By Genalyn Kabiling
Local fishermen have been “manipulated” by lawyer Chel Diokno into filing a Supreme Court petition seeking to compel the government to protect the marine environment of the West Philippine Sea, a Palace official said Thursday.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo has turned the tables on Diokno and alleged he influenced the petitioners into filing the Writ of Kalikasan before the high court.
Several fishermen have reportedly disowned the petition and withdrew from the plea, prompting the Supreme Court to reportedly suspend oral arguments on the case. Diokno, one of the legal counsels who filed the case on behalf of the fishermen, however claimed the government was behind the fishermen’s decision to back out.
“I think it’s the other way around. He should ask himself in the mirror because that question applies to him. Because if we are to believe the affidavit of the fishermen, it’s them that influenced or manipulated them,” Panelo said about Diokno’s allegation against the government.
Panelo noted that the local fishermen were apparently misled into signing the petition before the high court.
“I understand, the very reason why the fishermen went to them is because their houses were being demolished and they had a problem not in regard to that, and then they were asked to sign documents, iyon pala petition na, iyon ang istorya ng mga fishermen [That’s the story of the fishermen],” he said during a Palace news conference.
Meantime, the Palace proposed the deployment of more coast guard personnel to guard the country’s territorial waters and the marine resources.
He said maritime authorities are aware of their duty to protect these natural resources and apprehend those engaged in poaching and other illegal activities.
“Bantayan mo through the Coast Guards, dagdagan mo iyong mga bantay natin doon para mapangalagaan mo iyong mga Pilipino roon [You can guard it through the coast guards. Increase the guards to safeguard the Filipinos there],” he said.