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Otso Diretso tells rivals: Come with us to Panatag

PhilStar Global logo PhilStar Global 4/17/2019 Gerry Lee Gorit
a man standing on a boat in the water: Otso Diretso tells rivals: Come with us to Panatag © Edd Gumban/File Otso Diretso tells rivals: Come with us to Panatag

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines — Otso Diretso senatorial candidates last Tuesday challenged their administration counterparts to sail with them or on their own to Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.

“If they want to come with us to Scarborough Shoal, why not? They should accompany us and see what is actually going on there,” said human rights lawyer Jose Manuel “Chel” Diokno.

Diokno issued the challenge as he confirmed that Otso Diretso will push through with their planned visit to the shoal, probably after Holy Week.

Otso Diretso is composed of Diokno, Romy Macalintal, Gary Alejano, Erin Tañada, Florin Hilbay, Samira Gutoc, Mar Roxas and Bam Aquino.

Speaking to reporters after the senatorial candidates’ forum at Lourdes College here, Diokno said he and his fellow Otso Diretso candidates are determined to go to Panatag Shoal after the Philippine Coast Guard gave them permission to visit the disputed maritime territory.

Attending the forum were Diokno, Hilbay and Macalintal. Independent candidates Jose Matula and Edmundo Casiño joined Otso Diretso during the event.

Diokno said Otso Diretso candidates are finalizing their common time and date for the visit to Panatag Shoal.

He said every Filipino has the right to go not just to Panatag but all the areas in the West Philippine Sea which are under Philippine territorial jurisdiction.

“We are not there to fight the Chinese. If they see us, a group of civilians, I don’t anticipate any kind of hostility (from the Chinese military),” Diokno said.

If the Chinese military will drive them away, Diokno said, they will assert their right through civil means.

“If they use force against us, it’s on them,” he said.

Diokno agreed with political analysts that the country, acting on its own, could not achieve much.

But the Philippines can achieve more if it will seek the help of other nations, especially those which are also staking claims on the disputed territory, he said.

“We must avail (ourselves of assistance from the international community), to get the other countries behind us. Many will support us, not only because of the arbitral ruling, but on the premise that the international community operates on the principle of diplomacy,” Diokno said.

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