Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio has vowed to continue his crusade of defending the country’s exclusive economic zone, particularly in the West Philippine Sea, even after his mandatory retirement from the judiciary next week.
Carpio, who has been designated again as acting chief justice of the 15-member bench following the retirement of Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin Friday, will bow out after serving the High Court for 18 years when he reaches his mandatory retirement age of 70 on Oct. 26.
Although Carpio never became chief justice, except in acting capacity several times, the senior magistrate will have the retirement privileges of one, former retired Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban said, citing a resolution adopted by the SC en banc.
“Like my partner [former Foreign Affairs] Secretary Albert [Del Rosario], I too will continue defending the West Philippine Sea. In fact, when I retire, I will devote most of my time defending our sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea,” he said.
He said he would willingly give his opinion and recommendation if sought by the government.
“I’m always available to defend our sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea; I don’t have to have any formal position,” Carpio said.
In various fora, Carpio has been advocating the country’s sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea, oftentimes cautioning the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte over its handling of the territorial dispute with China.
Carpio was one of the legal luminaries behind the filing of an arbitration case against China in 2016 which resulted in an arbitral award invalidating China’s massive claims over the South China Sea under its so-called nine-dash-line and clarifying the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, including the West Philippine Sea.
Last year, Carpio said it was beside the point that his personal advocacy could cost him an appointment as chief justice.
“What is more important for the nation is that we preserve our sovereignty and sovereign rights because if we lose this, we lose that forever,” he said.
“That’s far more important that any position. That’s far more important that the presidency. I mean, the President can come and go, but our sovereignty should remain forever with us,” he added.
After 18 years as associate justice of the Supreme Court, Carpio said he will be retiring with a zero case backlog, which was achieved through “plain hard work” and “a mindset for excellence in one’s work.”
Carpio admitted he will miss the “constant intellectual battle” during the deliberation at SC.
“But we have a bigger foe, we have China. So I think that will consume my time and I don’t think I will be longing to do other things,” he said.