Sons come to Erap defense

(JOURNAL NEWS) THE sons of former President Joseph “Erap” Ejercito Estrada on Tuesday insisted that all accusations hurled against their father are purely “lies” as they refuted the former president made a deal and promise to China to remove the grounded battleship BRP Sierra Madre from Ayungin Shoal.

In a privilege speech, Senator Jose Jinggoy Estrada tagged the allegations of Roberto Tiglao, in his Manila Times column, as fake news.

“I rise today on a matter of personal and collective privilege. Recent revelations have come to light regarding allegations that a past administration broke a promise made in 1999 to remove the stranded BRP Sierra Madre from Ayungin Shoal.

“These allegations put forth by Mr. Rigoberto Tiglao have raised concerns about the integrity of our nation’s sovereign rights and our commitment to safeguarding our territorial integrity. Such claims that a former President had promised to remove a vessel that symbolizes our presence and assertion of our rights in the West Philippine Sea is a matter that deserves thorough scrutiny and rigorous analysis,” Estrada said.

Ejercito questioned the timing of Tiglao, saying something is not right.

“This plot twist in the continuing saga on our country’s territorial claims over at West Philippine Sea came two weeks after we adopted Resolution No. 79 strongly condemning China’s continuing harassment and its persistent incursions in the West Philippine Sea,” Estrada added.

He noted that the quest to claim portions of Spratlys as part of Philippine territory can be traced back to the late President Ferdinand Marcos Sr.’s time in office.

“He (former President Marcos Sr.) recognized the islands’ strategic and economic significance considering that some of these islands have lucrative potential oil and gas deposits. During the 1970s to 1980s, the Marcos government gained control of the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) when we took over Lawak, Pag-asa, Parola, Likas and Kota. And later on Panatag, Panata and Rizal. Those ‘audacious undertaking’ were continued by the Estrada administration,” Estrada said.

Estrada claimed that the “grounding tactic,” which has significant symbolic and strategic value for the Philippines’ territorial claims and sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea, was carried out under his father’s leadership.

“Now, under President Bongbong Marcos Jr., is continuing what his father started, fortifying our stand in defending and protecting the territorial integrity of the Republic. Kaya naman ang sinasabing pangako na tanggalin ang BRP Sierra Madre sa Ayungin ay isang kasinungalingan. Pinaghirapang planuhin nila dating Defense Secretary Orly Mercado at ng Armed Forces of the Philippines ang mga strategy para labanan ang sinasabi nilang “creeping invasion” ng Tsina. Basta na lamang ba natin bibitawan ang pag okupa ng BRP Sierra Madre sa Ayungin? As I have said, it defies logic, Mr. President,” Estrada explained.

Estrada described all this accusations as part of the tactic to twist the truth.

“At ngayon ay binabaligtad pa tayo at pinapalabas ng Tsina, base sa mga binitawang salita ni Chinese Embassy deputy chief of mission Zhou Zhiyong may basehan ang ginawa nilang agresibong aksyon na pag water cannon sa Philippine Coast Guard na naghahatid lamang ng rasyong pagkain sa mga kababayan nating nakatalaga sa BRP Sierra Madre.

“BRP Sierra Madre serves as a symbol of our determination to defend the Philippines’ sovereign rights against challenges from other claimants and a reminder of the sacrifices made by the Philippine Navy and military personnel stationed in Ayungin to protect the country’s interests,” Estrada said in his speech.

“Mr. Tiglao based his claims on the 2022 book of Gregory Poling, an analyst specializing in Southeast Asian political and security issues, offered no other information. How can we consider a passage in a book that claims former President Estrada vowed to remove BRP Sierra Madre from Ayungin Shoal at the request of the Chinese government, as unquestionable truth? It was made verbally, allegedly, to who? Can you name names, Mr. Tiglao? “ Estrada raised his challenge to Tiglao, the spokesperson of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

“I am quite certain that my father made no such agreement even verbally to anyone, to any Chinese official during his incumbency. And I can back up my claims as I have earlier said that former Sen. Orly Mercado along with Navy officials, came up with the idea of running aground some of the World War II-era LST or landing ship, tank Sierra Madre to stake Philippine claim and establish a presence in the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) during a command conference of the Armed Forces,” Estrada said.

For his part, Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito said the claim of Tiglao is inconsistent and outrageous.

Ejercito said his father never had any negotiations with any Chinese companies like the NBN ZTE.

Both senators lambasted the recent actuation of the so-called Chinese vessel as they vowed to protect the interest of our country, amid the accusations hurled against their father, former President Estrada.