Ang paglubog ng isang bangkang pangingisda ng Pilipino at ang muntik na pagpapakawala sa isang…
The sinking of a Filipino fishing boat and the near-release of an ex-mayor convicted of rape and murder are but some of the issues that made headlines in President Rodrigo Duterte’s third year in office.
What made these events even more controversial was the string of flip-flops and contradicting pronouncements left in their wake by the president and his alter egos.
VERA Files Fact Check looked back on the major issues that hounded the country in 2019 and identified five where Duterte and his men failed to get their stories straight.
On the gravity of the Recto Bank allision
On June 9, a Chinese vessel sunk an anchored Philippine fishing boat in Recto Bank at the West Philippine Sea, leaving behind 22 Filipino fisherfolk at the mercy of the high seas. (See VERA FILES FACT SHEET: The evolving statements on the Recto Bank allision: a visual timeline)
The incident sparked public outrage. With no word from Duterte for an entire week, members of his Cabinet tried to fill the void, issuing conflicting statements on the gravity of the incident, and whether or not it was intentional.
The Philippine Coast Guard and Maritime Industry Authority, in its joint investigation released almost a month later, classified the incident as a “very serious marine casualty.” The agencies also noted that the Chinese vessel “failed to take appropriate actions to avoid risk of collision and to render assistance to a vessel in distress.”
Related fact checks:
- Pinol wrongly claims there were no issues against him when he was DA secretary
- Apology from Chinese association falsely claims Recto Bank is China territory
On enforcing the PH-China ‘verbal fish deal’
In a speech following the June 9 maritime incident, Duterte said he and Chinese President Xi Jinping had a “mutual” deal: Chinese fisherfolk were allowed to operate in the area of Recto Bank -- which falls within the Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ) -- as long as their Filipino counterparts were left alone to fish in the China-controlled Scarborough Shoal.
Following Duterte’s pronouncement, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., and Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles failed to agree on whether the president’s purely verbal deal was, indeed, binding.
Allowing China or any other foreign nationals to fish within the country’s EEZ violates the 1987 Charter and two other local laws. (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Allowing China to fish in PH EEZ violates Constitution, local laws)
Related fact checks:
- Sotto wrong in saying it’s ‘difficult’ to claim exclusivity in PH EEZ
- The evolving Palace stance on allowing China to fish in PH EEZ
On releasing ex-Mayor Sanchez on good conduct time allowance
A debate on the implementation of the good conduct time allowance law ensued after Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra and then Corrections chief Nicanor Faeldon in late August confirmed that ex-Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez is among those who will benefit from its retroactive application.
Two days later, amid public outrage, both said the case of Sanchez -- who was convicted for the rape and murder of University of the Philippines-Los Baños student Eileen Sarmenta and the torture and murder of Allan Gomez, another student, among other violations -- was still being reviewed to see if he was, indeed, eligible for release.
The issue was further scrutinized in a Senate probe, prompting lawmakers to call for a review of the law, and forced the president to step in to say the current GCTA law excludes those, like Sanchez, who committed heinous crimes. (See VERA FILES FACT SHEET: Understanding good conduct time allowance for prisoners: 4 things you should know)
Duterte eventually fired Faeldon, who admitted during the Senate probe to signing Sanchez’ “memorandum of release,” and ordered the rearrest and review of the cases of over 1,700 inmates who were freed through GCTA.
On cutting diplomatic ties with Iceland
The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in July adopted an Iceland-led resolution that expressed “concern” over allegations of human rights violations in the country, including the “killing of thousands of people allegedly involved in the drug trade and drug use.”
This triggered conflicting statements between the president, through his spokesperson Salvador Panelo, and Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on whether the Philippines will sever diplomatic ties with the Nordic country.
Related fact check:
On Robredo’s access to drug war records
Less than three weeks after she accepted her appointment as co-chair of the country’s anti-illegal drug efforts, Vice President Leni Robredo was fired by Duterte for supposedly performing “many missteps.”
In a speech after leaving the post, Robredo said she will come out with a report containing her “discoveries” during her 19-day stint as co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD), together with her recommendations.
Panelo dismissed Robredo’s statement and insisted that no “secret” was kept from the vice president in the first place. This negated Duterte’s pronouncement days prior that Robredo was on a “need to know” status only. (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Panelo negates Duterte, now says Robredo had ‘access to everything’ in ICAD)
As Vice President, Robredo is a member of the National Security Council, which entitles her to access classified information. The vice president is part of the council’s executive committee, which reviews “national issues and concerns” and formulates “positions and solutions for consideration of the NSC,” which then advises the president.
