Manila, Philippines – “What we have in Malacañang is not a Philippine President, but a Chinese Governor,” Senator Leila de Lima said on Wednesday as she chided President Rodrigo Duterte for reportedly allowing China to do research in Benham Rise.
Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano earlier confirmed that the Duterte administration has allowed China to conduct marine research in Benham Rise.
But De Lima slammed the move as she mocked not only the President but also Cayetano and Presidential spokesman Harry Roque for “lawyering” for China.
“Beijing has just successfully engaged the services of a new law firm in the Philippines, the Duterte, Cayetano, and Roque Law Offices,” she said in a statement from her detention cell at the Philippine National Police’s Custodial Center in Quezon City.
“As Philippine President, DFA Secretary, and Presidential Spokesperson, they are supposed to defend the Philippines’ interests in the West Philippine Sea and the Benham Rise. Instead, they not only allowed China to take over the Spratlys and Benham Rise, they are now lawyering for China and defending its occupation of the Spratlys and exploration of Benham Rise,” she said.
De Lima said Duterte, for his part, made a “mistake” when he signed Executive Order No. 25 in May 2017 renaming the resource-rich Benham Rise to “Philippine Rise,” saying he should have named it “China Rise.”
“At the rate things are going, the Philippines’ Manchurian Candidate won’t leave any part of Philippine territory unavailable for Chinese occupation. What we have in Malacañang is not a Philippine President, but a Chinese Governor,” the senator added.
De Lima, meanwhile, called Roque “the new lawyer for China in Malacañang” for saying that China has no obligation under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to comply with the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s (PCA) ruling.
The PCA, in a decision last July 2016, ruled that the Philippines has exclusive sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea and that China’s “nine-dash line” was invalid.
“Roque is precisely working under a framework that ignores international law, conveniently forgetting all that he learned in law school just to defend the interests of his boss Duterte and client, the Chinese government,” she said.
The senator also accused Duterte, Cayetano and Roque of “treason” for allegedly serving a “foreign master” while receiving salaries from the Philippine government.
“Duterte, Cayetano, and Roque cannot go on serving a foreign master while drawing their salaries from the Philippine government, aside from the fact that as Filipinos, they should not be allowed to get away with treason,” De Lima said.
“That is, of course, unless they turn out to be Chinese citizens all along, then they should be held accountable as Chinese agents,” she said.