Lacson says Panelo acting like defense lawyer of China
MANILA, Philippines — Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo is acting like the “defense counsel of China” when he doubted the statements of the Filipino fishermen who were rescued after their fishing boat was rammed by a Chinse vessel in the West Philippine Sea, Senator Panfilo Lacson said Wednesday.
Panelo, who is also the President’s chief legal counsel, earlier said that conflicting accounts concerning the sinking of the Philippine boat in Recto Bank will cast doubt on Filipino fishermen.
‘’Yung statement na nakakita agad siya [Panelo] ng butas doon sa pahayag ng mga fishermen parang ang mindset niya, defense counsel na nag eenter ng appearance for China if he was in a courtroom, ganun ang dating,” Lacson said in a Kapihan sa Senado forum in Pasay City.
“Subliminal ‘yun eh, para sa akin. ‘Yung kanyang reaction kaagad, ‘nakakita ako ng butas, so walang kasalanan yung China.’ Ang expression na ganun, parang ang dating kaagad parang defense counsel siya ng China,” he added.
Lacson chided how Panelo gave a “premature conclusion” saying the Palace official’s statement “injected doubt” on the accounts of the Filipino fishermen even though the investigation has yet to be completed.
Lacson hit back at Panelo, who earlier described as “reckless and premature” the senator’s suggestion to invoke the Philippines’ Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States over the ramming incident.
“Siya pa nagsasabi hindi pa kumpleto ang investigation. What he is accusing the critics, yan din ginagawa niya,” the senator said.
“Sabi niya premature pero siya rin premature ang kanyang conclusion kasi nag-inject siya ng doubt sa mga pahayag ng mga fishermen,” he added.
The boat captain of F/B Gem-Vir 1, Junel Insigne, claimed that their boat was deliberately rammed by a Chinese vessel, however, the boat’s cook said he was unsure if that was the case, as earlier revealed by Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol.
Panelo said such conflicting accounts could put the statements of Filipino fishermen in question.
“Kasi parang may conflict ‘yung kapitan at ‘yung cook. Kasi tingin ng kapitan, sinadya. Tingin ng cook, mukhang hindi nakita (It appears that there’s a conflict with the accounts of the cook and the captain. The captain said it was intentional. The cook said it may not be deliberate),” Panelo earlier said in a Palace briefing.
The presidential spokesperson then urged for a formal inquiry in order to get to the bottom of the issue.
“Kaya kailangan imbestigahan na talaga natin (We need to investigate). Formal inquiry na kailangan dito (It requires formal inquiry),” he said.
The Chinese government had claimed that the incident was not a case of “hit and run” as the Chinese vessel was besieged by seven or eight Filipino boats.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier reported that a Filipino boat sank at the Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea on June 9 after a “collision” with a Chinese vessel. However, he said the Chinese vessel abandoned the Filipino boat and left the fishermen “at the mercy of the elements.”
Meanwhile, the owner of the Vietnamese vessel that rescued the 22 Filipino fishermen finally spoken up about the matter.
Fifty-four-year-old Ngo Van Theng, the owner of the TGTG-90983-TS fishing vessel, said he was able to reach out to the boat captain Nguyen Thanh Tam through radio to give his side of the story.
The Vietnamese boat captain’s account appeared consistent with the stories of the Filipino fishermen on how they tried to stay afloat and how the Vietnamese rescued them. (Editor: Jonathan P. Vicente)
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