By Democrito Barcenas
ART. 12, Sec. 2 of the Constitution is explicit:
“The State shall protect the nation’s marine wealth in its archipelagic waters, territorial sea and exclusive economic zone and reserve its use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino citizens.”
When 22 Filipino fishermen on board a Filipino fishing vessel almost drowned because their vessel was deliberately rammed by Chinese maritime militiamen disguised as fishermen last June 9, 2019 within the Philippine exclusive economic zone, the Filipino people expected President Duterte to act in accordance with his constitutional duties to protect the national interest.
But recent events have proved that the President, instead of protecting our country and upholding the Constitution, has acted as if he is the spokesman of China. Duterte kept silent for more than a week. When he ended his deafening silence on the matter, he said that it was just “a little maritime incident.”
President Duterte made another alarming statement that the Chinese fishermen could fish in Philippine waters because “the Chinese are our friends.” This drew a rebuke from an expert on West Philippine Sea, Supreme Court (SC) Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio who said Duterte’s position was against the Constitution and that it negated our victory at the Hague International Arbitral Court against China on July 12, 2016. Instead of refuting the arguments of Justice Carpio, the President engaged in argumentum ad hominem, and called the SC justice “stupid.”
When Duterte assumed office as president on June 30, 2016, he pledged that he would execute its laws and preserve and defend the Constitution. Clearly, his acts in allowing the Chinese militia to fish inside Philippine territorial waters found within the exclusive economic zone the enjoyment of which is exclusively reserved to Filipino citizens, is a culpable violation of the Constitution. It is a ground for impeachment.
Patriotic and decent Filipinos called for the impeachment of President Duterte for his acts in betraying our national sovereignty. When Duterte became aware of the move to impeach him, he said: “You impeach me, ipakulong ko sila. If you run out of toilet paper, use the Constitution.”
Duterte’s admirers defended the President, saying that if we assert our sovereignty over our territorial waters, we cannot win the war against China. This is a scare tactic because war is not the only option in our international relations. When President Aquino filed a case against China before an international tribunal sometime in 2012 because of the latter’s intrusion into our territorial waters, war did not erupt.
Duterte knows that filing an impeachment complaint is not a crime and the President is just making his usual bluff and bluster. Whether the impeachment succeeds or not, the complaint should be filed soonest to remind Duterte that the Constitution is not a toilet paper but something worth defending. We must stand up. According to the words of the Roman poet Juvenal, “a society of sheep is an invitation to a government of wolves.”