Duterte vs Carpio, Del Rosario: From debate dare to threat of hanging
MANILA, Philippines — “I gladly accept the challenge anytime at the President’s convenience.”
Retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio gave this response after President Rodrigo Duterte challenged him to a debate on the 2016 arbitral award which upheld Philippine sovereign rights and invalidated China’s sweeping claims in the South China Sea.
Carpio on Thursday also denied the President’s statement that he was involved in the withdrawal of Philippine Navy ships from Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal during a standoff in 2012. “I was serving in the Supreme Court at that time and all I knew about the withdrawal of Philippine Navy ships was what I read in the newspapers. I call as my witnesses former President Benigno Aquino III and the defense secretary, foreign secretary and the chiefs of the Philippine Navy and the Coast Guard at that time,” Carpio said.
“President Duterte should now resign immediately to keep his word of honor,” Carpio said in a statement.
The word war continued to seethe between Duterte and the foremost critics of his policy toward Chinese incursions – Carpio and former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario.
On Wednesday night, the President again lashed back at the two for pressuring him to enforce the arbitral award – which he now called “a mere scrap of paper.”
“They said this case that we won, ‘pursue it.’ I pursued it, but nothing happened. Actually, to speak crassly, if you give this to me, I’ll tell you it’s just paper. I’ll throw it into the wastebasket,” the President said in a prerecorded briefing.
In a statement on Thursday, Del Rosario said it was a “national tragedy” that Duterte took the side of China, and asked: “Why are Filipinos being blamed for the loss of Scarborough Shoal and not China and its duplicity?”
“China, the illegal occupant in the West Philippine Sea, believes that the arbitral ruling is a mere scrap of paper … It is, therefore, a national tragedy that the President of the Philippines takes the side of China and believes that the arbitral ruling is a mere scrap of paper to be thrown in the wastebasket, to the severe prejudice of the Filipino people,” Del Rosario said.
Duterte said Carpio and Del Rosario should be investigated for their role in the loss of Panatag Shoal when the Philippines withdrew its ships during the 2012 standoff.
‘You want a free ride’
“Why did you tell them to withdraw? From whom did you get permission? If you can’t give [an answer], don’t pass your transgression to me. You want a free ride. You know, one day you will be tasked to answer for that, your order [to withdraw]. You should be investigated,” Duterte said during the televised public address.
The President said the “mystery question” was whether Aquino approved the order to withdraw.
He challenged Carpio (who is also an Inquirer columnist) to a debate, saying he would only have two questions: who ordered the withdrawal and if the arbitral award could be enforced.
“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?,” the President said.
Offer to host debate
The Philippine Bar Association (PBA) offered to host the debate, saying it will provide a “balanced arena” for the two eminent lawyers to “dispassionately discuss” the West Philippine Sea issue.
PBA President Rico Domingo said the Filipino public will benefit immensely from “a frank and straightforward discussion on a matter that affects the entire citizenry.”
In response, Carpio said he was happy to accept the PBA’s offer.
Duterte apparently reserved harsher words for Del Rosario, who led the filing of the Philippine case at the tribunal during the Aquino administration.
“I don’t know what will be the history of this country because if I were a leader [still], I will execute you by hanging … It’s treason for you to enter into that deal,” he said.
Not a blame game
But Del Rosario reiterated that it was China which “deceitfully breached the US-brokered agreement for a mutual withdrawal’’ from Panatag. He noted that up to now, China continues to openly violate Philippine sovereignty and territorial integrity by occupying features in the West Philippine Sea.
“We would like to respectfully reiterate that it is the President’s sworn duty under the Constitution to protect the West Philippine Sea and enforce the arbitral award against China. With due respect, this is not a blaming game among Filipinos, but a constitutional mandate to be acted upon against a foreign aggressor for the benefit of our country and the Filipino people,’’ Del Rosario said.
He said that if the President wanted to be informed about the US-brokered deal, he looked forward to responding.
At his press briefing on Thursday, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said Carpio was free to file a case if he thought Duterte was violating the Constitution.
‘Failure of nerve’
Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., in a series of tweets, expressed support for the President’s suggestion for Carpio and Del Rosario to be investigated over the issue.
“First I demand a complete verifiable factual explanation of why they withdrew our fighting ship from the face-off with Chinese warship(s)—or just fishing vessels—from Scarborough,’’ Locsin said.
“Is it fair to blame this President for your failure of nerve under the previous president? 1st own up to your failure then make your demand on this President to do what you did not ask PNoy: to fight all out for what was always yours. Hague just recognized that fact and right,” he said.
Locsin also questioned why former Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV was tasked to engage in backchannel talks in Beijing with Chinese officials regarding the maritime dispute in 2012.
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