By Raymund Antonio
Human rights lawyer Chel Diokno on Sunday reminded the administration they are expected to protect Filipino fishermen, following their reported harassment by Chinese vessels at the Panatag Shoal.
This was the response of Diokno to Malacañang’s apparent soft stance against China for driving away Filipino fishermen from the shoal, which is found in the West Philippine Sea and belongs to the Philippines.
Diokno, a senatorial bet of opposition Otso Diretso, said the government appears to be “in denial” over reports of local fishermen being harassed by Chinese vessels.
He was referring to Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo, who claimed they can’t do much about the incident and the allegations should be proven first.
“’Pag nakakausap natin mismo ang mga mangingisda ay personal knowledge po nila, sila mismo ang nakakaranas niyan,” Diokno said.
(When we talk to the fishermen is their personal knowledge, they experience that.)
The veteran lawyer was a guest during Vice President Leni Robredo’s weekly radio show, “BISErbisyong Leni,” aired on RMN-dzXL 558.
Diokno explained that it was not just the 2016 Arbitral Award that protects Filipino fishermen as the government also has obligations under domestic law to ensure they are protected.
“As way back as 1978, we have Presidential Decree 1599 that recognizes the 200 nautical miles. We also passed another law, Republic Act 9522, recognizing the archipelagic baselines,” he said.
“Hindi natin puwedeng sabihin na sa ano lang ‘yan, international lang ‘yan (We can’t just say, that’s only international),” Diokno noted.
“In fact, in the Fisheries Code, it is also stated there it is the duty of our government to protect our municipal fisherfolk,” he said.
But despite the existing laws, the opposition senate bet indicated this was far from what’s happening.
“’Yun ang nakakalungkot na parang hindi nangyayari. Baliktad pa nga nangyayari (It’s saddening that does not happen. What is happening is the opposite),” Diokno said.
Last Friday, Diokno addressed the same issue at the National Convention of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) held in Iloilo, where he warned the administration for its failure to guard against foreign intrusion in Philippine territory.
“The President and his minions, by letting China have its way in the West Philippine Sea, are actually violating PD 1599, the Fisheries Code, R.A. 9522, and the 1987 Constitution. And for this, they should be held accountable,” he said.