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Totoo ba? Hontiveros wants Cayetano claim on PH diplomatic protests probed

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By Xave Gregorio

Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros is seeking a Senate probe into the “50 to 100” diplomatic protests reportedly filed by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) against China, as previously claimed by DFA Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano in a House probe in May.

Hontiveros is calling on the Senate foreign relations committee chaired by Senator Loren Legarda to conduct a foreign policy audit to “scrutinize and review” the diplomatic protests supposedly lodged by the DFA against China over its incursions in the West Philippine Sea.

“I challenge the DFA to bare its so-called 50 to 100 diplomatic protests against China, which the Foreign Affairs Secretary claims to have lodged. The people have the right to be informed. Present proof, or they didn’t happen,” Hontiveros said in a statement Wednesday (July 11).

In Senate Resolution No. 786, she said “there is value in informing the public of diplomatic protests lodged by the government and this can help pressure foreign governments to conform to international commitments and norms.”

There are at least 10 resolutions pending in the Senate on China. Most of these are with Legarda’s foreign relations committee which is yet to conduct a hearing on these issues.

Cayetano claimed in a House probe that 50 to 100 diplomatic protests have been filed against China since President Rodrigo Duterte has taken office. But he defined diplomatic protests later in the hearing to mean any expression of dissent — even verbal.

“When the President tells [Chinese] President Xi [Jin Ping], ‘That is mine,’ that’s a protest. There are different forms of protest. It’s the content that’s material,” Cayetano said during a House inquiry in May.

However, Hontiveros noted in her resolution that there was only one instance that the DFA publicly stated that it has issued a protest against China.

“How about the 99 other diplomatic protests? Are they even real? If so, what is the nature of these diplomatic actions? What platforms and channels were used? Were they compliant with the spirit of the Hague ruling? When were they filed? What was the response of China?” she asked in a statement.

“Transparency makes for good foreign policy. On the contrary, total silence raises suspicion and discourages public confidence. Considering that the Philippine Senate has been granted by the Constitution the power to ratify treaties and in line with its check and balance powers, it has material interest in ensuring that the foreign policy adopted by the Executive is in the best interest of Filipino citizens,” she said.