House, Senate ready to probe Duterte deal

House, Senate ready to probe Duterte deal

BOTH chambers of Congress on Tuesday said they were ready to probe the alleged gentleman’s agreement between former President Rodrigo Duterte and the Chinese government that limited shipments to the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal.

“In response to the request of our colleagues led by Assistant Majority Leader Jay Khonghun, the House of Representatives will consider the call to probe the supposed gentleman’s agreement when Congress resumes its regular sessions,” said House Majority Leader Manuel Jose Dalipe.

“The inquiry is aimed at guaranteeing transparency and protecting the national interests,” Dalipe said.

Former President Rodrigo Duterte. File Photo

“The House of Representatives is committed to conducting a comprehensive and fair inquiry to clarify this critical national issue,” he added.

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The House is on a scheduled break and will resume session on April 29.

Khonghun had said that the House’s investigation was expected to include testimonies from former government officials and diplomatic representatives.

Meanwhile, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada said he was ready to hold a hearing regarding the same issue.

“If that falls under my committee, I am more than willing to conduct a hearing,” said Estrada, who chairs the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security.

Earlier this month, Sen. Risa Hontiveros filed Senate Resolution 982 after former Palace spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte agreed to deliver only food and water to Filipino troops on the BRP Sierra Madre, a World War II-era warship deliberately grounded on Ayungin Shoal in 1999 as a Filipino outpost in the disputed waters.

“The ‘gentleman’s agreement’ would explain the relentless harassment via water cannons of our resupply missions by Chinese forces,” Hontiveros wrote in the resolution.

“If confirmed to be true, this ‘gentleman’s agreement’ would be tantamount to surrendering the Philippines’ sovereignty,” she added.

But Salvador Panelo, the chief presidential legal counsel during the Duterte administration, said the former president did not enter into any agreement with China not to maintain BRP Sierra Madre.

In a media interview in Washington, D.C., last week, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. called the agreement between Beijing and Duterte a “secret deal.”

He said that keeping it undisclosed could compromise Manila’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

“So, now, with the confirmation of the Chinese Embassy, we now know that there was a secret agreement. This is my second question: ‘What is contained in the second agreement?'” said Marcos.

“What did the Duterte administration promise China?… It is only now that we’ve confirmed such an agreement. They call it a gentleman’s agreement; I call it a secret agreement.”

The Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal, claimed by China, Vietnam and Taiwan, lies 105 nautical miles from Palawan, well inside the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

Duterte earlier claimed that he possessed documents relating to all the deals entered into by his administration with China.

Under the 1987 Constitution, all treaties or international agreements can only be valid and effective after the concurrence of at least two-thirds of all members of the Senate.

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