‘We’re both lawyers’: Duterte challenges Carpio to debate on WPS issue
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte challenged on Wednesday former Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio to a debate on the West Philippine Sea, particularly on the 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague that favored the Philippines over China.
In his pre-recorded briefing that aired on Wednesday, Duterte said had only two or three questions for Carpio: Who made the Philippine Navy retreat from the area? What did the administration of then-President Benigno Aquino III do about it? You filed a case and we won. Can we enforce that?
“This Carpio, he keeps writing about the decision but it’s all for his own mind. He’s stupid [ugok]. So you were a Supreme Court justice? We’re both lawyers. You want us to debate?” Duterte said in Filipino.
The president has been insisting that Carpio and then Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario were involved in the decision to withdraw Navy ships from the West Philippine Sea. He said he would resign if anyone could prove that he was lying about this.
Duterte also suggested that both Carpio and Del Rosario could be investigated for their role in China’s occupation of some island in the West Philippine Sea during the Aquino administration.
“‘That’s the truth, my countrymen. You can ask any lawyer. That’s what happened. Now if I’m lying, then I would resign — immediately, tomorrow,” he said.
He repeated his statement about China being a friend, despite the presence of its ships in disputed areas of the West Philippine Sea.
“Because it’s a friend, there’s nothing you can do? What will you do? Is that treason?” he said.
The maritime dispute between the Philippines and China again drew attention last March when the National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) reported the presence of over 200 Chinese boats — including militia ships — near the Julian Felipe Reef, which is well within the country’s exclusive economic zone.
Del Rosario and Carpio, both staunch defenders of the country’s claims on the West Philippine Sea, have accused Duterte of not prioritizing the Filipino’s interests in the dispute.
Previously, Duterte asked Carpio if anything would happen if the Philippines would ask the United Nations to pressure China to accept the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration.
The ruling said that that the Philippines should enjoy exclusive rights to the West Philippine Sea, saying that China’s nine-dash line territorial claim had no historical and legal basis.
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