Duterte’s silence on Sierra Madre removal ‘speaks volumes’ — ex-solon

The silence of former president Rodrigo Duterte on the issues surrounding the grounded BRP Sierra Madre from the Ayungin Shoal “speaks volumes,” an ex-lawmaker said on Wednesday, Aug. 23.

PRRD.jpgFormer president Rodrigo Duterte (King Rodriguez/ Presidential Photo/MANILA BULLETIN)

Lawyer Barry Gutierrez, who was the spokesperson of former vice president Leni Robredo, questioned the “notable silence” from the Duterte camp regarding who among the past presidents purportedly gave a promise to China of the withdrawal of the BRP Sierra Madre from the contested Ayungin Shoal.

“On this issue, silence speaks volumes. There seems to be more to former President Duterte's silence than meets the eye,” the former Akbayan representative said in a statement.

"It's striking how President Duterte, who was previously very vocal on matters concerning China, is now conspicuously silent when it has come to light that someone supposedly promised the removal of BRP Sierra Madre from Ayungin Shoal,” he added.

The issue has sparked public debate, with lawmakers even mulling a probe on the allegations.

Both former presidents Joseph Estrada and Gloria Arroyo, now Pampanga 2nd District representative, denied they made such promise.

Of the three living ex-presidents, only Duterte remained mum about the issue.

The late former presidents Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III and Fidel Ramos could not have made the promise, with the former even taking China to court because of its aggressive actions in the South China Sea while the latter had no ship to withdraw since Sierra Madre was deliberately grounded in 1999.

President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. also denied any involvement in the supposed promise, and said he is effectively rescinding any commitments made.

"If we carefully consider the situation, who was the last to engage with the Chinese President? Who had a close relationship with President Xi Jinping? Who previously mentioned 'I need China'?" Gutierrez said.

He added that even Vice President Sara Duterte has not spoken about any involvement in the issue.

The vice president and Education chief has spoken about nationalism and patriotism in many of her speeches but has yet to decry China’s recent actions of firing water cannon on a Philippine sea vessel, he said.

The elder Duterte recently made headlines for visiting the Chinese president. During his term, he has admitted admiration for Xi and called the Philippines’ arbitral win “just a piece of paper” that he can “throw away.”