By Raymund Antonio
The lawyer of the fishermen, who withdrew their signature in the petition that compels the government to protect the West Philippine Sea, on Wednesday likened their case to “Recto Bank 22.”
Human rights lawyer Chel Diokno did not mince words on his strong objections against the government’s move to obtain affidavits from the fishermen, which he claimed was “unethical.”
“Pagkatapos ‘makausap’ ng abogado ng Navy, umatras na daw ang mga mangingisda. Hindi raw kanila ang kaso,” Diokno, who ran for senator but lost in the May polls, said.
(After the Navy lawyer spoke with them, the fishermen backtracked. This is no longer their case.)
“Hindi lang kahina-hinala na patagong nakipag-usap ang gobyerno sa mga kliyente namin, labag din sa legal ethics yan. Mukhang na-Recto 22 na naman ang mga Pilipino,” he added.
(It is not only doubtful the government talked to our clients behind our back, but it is also a violation of legal ethics. It seems Filipinos were once again treated like Recto 22.)
The veteran lawyer was referring to the 22 fishermen whose boat was sank and abandoned by a Chinese vessel in Recto Bank and who retracted their statements after a meeting with Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol.
Diokno was one of the lawyers who represented the petitioners when they filed with the Supreme Court in April for the issuance of a writ of kalikasan and a writ of continuing mandamus.
The petition accused the Duterte administration of neglecting their duties in the enforcement of Philippine laws to protect the maritime environment in the West Philippine Sea.
Diokno said the group of fishermen from Zambales and Palawan had “full knowledge and consent” when they filed the petition.
“They did this with full knowledge and consent, dahil ang gusto lang naman nila eh makapangisda sa sarili nating dagat, at kumita ng sapat para mabuhay ang kanilang mga pamilya,” he said.
(They did this with full knowledge and consent, because they only wanted to fish and earn enough for their families to survive.)
The lawyer added he was “more concerned about the safety” of the fishermen.
“Pinakita na ng administrasyong Duterte na walang makakapigil sa lakas nito. Sana gamitin nila yan para protektahan ang kapwa Pilipino,” he said.
(The Duterte administration showed no one can stop its power. I hope they will use it to protect fellow Filipinos.)