Duterte not committing impeachable offense for alleged failure to protect EEZ, Palace says
President Rodrigo Duterte could not be impeached amid his alleged failure to protect the Philippine wealth in its exclusive economic zone, Malacanang said on Thursday.
Duterte, in a speech on Wednesday night, said he would allow Chinese fishermen to fish within the country's EEZ as part of his "mutual agreement" with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Days prior to that, news reports said Duterte said he would allow the Chinese fishermen in the Philippine EEZ, drawing criticisms from some quarters, including former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, who said the president could be impeached for breaching his constitutional mandate of defending the country's territory.
Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio also said allowing Chinese fishermen to fish in the West Philippine Sea would be a violation of Section 2, Article 12 of the Constitution, which states: “The State shall protect the nation’s marine wealth in its archipelagic waters, territorial sea, and exclusive economic zone, and reserve its use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino citizens.”
"You know, under the Constitution there are provisions on impeachment. If they believe that he (Duterte) did something, which is an impeachable ground, then file (an impeachment complaint). But you cannot stop the President from doing measures, steps that to his mind is the correct way to obey the constitutional command to him to protect and to serve the Filipino people," Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a press briefing.
"Isn't it that he said, 'I'm willing to sacrifice my life, my position. You can put me to jail, you can assassinate me'," he said, quoting the President.
Pressed if the Palace believes Duterte did not commit an impeachable offense, Panelo, who is also the chief presidential legal counsel, said, "Definitely."
Meanwhile, in a statement issued past midnight on Thursday, Panelo said that apparently Duterte was "misconstrued" on his supposed statement allowing Chinese fishermen in the country's EEZ.
"We stress assertively that the President will not relinquish, as he is not relinquishing or waiving our sovereign rights over our country’s EEZ in the West Philippine Sea," he said.
"The President, in order to advance our sovereign rights over our EEZ, has publicly urged China to join in the finalization of a code of conduct in the contested waters. In the ASEAN Summit, he articulated on the dangers of China's vague demarcation line claim even as we filed diplomatic protests against its activities in our EEZ through the Department of Foreign Affairs," Panelo added. Celerina Monte/DMS