Retired Supreme Court associate justice Antonio Carpio on Thursday accepted the challenge of President Duterte for a debate on the West Philippine Sea issue, saying he is ready to face the President anytime of the day.
“On President Duterte’s challenge to debate with me on the West Philippine Sea issue: I gladly accept the challenge anytime at the President’s convenience,” Carpio said in a statement.
The Philippine Bar Association offered to host the debate between, adding that being the oldest voluntary private organization of lawyers in the country, it would be able to “provide a balanced arena fit for two lawyers of eminent stature and experience to dispassionately discuss the core issues relating to the dispute on the West Philippine Sea.”
“Now that the President’s earlier challenge to a debate on the West Philippine Sea has been accepted by former Senior Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio, the Filipino public will benefit immensely from a frank and straightforward discussion on a matter that affects the entire citizenry,” PBA President Rico Domingo said.
Aside from challenging Carpio to a debate, Duterte also said he wanted the former SC magistrate to answer who ordered the Navy to withdraw its ships from the Scarborough Shoal in 2012 and allowed the Chinese to take control of it.
“Who told our forces to retreat and what did you do after they retreated?” Duterte said.
The President even vowed to resign if his story about the Scarborough Shoal standoff is proven false.
Carpio, who insisted he had nothing to do with withdrawal, dared the President to honor his promise to resign.
“President Duterte should now resign immediately to keep his word of honor. I state under oath that I was never involved in the decision to withdraw from the West Philippine Sea during the 2012 Scarborough standoff. 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,” Carpio said.
Carpio said former President Benigno Aquino III and former DFA chief Albert Del Rosario and the chiefs of the Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard at that time can attest that he had nothing to do with the standoff.
For his part, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said he wanted to find out who gave the order to the Navy to withdraw its ship from the area.
“Duterte gave nothing away but they gave away a lot,” Locsin said in Filipino in a Twitter post.
“I demand a complete explanation of why we withdrew our fighting ship from the Scarborough face-off, and why (then Senator Antonio IV) Trillanes was sent to make peace when we never made war. So aside from surrender, we apologize for whimpering.”
“It is time that those ones who were in charge of protecting our territory come clean on what exactly happened when we walked-rather sailed away from a confrontation. Could anyone make them do that?” Locsin said.
Locsin noted the story about the standoff kept changing over time.
He added that it was unfair to blame Duterte for the previous administration’s “failure of nerve.”
“First own up to your failure then make your demand on this President to do what you did not ask Pnoy,” he said, referring to Aquino. “To fight all out for what was always ours. Hague just recognized that fact and right,” he added.
The 2012 standoff between the two countries’ naval vessels in Panatag Shoal ended after Washington brokered an agreement for both to disengage.
However, Chinese did not honor the agreement and its coast guard vessels have stayed in the area and continue to prevent Filipino fishermen from catching fish inside the lagoon.
Under the 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration that invalidated China’s massive claim in the South China Sea, Scarborough was classified as a traditional fishing ground of Filipino, Vietnamese and Chinese fishermen for decades and that China has no right to prohibit such activity in the area.
Del Rosario, meanwhile, took issue with the President’s statement that the arbitral decision was merely “a scrap of paper.”
“The US, UK, France, Germany, Australia, Japan, EU, Indonesia and other responsible nations believe that the Arbitral Ruling is valid, binding and should be enforced against China pursuant to international law. China, the illegal occupant in the West Philippine Sea, believes that the Arbitral Ruling is a mere scrap of paper. The Philippines is the country which won the Arbitral Ruling against China. 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 scrap of paper meant to be thrown in the waste basket, to the severe prejudice of the Filipino people,” Del Rosario said in a statement released to the press.
“On China’s occupation of Scarborough Shoal, we wish to reiterate that it was China which deceitfully breached the US-brokered agreement for a mutual withdrawal. Until now, China continues to openly violate the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Philippines by illegally occupying certain features in the West Philippine Sea. Why are Filipinos being blamed for the loss of Scarborough Shoal and not China and its duplicity?”
“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 added.
COMMENT DISCLAIMER: Reader comments posted on this Web site are not in any way endorsed by Manila Standard. Comments are views by manilastandard.net readers who exercise their right to free expression and they do not necessarily represent or reflect the position or viewpoint of manilastandard.net. While reserving this publication’s right to delete comments that are deemed offensive, indecent or inconsistent with Manila Standard editorial standards, Manila Standard may not be held liable for any false information posted by readers in this comments section.