MANILA, Philippines – Hours before he was held at the Hong Kong airport, former foreign secretary Albert del Rosario slammed the proposed joint Philippines-China investigation of the sinking of a Filipino boat in the West Philippine Sea.
"The plan for a joint probe by the Philippines and China is the worst news yet. It redounds to a potential partnership between one party (Philippines who is out to seek the truth) against another party (China, the bully) who is out to suppress it," Del Rosario said in a statement sent shortly before 6 am on Friday, June 21.
Del Rosario was reacting to the proposal of China and key Duterte officials for Manila and Beijing to jointly investigate the sinking of Filipino fishing boat Gem-Ver in Recto Bank (Reed Bank) in the West Philippine Sea.
President Rodrigo Duterte is open to this joint investigation, but Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr is opposed to it.
Del Rosario said in his statement, "We should really feel sorry for our poor fishermen as the ultimate product of a joint probe with Beijing is expected to be no more than a bowl of fruit salad."
"Can we please not insult the intelligence of our people?" he added.
Del Rosario was held at the Hong Kong International Airport at around 7:40 am on Friday, exactly a month after the same thing happened to former ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales.
Del Rosario and Morales had complained against Chinese President Xi Jinping and other Chinese officials for alleged crimes against humanity in the West Philippine Sea.
Unlike Morales, however, Del Rosario carried a diplomatic passport. His lawyer Ann Marie Corominas said in an interview on ANC that Del Rosario's detention by Hong Kong authorities was "pure harassment" and violated the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
Del Rosario was the Philippines' foreign secretary when the country brought China to court for Beijing's expansive claim over the South China Sea, part of which is the West Philippine Sea.
The sinking of Filipino fishing boat Gem-Ver by a Chinese ship is the most heated incident in the West Philippine Sea since the standoff between Filipino and Chinese vessels in Scarborough Shoal in 2012. – Rappler.com
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.