Lagman tells DU30: Sovereignty not a joking matter

By Mavic Conde


Opposition Congressman Edcel Lagman reminded President Rodrigo Duterte that the issues on Philippine sovereignty are too important to be treated as a “campaign joke”.


“Of course no one believed that the President would physically jet ski to plant the Philippine flag in the Spratly Islands, but the electorate clearly understood that candidate Duterte vowed and committed to protect and enforce Philippine sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea (WPS),” Lagman said in a news release.


Early this week, Duterte admitted in a taped meeting that his statement to ride a jet ski to the WPS to assert Philippine sovereignty during the 2016 presidential campaign was only a joke. “We call it ‘bravado,’ ‘yong bravado ko that was just a pure campaign joke,” Duterte said amidst the increasing criticism of his policy in the area of the South China Sea within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.


For Lagman, admitting a hyperbolic joke does not make his reneging on his sworn constitutional duty to uphold the country’s sovereign rights in the WPS less insulting for the Filipinos.


In fact, according to Lagman, ‘the eventual international arbitral decision on July 12, 2016, less than two weeks after Duterte’s assumption of the presidency, has actualized the symbolism of Duterte’s “joke”.” The ruling found that China’s nine-dash-line claim has no basis in international law, resulting in the Philippines winning the arbitration case.


This refusal to pursue and enforce the legal ruling confirming Philippine ownership of the vital resources and vast territories in the WPS against China’s spurious claims and aggression is but another of Duterte’s failed campaign promise, like eradicating the drug menace, subduing corruption, solving the traffic gridlock, and mitigating mass poverty, Lagman said.