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Panelo tells Hilbay to shut up: Hindi na siya SolGen

Malacañang on Thursday rebuffed former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay's call for a Senate investigation into the supposed verbal agreement of President Rodrigo Duterte with China that allows Beijing to fish in Manila’s exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea.

Hilbay earlier called the informal agreement unfair, impractical and a violation of the Constitution, which mandates the government to protect and preserve the national territory including the EEZ, the 200-nautical mile area measured from the baselines that the country enjoys jurisdiction over.

"Hindi na siya SolGen, tumahimik na lang siya," presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said at a news conference.

Panelo also said the arguments raised against Duterte and the administration pertaining to the maritime row had been "overwhelmingly repudiated" by the electorate in the May polls where Hilbay lost in the senatorial race.

"Tinanggihan na nga sila. Eh ayaw pa rin silang maniwala na hindi sila pinaniniwalaan ng taumbayan," the Palace spokesman said.

Sought for comment, Hilbay said it was "unfortunate that the default reaction" of public officials like Panelo to criticism about their official conduct "is to be unresponsive."

"Opinions of public officials, especially those that endanger the national interest, demand healthy criticism. I speak as a citizen, professor of law, and former representative of the republic in Philippines v China," said Hilbay, a member of the Philippines' legal team that won in 2016 the arbitration case over Beijing's expansive claim to the South China Sea.

Panelo meanwhile expressed confidence that the verbal fishing deal will not dampen Duterte's popularity, adding the President couldn't care less about his ratings as his focus was to protect and serve the people. —NB, GMA News