House starts probe on alleged ‘gentleman’s agreement’

House starts probe on alleged ‘gentleman’s agreement’

THE House Committee on National Defense and Security and the Special Committee on the West Philippine Sea (WPS) began their hearing on Monday, May 20th, regarding the alleged gentleman’s agreement between the previous administration and China concerning the Ayungin Shoal.

However, high-ranking officials from the Duterte administration who were invited did not attend.

Among those absent were former Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, former National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, and former Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, who sent representatives instead.

DFA, AFP, DND, other gov’t agencies deny knowledge of alleged gentleman’s agreement

Participating in the hearing were the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of National Defense, National Security Council, Philippine Coast Guard, Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the Department of Justice.

Representatives from these agencies asserted that they had no knowledge of any document proving the controversial Gentleman’s Agreement.

“The Department of Justice is not privy to this agreement, has not seen the contents of this agreement, and does not know the contents of this agreement. In any case, this agreement has been rescinded already by the president himself last August 9, 2023. And this agreement, if indeed it is illegal because we have not seen its contents, does not in any way bind the Philippines,” stated Atty. Fretti Ganchoon, DOJ State Counsel.

Regarding the question on whether the supposed gentleman’s agreement between the Philippines and China is legal or illegal, here is DOJ’s explanation

“Mr. Chair, it took note of what you said before on the definition of a gentleman’s agreement. Because a gentleman’s agreement can exist in international law. It’s called an oral treaty. It is usually in the form of an oral treaty,” Ganchoon added.

“It can be allowed under international law because oral treaties are allowed in international law, but whether it is legal will depend on its contents,” Ganchoon said.

PCG: House probe on alleged gentleman’s agreement could cause division

During the hearing, the current Commandant of the Philippine Coast Guard appealed for the investigation to be concluded promptly, as it could cause division among the Filipino people.

“This is an appeal to the Congress as the representative of the people. The Coast Guard can do so much, and we will largely depend on the support of the people. We cannot move forward the best we can if we have a divided people. We appeal that this hearing be concluded as soon as possible, as this has the potential to divide our people. And this has the potential to confuse us on the ground,” Admiral Ronnie Gil Latorilla Gavan, Commandant, Philippine Coast Guard expressed.

On April 11th, former President Rodrigo Duterte denied the existence of such an agreement between the Philippines and China during his term.

He said he only remembered that when he spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping, they agreed to maintain the ‘status quo’ in the West Philippine Sea, which included the prohibition of bringing materials for the construction of BRP Sierra Madre at Ayungin Shoal to avoid causing more tension between the two countries.

The House is set to continue the hearing on Tuesday, May 21.


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