Palace belittles Alejano’s impeachment plan vs. Duterte

MANILAMalacaAang on Tuesday belittled Magdalo Party-list Rep. Gary Alejano's reported plan to file impeachment complaint against President Rodrigo R. Duterte over failure to act on China's alleged increasing military presence in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Alejano has the right to file another impeachment case just like the lawmaker did last year.

If he gets the number, perhaps he will succeed. But for me, he cannot get enough support because the impeachment that he will file has no legal basis, Roque said in a Palace press briefing.

In March 2017, Alejano's impeachment complaint filed against Duterte over the government's war on drugs was dismissed by the House committee on justice for lack of substance.

This time, Alejano is citing Duterte's lack of decisive action amid reports that China has deployed defense missiles in WPS. This indecisiveness could be considered an act of treason which is a ground for impeachment, the solon claimed.

Roque said Alejano should instead run after the previous administration's government officials who allowed the building of artificial islands in the disputed WPS.

He said the artificial islands have been completely finished even before Duterte came into office in 2016.

In the first place, if there are no (artificial) islands there, these (missiles) could not have been placed there. So his (Duterte) point is like too late the hero that he is now being blamed by some people of the past administration, Roque said.

He said the government is not ignoring a US media report that China has installed anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missiles on three of its outposts in the WPS.

As I said, we are not ignoring the actions to be taken. These cannot be announced, cannot be talked [about] every day, he said.

In July 2016, the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruled in favor of the Philippines' arbitration case contesting China's nine-dash line which covers nearly the entire WPS.

Duterte, however, temporarily shelved the PCA's verdict and instead opted to take a non-confrontational approach to settle the dispute while maintaining friendly and bilateral ties with the world's second largest economy.

Meanwhile, Roque refuted a media report that the Philippines has been surpassed by other claimant countries in terms of developing reefs in the WPS.

With Washington-based Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative as its source, an online news site reported that except for the Philippines, other claimants have strengthened their stake in the WPS with China transforming seven reefs into military outposts.

Vietnam, on the other hand, has the most number of outposts with at least 52 spread across 27 islands while Malaysia occupies five islands and Taiwan with one but largest island named Itu Aba in the Spratly.

We are the only claimant, that seven real islands that can be the subject of sovereignty, Roque said.

So if your question is: they have overtaken us in asserting their rights and sovereignty? I dispute that because from the nature of the islands that we occupy, we are the only one of all the claimants except for Taiwan, that can claim sovereignty over the islands that we hold, he added.

Roque, an international law expert, said any other claimant country cannot claim a superior claim since all their islands are artificial.

There's not even any talk of sovereignty when you talk of artificial islands because it's only sovereign rights. But in all the seven islands that are in our possession, we can claim sovereignty over each of them because these are real islands, Roque said.

So when you build an artificial island, you never have sovereignty over the island. So even if they build the mightiest island, the mightiest military base, it will never be the subject of sovereignty. Why? Because it's an artificial island, it is only covered by sovereign rights, he added. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency