MANILA - True to form, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go said Tuesday he would not vote for the ouster of his long-time boss, President Rodrigo Duterte, in case an impeachment complaint against him reaches the Senate.
Go, who would serve as a senator-judge in case an impeachment complaint against Duterte reaches the upper chamber of Congress, said people should consider himself as “one vote less” in the trial.
“Karapatan niyong mag-file ng impeachment against the President, but personally wala akong nakikita, walang basis aang sinasabi na mag-file ng impeachment. Sa tingin ko hindi mananaig iyan,” Go told reporters.
Duterte was earlier asked if the Philippines should bar China from fishing in the country's exclusive economic zone (EEZ). He replied that Beijing and Manila are "friends" and that there should not be any "bloody conclusion."
Tension between Manila and Beijing reignited after a Chinese vessel caused a Filipino fishing boat to sink in Reed Bank (Recto Bank), located within the Philippines’ EEZ.
Twenty-two Filipino fishermen were left at sea by the Chinese crew after sinking their boat. They were later rescued by a Vietnamese vessel.
Duterte has downplayed the incident, prompting outrage from critics who want Manila to stand up to what they said was Chinese aggression.
Instead of blasting China over its fishermen’s intrusion into the country’s waters, Duterte said he could not bar Chinese fishermen in the Philippines’ EEZ due to a "mutual agreement" he made with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
His spokesperson Salvador Panelo would later say the deal was an "informal" one between the two leaders. He also described it as “verbal” but was “valid and binding” in nature.
In a recent development, Duterte announced he will seek China’s assurance on the safety of Filipino fishermen in the South China Sea.
Critics have said Duterte’s pronouncements on the issue make it appear that the Philippines is waiving its rights to the resource-rich area. They said these are clear grounds for the President’s impeachment.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin, however, believes it would be hard to impeach Duterte with only a “verbal agreement” between him and Xi as basis.
“If it is a ground for impeachment, how do you prove a verbal agreement? In this case, the primary evidence would either be a document signed or a verbal testimony,” Drilon told reporters.
“There is no document. The verbal testimony is between the President and Xi Jinping, so, tell me, who would be witness to that?”
Drilon said Duterte obviously cannot be compelled to testify against himself.
“It is a different issue in a public debate but when it comes to formal proceedings like the impeachment, you have to observe the rules of evidence and the rules of evidence require that the primary evidence would either be a document or a verbal testimony,” he said.