No more face-off: Duterte backs out of debate with Carpio, assigns Roque instead
MANILA, Philippines — The much-anticipated face-off between President Rodrigo Duterte and retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio may not happen after the Chief Executive assigned his spokesperson to represent him in a debate over the issue on the Philippines’ legal victory over China’s claims in the West Philippine Sea.
Duterte has designated Atty. Harry Roque to debate Carpio over whether the country may enforce the 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in favor of the country amid recent incursions of China in contested waters, which critics claimed undermined the country’s sovereignty.
The President further claimed that Carpio had had a hand in the withdrawal of the Philippine Navy forces in Mischief Reef (Panganiban Reef) that resulted in the Chinese taking over the ridge off Palawan during the time of President Benigno Aquino.
Duterte challenged Carpio to a debate over the West Philippine Sea, which the former magistrate accepted.
“Ang sabi po ni Presidente, tinatalaga nya po ang inyong abang lingkod na makipag debate kay retired Justice Antonio Carpio. Tinanggap ko naman po ang pagtatalaga ni Presidente,” Roque said in an interview over state-run People’s Television Network.
(The President said he is designating yours truly to debate retired Justice Antonio Carpio. I’ll take it.)
“Sabihin lang po ng Philippine Bar Association kung kailan, saan ang debate at sisipot po tayo roon,” he added.
(The Philippine Bar Association should just say when and where the debate will be and I will be there.)
Roque said Duterte only acted on the advice of the Cabinet and some senators not to press forward with the debate.
The Palace official gave three reasons for this:
• that it will not benefit the Filipinos
• that Duterte is a sitting president, whereas Carpio is an “ordinary lawyer,” and
• that whatever the President says during the debate will affect government policy
On the second reason, Roque said: “Parang hindi naman po ata tabla na ang Office of the President, ang Presidente mismo ay haharap sa isang ordinaryong mambabatas. Parang hindi po patas.”
(It doesn’t seem fair that the Office of the President, the President himself, will be facing an ordinary lawyer. It doesn’t seem fair.)
2 versus 1?
Roque also floated a possible debate with Carpio and former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario, another staunch critic of Duterte’s stance on the West Philippine Sea dispute.
“Kung gusto niyo po, 2 versus 1. Kayong dalawa po ni Justice Carpio at kayo po, Secretary Albert Del Rosario, dedebatehin ko po kayong dalawa. Pero dapat, parehong oras bagamat dalawa po kayo magdedebate, okay lang po sa akin yan,” Roque said.
(If you want, 2 versus 1. Justice Carpio and Secretary Albert Del Rosario. I will debate both of you. But it has to happen at the same time though both of you will participate in the debate. That’s okay with me.)
Roque added the focus of the debate should be which administration holds the blame for the loss of Philippine territories to China.
He also raised debating about how Duterte supposedly “shelved” the country’s 2016 victory against China at the international arbitral tribunal.
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