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President Aquino has neither betrayed the country nor violated any law in pursuing a peaceful resolution to the territorial conflict in the South China Sea, Malacañang asserted yesterday.
Presidential Communications Operations Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. made the statement to brush aside the treason charges filed by the camp of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte against the President over the maritime dispute issue.
“There is no legal basis for the reported case filed against the President,” Coloma said in a text message.
“We reiterate that the actions taken by the government regarding the settlement of disputes in the South China Sea are rules-based, thus, we filed for arbitration under the UNCLOS rules,” he said.
Coloma said besides, based on the Revised Penal Code, treason may be committed only in times of war where the Philippines is involved. “Clearly, it is not applicable at this time,” the Palace official pointed out.
The Duterte camp has accused the President and Sen. Antonio F. Trillanes IV of committing treason and espionage for allegedly holding backdoor negotiations with China on the territorial conflict that undermined the country’s interests.
In the complaint, the President supposedly gave his consent to Trillanes to conduct secret meetings with China on the maritime issue that only advanced the interest of Beijing.
The filing of the complaint before the Ombudsman was amid the President’s intensified efforts to campaign against Duterte’s presidential bid due to concerns of an imminent return of dictatorship.
In September 2012, Trillanes revealed that he engaged in backdoor negotiations to ease a territorial row with China upon the orders of the President. The President later confirmed that he agreed to the informal setup since diplomatic channels became “very belligerent.”
But Trillanes’ role as backroom negotiator with China did not sit well with then Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. del Rosario and Sen. Juan Ponce-Enrile who was suspicious about his motives.
After being criticized by Trillanes for his poor efforts in resolving the conflict, Del Rosario, who was kept out of the talks, reportedly claimed that the senator’s backroom negotiations with China did more harm than good.
Enrile had called Trillanes a “fraud” for undermining the country’s interests on Panatag Shoal and criticizing the efforts made by Del Rosario. (Genalyn D. Kabiling)