Related fact checks:
- Robredo contradicts LP spox; accepts offer to lead efforts vs. illegal drugs
- Panloe distorts reason behind order to bar Robredo from Cabinet meetings in 2016
- Panelo backtracks on stance about Robredo meeting with US, UN officials
-- Meeko Angela Camba
On Recto Bank allision
- Inquirer.net, PCG-Marina report: China vessel took no steps to avoid hitting PH boat, July 6, 2019
- CNN Philippines, Coast Guard-Marina report: China ‘failed’ to take action to avoid Recto Bank collision, July 6, 2019
- Rappler.com, Final PCG-Marina report: Chinese ship failed to avoid sea collision, July 6, 2019
- Delfin Lorenzana official Twitter account, Statement on the collision of a suspected Chinese and Filipino fishing vessels (sic) near Recto Bank, June 12, 2019
- Teodoro Locsin Jr. official Twitter account, Chinese vessel sinks Philippine boat in Recto Bank, June 12, 2019
- Office of the Presidential Spokesperson official Facebook page, On the vessel collision in the West Philippine Sea, June 13, 2019
- ABS-CBN News, ‘The ship was rammed’: PH Navy chief says Reed Bank incident not normal, June 14, 2019
- Rappler.com, ‘Daplis lang’: Duterte’s Energy Secretary downplays PH boat sinking, June 16, 2019
- Presidential Communications Operations Office, Press Briefing of Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Secretary Salvador Panelo, June 17, 2019
- RTVMalacanang, 121st Philippine Navy Anniversary (Speech), June 17, 2019
- Presidential Communications Operations Office, Press Briefing of Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Secretary Salvador Panelo, June 18, 2019
- Rappler.com, Lorenzana: PH boat ramming ‘just an accident’, June 19, 2019
On PH-China verbal fish deal
- Official Gazette, 1987 Constitution
- Official Gazette, Republic Act 8550
- Official Gazette, Republic Act 9522
- RTVMalacanang, 122nd Presidential Security Group (PSG) Anniversary (Speech), June 26, 2019
- Presidential Communications Operations Office, Press Briefing of Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Secretary Salvador Panelo, July 1, 2019
- ABS-CBN News, Locsin: Duterte’s deal with China on fishing ‘not policy,’ July 2, 2019
- Inquirer.net, Nograles: Duterte-Xi verbal fishing deal just an ‘agreement to agree,’ July 3, 2019
- GMA News Online, Locsin: Duterte-Xi verbal fishing agreement cannot be enforced, July 3, 2019
- Rappler.com, Nograles: Despite ‘verbal deal’ with China, PH must still enforce laws, July 3, 2019
- Philstar.com, Palace insists on Duterte’s stand on ‘legally binding’ fishing deal, July 4, 2019
- Presidential Communications Operations Office, Press Briefing of Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Secretary Salvador Panelo, July 4, 2019
- Official Gazette, Republic Act 10592
- Inquirer.net, Faeldon now admits authority over Sanchez’ release order, Sept. 2, 2019
- CNN Philipines, Panelo denies hand in looming release of ex-mayor convicted of students’ murder, rape, Aug. 21, 2019
- Rappler.com, TIMELINE: DOJ backtracks on possible early release of Antonio Sanchez, Aug. 23, 2019
- Manila Times, Convicted ex-Laguna mayor Sanchez may be free man soon -- Guevarra, Aug. 20, 2019
- ABS-CBN News, Ex-Calauan mayor Sanchez, convicted for 1993 rape and murder, set for release, Aug. 20, 2019
- Philstar.com, Panelo itinagging may kinalaman sa posibleng paglaya ng convicted rapist, Aug. 21, 2019
- Inquirer.net, Panelo denies hand in early release of former mayor in rape-slay case, Aug. 21, 2019
- Philippine News Agency, Panelo denies hand in ex-mayor Sanchez’ release, Aug. 21, 2019
- Inquirer.net, BuCor chief: Sanchez ‘may not be qualified to go home’ yet, Aug. 22, 2019
- Philstar.com, Ex-mayor Sanchez malabong makalaya, Aug. 23, 2019
- CNN Philippines, Justice chief: ‘No truth’ to reports on ex-mayor Sanchez’ release, Aug. 22, 2019
- Office of the Presidential Spokesperson official Facebook page, On Republic Act 10592, Aug. 23, 2019
- Presidential Communications Operations Office, Press Conference of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, Sept. 4, 2019
- Un.org, Promotion and protection of human rights in the Philippines (A/HRC/41/L.20), July 5, 2019
- Inquirer.net, Duterte order shuns all loans, grants, aid from 18 countries backing probe of PH killings, Sept. 20, 2019
- Reuters, Philippines’ Duterte orders shunning of loans, grants from backers of U.N. drug war probe, Sept. 20, 2019
- BusinessWorld, Duterte shuns aid over UN probe of drug war, Sept. 23, 2019
- Presidential Communications Operations Office, Press Briefing of Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Secretary Salvador Panelo, July 15, 2019
- Presidential Communications Operations Office, Interview with Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo by Orly Mercado (DWFM - All Ready), July 16, 2019
- Teodoro Locsin Jr. official Twitter account, UNHRC vote is a small and harmless matter, July 16, 2019
On Robredo’s ICAD stint
- Leni Robredo official Facebook page, PANOORIN: Pahayag ng Pangalawang Pangulo, Sept. 25, 2019
- Official Gazette, Executive Order 34, Sept. 17, 2001
- Presidential Communications Operations Office, Media Interview of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, Nov. 19, 2019
- Presidential Communications Operations Office, Press Briefing of Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Secretary Salvador Panelo, Nov. 28, 2019