make China feel balance of power in the WPS. Si Sec of State Mike Pompeo said as much recently. Sabi niya, the US has an obligation as much as the PH has the same obligation under the MDT, that any attack on a fishing vessel in the WPS area which is part of the Pacific Ocean, they should respond or act accordingly to at least come to the rescue.”

“Collision naka-stationary ang isa na binangga. It’s not up to us to say that or to conclude kasi wala naman tayo roon. Let the investigation decide whether it was a collision or an allision. Hintay natin ang investigation.”

“There’s credibility sa sinabi (ng mga fishermen), but ang captain ang nagsalita and of course the cook. It carries weight kasi personal account and it’s a blessing they survived. Kasi kung namatay walang magbibigay ng account. It’s not as if I don’t believe the statements of the fishermen. Of course I do. But we have not heard the story of the crewmembers of the vessel that rammed into the vessel of the fishermen.”

“Whether it’s a collision or allision, the fact they were abandoned to die in the high seas, that’s another criminal act.”

“That’s why I said earlier, this is a test of both patience and respect. Respect on the part of the Chinese government towards an ally which is the PH; and patience on the part of our government. How long can we take the bullying of China, hindi lang sa fishermen; the Filipinos themselves di ba?”

On whether PH is being bullied by China:

“We’re being bullied. That’s clear enough. Di lang ito ang incident.”

“Given the situation talagang we’re helpless because we’re just a small country, powerless na wala naman talaga tayong laban sa China except to file a diplomatic protest. It’s up to China to recognize or even act on our diplomatic protest di ba? So sabi ko nga, the only weapon left in our arsenal is the MDT. Why? Because US ang may capability. And their under obligation sa MDT to react accordingly.”

“We can ask them. Sa atin manggaling siyempre. We should present to them the facts why they should react to our request na ma-invoke ang provisions sa MDT.”

On China claim that its boat was besieged by 7-8 PH boats:

“Based on what we saw on the satellite feed sa inyo, it’s hard to believe. Sabi mo nga, the other vessels were 7 km away.”

“And considering the time of the day, it was midnight, so visibility is very limited. So how could they be besieged by other fishing vessels belonging to the Filipinos kung hindi naman sila nakikita because of very limited visibility at nighttime?”

“Clearly they are lying (re claims of 7-8 PH boats). And it’s even worse because the Chinese government itself is in a cover-up operation even deceiving an ally that is the Philippines. They should really come clean. Now I heard the Chinese envoy is being summoned to Malacanang and they will have a face-to-face confrontation with Sec Lorenzana who is on top of the situation being the SND. Alam niya talaga ang investigation conducted by the PN. Of course the FOIC of the PN has already spoken and made his conclusion that it was really an allision tapos tinakbuhan. Klaro yan.”

On whether the incident is a ‘hit-and-run’:

“Yes. Hit and run. Hit and run na vehicle masama na but fishing vessels because when you are left to die in the high seas and there are 22 of them, that’s really a criminal act.”

On getting respect from China:

“No, we’re not. The way they reacted to this incident, I was hoping sana that China would investigate thoroughly, be fair in their investigation and then present the members of the crew and show us they are capable of taking punitive action against the erring. That would easily mollify not only the fishermen, not only the Philippine government, but us Filipinos.”

“We’re hoping mangyari yan (respect from China) but they have always spoken… they issued a statement, they took it down and they issued another statement. That in itself, the act of being very tentative ibig sabihin hindi totoo ang sinasabi kasi papalit ang script.”

“Being an investigator all my life, when I investigate a person or a group of persons, I always look at the demeanor and the consistency of what they are saying. Kung 22 yan it’s quite difficult na i-script mo lahat yan para isa lang ang sabihin. At mahalata mo sa statement magkakaroon ng discrepancy or differences sa kanilang sinasabi. But in the case of the 22 fishermen I noticed very spontaneous ang kanilang sinasabi at pareho naman from different perspectives, magkakaiba ang kanilang relative positions.”

On Senate action on the incident:

“If there is a resolution filed and it’s referred to the appropriate committee/s, a legislative inquiry is proper.
Q: Sense of the Senate?”

“A Sense of the Senate? Pwede magkaroon ng ganoon. It depends on a senator filing a resolution.”

“Between now and July 22 is still a long way to go and pwede may mga developments na mangyari. Let’s wait for that. Baka magkaroon ng change of heart ang China. You know, the HK demonstration is quite revealing. Going against a very powerful authoritarian, if I may say that, government, tapos magka-cave in, of course I cannot believe the Chief Executive of HK would act without at least an imprimatur from the leadership in China. Nakita mo nang may vulnerability pala ang Chinese government. When they saw 1-2 million, that’s practically 1/3 of the whole population of HK, and they reacted the way we saw how they reacted. So meron din pala. Hindi rin ganoon ka-impregnable di ba?”

On Chinese ambassador being invited much sooner to talk to PH officials:

“I think so. Dapat noon pa lang after hearing the fishermen dapat summoned na ang Chinese ambassador. And the DFA should have done that. But of course the DFA acted accordingly by filing a diplomatic protest.”

On fishermen’s statements that PH has become a slave to China:

“They are so disappointed. Narinig ko interviews ng mga fishermen. Di ba umiiyak pa nga, sabi parang alipin tayo ng China. It was a very powerful video I saw, as presented by Prof Batongbacal.”

“Tumutusok. Di ka ba tinatablan pag nakarinig ka ng ganoon? In all seriousness in all sincerity parang nilalabas niya ang kanyang hinanakit ang kanyang sentimyento, tatamaan ka rin.”

On whether China should apologize:

“It’s up to them. We cannot demand apology from anybody, it’s really up to them. Yan ang sabi ko test of respect. If they regard us as an ally as a friend, they should show some respect because you always respect a friend. Kung tingin sa atin is ganoon, we don’t expect them to even issue an apology.”

“Matagal na ganoon ang trato sa atin di ba? And we’re not helping any. Dapat we should maintain our dignity as a sovereign nation. But the way some of our leaders are reacting, mukhang we’re encouraging them even to treat us the way they are treating us. You heard the statements of some Cabinet members para silang nagde-defend pa sa China.”

“This is one incident that we should really show that we still have that self-respect and that dignity.”

On what PH government should do:

“Wala naman talaga tayong panlaban. It’s a blessing that we signed an agreement with the US. Why don’t we use it? The President should have explored all available resources. Sabi ko nga there’s one weapon in our arsenal we can use and that’s the MDT.”

“Payaman muna tayo. Pag G-20 na tayo pwede na siguro tayo. Maski sa bahay, regardless who is the eldest sibling, kung sino ang may pera yan ang may boses. That’s a fact of life. Maski bunso yan ang kumikita sa pamilya, siya ang makapag-decision.”

“There are so many options. Sec Locsin already filed or is thinking of filing a case before the IMO. So may mga actions taken naman. Kaya lang parang kulang at kulang pa rin because everyone was waiting for the President to speak out. And when he finally broke his silence, he left us heartbroken. Medyo malungkot talaga.”

On VP Robredo statement that China should have those responsible face trial before PH courts:

“Bababa ko kaligayahan natin. China taking punitive action against their own people, that’s good enough for me. Because that’s asking for the moon. Tino-tolerate nga nila ang crewmembers ng vessel, hihingi pa tayo na dalhin dito, extradite dito? We have an extradition treaty existing between China and PH. But do you think China based on their actions now, do you think they will even extradite their people to face their courts in the PH?”

On downgrading diplomatic ties with China:

“There are so many possible courses of action. Pero kung nilulunod natin, dapat calibrated din. Parang kung ano ang doable, doon na muna tayo. But like what VP, and I respect her for issuing that statement, but that’s asking too much. Hindi tayo mapagbigyan ng isang kendi hihingi pa tayo ng isang buong cake?”

“Sabi ko nga lahat naman nasa realm ng possibilities. But it is up to the policy makers, the executive branch to act.”

On PRRD statement PH is not ready for a war with China:

“Sa akin is if we are weak already, it’s bad enough that we’re weak. Don’t advertise that we’re weak. Magtira ka kaunting baraha na huwag kayo luluko-luko, meron kaming tinatago. Pero to advertise how weak we are, it doesn’t make sense to me.”

“I already called out the President regarding this. Malimit niyang ina-advertise wala tayong laban, titirisin lang tayo. Huwag mo advertise mahina ka na nga. Parang kausap mo kapitbahay mong binu-bully ka lalo mo sinasabing surrender ako sa iyo. Ito another analogy sa MDT natin. When I was a small boy pag binubully ako ng kapitbahay kong malaki, takbo ako sa big brother. And for the longest time, the US was our big brother. At nariyan ang treaty may basehan naman tayo. So why don’t we use that?”

“I hope ma-enlighten nang kaunti and makakita tayo ng kaunting respect at least through the Chinese ambassador.”

On PhilHealth chairman Duque resigning:

“He did not. Alam mo, tendering a courtesy resignation doesn’t necessarily mean you are admitting guilt. It’s not an admission of guilt. Pag tender ka ng courtesy resignation because all the members of your board, you being the chairman, pinag-courtesy resignation, it is an act of propriety, moral ascendancy, responsibility, leadership to you yourself tender your own courtesy resignation. It’s up to the President to accept or not. And in all probability the President wouldn’t accept his courtesy resignation. But he failed the test of leadership, he failed the test of moral ascendancy, he failed the test of self-respect.”

“P150B nagsimula ito noong 2004, P500M pina-procure ng PhilHealth cards galing sa Medicare ng OWWA funds. Of course sinasabi niya dismissed na ang case bakit ko nilabas? But of course it’s relevant because of what is happening to PhilHealth now, there are so many anomalies.”

On new irregularity at PhilHealth:

“I just discovered this last night. There’s this hospital in Cebu, parang unauthorized extension of confinement, 2 counts. There’s a complaint filed before PhilHealth. PhilHealth is a quasi-judicial body as a board, the board itself, so they can investigate, adjudicate and impose penalties. They imposed the penalties, suspension 3 months and a fine of P100,000. And this is appealable. Ang appeal sa CA because ang level nila RTC since quasi-judicial. And then the CA upheld the decision of the board. What the owners of the hospital did was go back to PhilHealth. It’s already in the CA and CA already upheld, the next thing is to go to the higher court, the SC. But what the petitioners and this I cannot understand for the life or me, pumunta sila sa PhilHealth and the PhilHealth board reversed the CA. That’s plain and simple grave abuse of authority. That’s beyond their authority to reverse a higher court.”

“Jan 20, 2019 ito; Sec Duque was one of those who signed the resolution.”