Retired Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio on Friday challenged President Rodrigo Duterte to show his sincerity to uphold the constitution and protect the country’s exclusive economic zone by prohibiting China from further fishing in the West Philippine Sea.
“I hope he will surprise me by saying, ‘bawal na (it’s now prohibited). I will prohibit them from violating our Constitution, violating the arbitral award. That’s the only thing I’m asking him. Surprise me, bawal na mangisda sa ating EEZ [prohibit Chinese fishing in our EEZ],” Carpio said.
Carpio said there is the simple test Duterte should do in the remaining year of his presidency.
“I have a very simple test for that. The Constitution says that the EEZ of the Philippines is for Filipino only. All the fish in the West Philippine Sea is for Filipino fishermen only. That’s the Constitution, that’s the Arbitral Award, that’s UNCLOS, that’s international law,” the retired SC magistrate added.
According to Carpio, it was Duterte himself who allowed Chinese fishermen to fish in the country’s EEZ due to his agreement with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“Sa buong Asean, pang-apat pa rin po tayo (In Asean, we are the fourth highest). We are ahead of Myanmar, Cambodia, Brunei, Singapore, Laos, and Vietnam,” he said.
He also pointed out that the current ranking is equivalent to the highest ranking obtained by the country during the term of Duterte’s predecessor, President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.
“Although this is the lowest ranking during the term of President Duterte, this is equivalent to the highest-ranking during the term of President Noynoy Aquino,” he added.
Roque said he saw “nothing wrong” with the country’s ranking but noted that the RSF should not have counted issues concerning Rappler and ABS-CBN as bases for the country’s score.
“We see nothing wrong with it, but of course we dispute also the ranking because Reporters Without Borders considered as affronts to press freedom this Rappler issue which we know was a decision of the SEC, which is not appointed by President Duterte and are appointees of President Aquino, and this ABS-CBN issue that really needs a franchise to operate,” he said.
In 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) revoked the certificate of incorporation of Rappler Inc. and Rappler Holdings Corporation for allegedly violating the Constitution and foreign equity restrictions in mass media.
The Court of Appeals (CA) denied the motion for partial consideration filed by Rappler on Feb. 21, 2019, reiterating its ruling that the SEC should review its previous order revoking Rappler’s license.
ABS-CBN has also been forced to shut down its free TV and radio channels after its franchise expired in May 2020.
The House Committee on Legislative Franchises later denied the application of ABS-CBN for a new 25-year congressional franchise on July 10, 2020.
“We also dispute that these two issues should not have led to the decline in our ranking,” he added.
Roque also disagreed with the RSF’s mention of the rise of red-tagging and government attacks against local media.
“I don’t know about the President red-tagging anyone. The President, who has been in politics for a long time, knows the role of the media. So, he allows them to carry out their duties,” he said.
He, however, reminded journalists to refrain from being “onion-skinned” or sensitive to fiery remarks made by the President in response to criticism hurled at him.
“His message to the media is, of course, there will be a lot of fiery words said against the President and sometimes, the President himself will also respond to them in a fiery manner. In the same way that we expect the President not to be onion-skinned, we ask the media not to be onion-skinned when the President responds to their criticism,” he added.