Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano on Monday pressed former President Benigno Aquino III on how the Philippines under his administration lost control of Scarborough Shoal to China in 2012.
Aquino, in his response to Cayetano's first open letter posted on Facebook, said Cayetano could have easily Googled the answers to some of his questions and that responding to the others would have revealed the country's playbook to the Chinese side.
"Sir, you asked for transparency yet you refuse to be transparent. This is not about our present playbook but yours," Cayetano said.
"Your playbook is something already known to the Chinese Government and yet you refuse to share this and other facts with our people who knew nothing about it," he added.
"Our current playbook is what we have to guard closely, not yours. Yet you and your allies continue to undermine the present approach that is called for in our current playbook," Cayetano said.
"Do you or don’t you want to protect our country’s interests?" he added.
Aquino in an interview last week questioned the wisdom of the planned 60-40 sharing of resources in portions of the South China Sea claimed by both the Philippines and China.
He also asked for transparency in how the Duterte administration dealt with the Chinese given the incumbent's policy of quiet diplomacy.
Cayetano has repeatedly said that the Philippines has quietly filed protests against China's objectionable actions in the disputed waters.
The foreign affairs secretary answered Aquino in a first open letter on Facebook and asked questions on how the Philippines lost the Scarborough Shoal during the previous administration.
Cayetano pointed out that two officials dealt with China at that time—then Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario and Senator Antonio Trillanes, who supposedly had backchannel talks with the Chinese.
"You know very well the questions I asked cannot be answered by a simple Google search alone," Cayetano said.
"In fact, your suggestion to Google your answers to my questions led to more questions than answers... The media reports that we found in Google now compel me to reiterate many of the questions I raised, and even elaborate," he added.
1. Why did we need to send a backdoor negotiator to resolve the standoff in Scarborough Shoal? Were the efforts of then Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario to deal with the problem not enough?
2. Why did you choose Senator Trillanes? Did you handpick him for this sensitive mission or did he offer his services? What were your instructions to him? How many trips did he make to China? Who did he talk to? What was agreed upon? Who paid for the trips? Where are his reports?
3. Secretary del Rosario accused Senator Trillanes of “torpedoing his efforts to resolve the standoff”, while Senator Trillanes accused Secretary del Rosario of “committing a treasonous act.” It appears you chose to support Senator Trillanes’s perception?
4. Is it true, as Senator Trillanes claims, that you considered his secret mission in back-channeling, a success? Did you consider surrendering Scarborough Shoal a success? (Note: In his statement to Ambassador Brady, he reportedly said: “Sa Pilipinas walang may gusto sa atin yong Panatag, yong Scarborough Shoal?" ).
So who really ordered the Philippine ships to leave and why?
5. Was there, indeed, an agreement for the simultaneous withdrawal of both Chinese and Philippine ships? If no, why the sudden pullout? If yes, who brokered this agreement? Senator Trillanes? Secretary del Rosario? Or a third party? Who was this third party, if there was one?
6. Senator Trillanes reportedly told you that Secretary del Rosario had been giving you false information about Chinese actions. What were these supposedly false information? Were these information indeed proven to be false?
7. You waited for a text message from Senator Trillanes during the crucial moments of the standoff. What text message were you waiting for? Was it his text message that led to the order to end the standoff by leaving?
8. Why were our ships not ordered to return to Scarborough Shoal when you realized that the Chinese ships were not leaving?
9. Did you receive a commitment from Washington to help Manila in the West Philippine Sea dispute? If yes, how and when was this commitment relayed to you? How did you respond? If none, did you do anything about it?
10. You keep pointing to the arbitral award as basis for upholding our sovereignty, but can you point to that part of the decision that upheld Philippine rights, as regard to our complaints of militarization in the disputed areas, or even when there was a standoff between the Philippine and Chinese navies?
11. Couldn’t we have sent back our ships to Scarborough even while we were taking steps to bring the case to arbitration? Why not?
"China Already Knows your Playbook"- Alan Cayetano fires back at Noynoy Aquino
4/ 5Oleh BNP Correspondent