Otso Diretso bets challenge Duterte: Be transparent in China deals

BULACAN, Philippines – As President Rodrigo Duterte spends time with China for the Belt and Road Forum, Otso Diretso senatorial candidates Gary Alejano, Erin Tañada III, and Romulo Macalintal challenged him to be transparent in his dealings with the ally Asian superpower.

Speaking to reporters before a campaign forum in Malolos, Bulacan on Friday, April 26, the bets warned the President that without transparency, deals and talks risk of being disadvantageous for Filipinos.

"Dito natin pwedeng hamunin si President Duterte. Because he is an advocate of freedom of information, kung talagang naniniwala siya dito, hindi na kailangan dapat ihingi nang kahit sino man ang mga kontratang pinirmahan dahil imbued nga 'yan with public interest," former congressman Tañada said.

(Here is where we can challenge President Duterte.  Because he is an advocate of freedom of information, if he really believes in it, nobody should need to ask for what are inside these signed contracts because it is imbued with public interest.)

Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano warned bilateral talks with China are bound to leave the Philippines on the "losing end," given that dealings cannot be checked by Filipinos. (READ: PH to get $10B in deals, investments from Duterte's China visit – DTI)

"'Yung bilateral kasi, gusto ng China 'yun. Pumasok tayo. Nung pumasok tayo sa arrangement na 'yan, we would be at the losing end. Tayo ang maililiit eh. Sila yung powerful. And we allowed them to have that kind of arrangement na we're asked kung wala kang magawa sinong pupuntahan mo? Wala na," Alejano said, giving the controversial Chico and Kaliwa dam projects as examples.

(China likes bilateral talks. We got into it. When we got into it, we would be at the losing end. We are the smaller one, they are powerful, and we allowed them to have that kind of arrangement that we are risking that if things fall out, we can't go anywhere.)

PHILIPPINES-CHINA TIES. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping pose for a photo before the start of their bilateral meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on April 25, 2019. Malacau00f1ang photo

PHILIPPINES-CHINA TIES. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping pose for a photo before the start of their bilateral meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on April 25, 2019.

Malacau00f1ang photo

Just on Thursday, President Duterte met with Chinese President Xi Jinping, for a reaffirmation and renewal of their countries' relations. Under Duterte’s watch, the Philippines has been pursuing what it calls an “independent foreign policy” that comprises of snubbing the West for warmer ties with China.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo also reported on Thursday that Duterte and Xi agreed that even the intrusive presence of Chinese ships near Pag-asa Island should be resolved through bilateral talks. Duterte is set to stay in China up until Saturday evening. (READ: Dissecting Duterte’s amped-up West Philippine Sea rhetoric)

"Alam naman natin, puro sikreto, walang nalalaman tayo kung ano talaga ang nangyayari doon sa mga agreement na kanyang pinapasukan (We know that it's all secret, we don't know anything in those agreements that he pursues)," Macalintal noted. 

Alejano pitched that if ever President Duterte decides to enter more deals with China, they should be completed with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and even the United States, which could both step in if ever any of the two countries don't hold their end of the bargain.

"'Yun ang gusto natin, we build strong alliances especially the West, the US, so that they can help us in the event na tayo ay nadedehado ng China (That's what we want, we build strong alliances especially the West, the US, so that they can help us in the event that we are held at a disadvantage by China)," Alejano said. – Rappler.com 

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers security, crime, and the city of Manila for Rappler. He was chosen as a Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

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