Drilon doubts Duterte-Xi verbal fishing access deal can stand impeachment trial

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Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 2) — Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said an impeachment complaint against President Rodrigo Duterte based on his verbal fishing access deal with Chinese President Xi Jinping cannot stand trial.

In an interview Tuesday, Drilon said there is no evidence to prove the agreement. The President had earlier admitted his previous talks with Xi resulted in allowing China to fish in Philippine waters, including Recto Bank which is within the country's exclusive economic zone.

"If it is a ground for impeachment, how do you prove a verbal agreement? In this case, the primary evidence would either be a document signed or a verbal testimony. There is no document. The verbal testimony is between the President and Xi Jinping. So tell me, who would be witness to that?" he said.

He added media reports citing the President’s admission cannot be considered a primary evidence.

"You think you can compel the president to testify? That statement was reported in media. I keep on saying that you cannot present newspaper reports as evidence in impeachment proceedings, beause the president’s lawyers will object to that, because that’s hearsay," he said.

The Senate will stand as an impeachment court once a complaint has been voted upon by at least one-third of the lawmakers of the House of Representatives. Eighty-four solons from PDP-Laban, the President's party, have been elected to serve in the House -- but Duterte also enjoys the support of the House supermajority.

Eight of the President's Senate bets also won seats in the would-be impeachment court, including former top cop Ronald dela Rosa and former presidential aide Bong Go.

Go, a long-time ally of Duterte, is not keen on letting the complaint prosper should it reach the Senate.

"Personally wala akong nakikita, walang basehan ipa-file nila na impeachment. Tignin ko lang po hindi mananaig yan. Ako mismo, dito sa Senado kung sakaling umabot dito sa Senado, hindi ako papayag. One vote less na po," he said.

[Translation: Personally I don't see anything, no basis to file impeachment. I think it would not flourish. For me, in the Senate if it does reach the Senate, I will dismiss it. One vote less already.]

CNN Philippines' Correspondent Joyce Ilas contributed to this report.