"Carpio’s public statements prejudice public interest."
Last week, this column discussed former Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and his lack of moral authority to criticize President Rodrigo Roa Duterte over the way the President is handling the ongoing controversy about Chinese incursions inside in the West Philippine Sea.
From the way del Rosario has been speaking before the media lately, he wants President Duterte to go to war with China, on the premise that such a war will trigger American involvement pursuant to the mutual defense treaty between Manila and Washington, D.C.
As pointed out last week, del Rosario’s bold behavior today is markedly different from the way he conducted himself when he was the DFA Secretary of President Benigno Aquino III.
In March 2013, Filipino commandos loyal to the Sultan of Sulu went to Sabah to forcibly retake it from the Malaysians who are currently occupying it illegally. The Sultan of Sulu is the lawful owner of Sabah (called East Borneo before the Malaysians took it).
After that operation failed, the Malaysian government went on a reprisal against Filipinos residing in Sabah. Worse, President Aquino III and del Rosario were apologetic to those quasi-civilized Malaysians.
In particular, del Rosario insisted that the solution to the Sabah problem was diplomacy and dialogue, and not armed conflict. Aquino also promised to pursue the Sabah claim before the International Court of Justice, but it was an empty promise.
On April 4, 2013, I filed a petition for mandamus in the Supreme Court (G.R. No. 206323) to compel del Rosario to pursue the Philippine claim to Sabah before the ICJ or any appropriate international legal forum. Under the Administrative Code of 1987, the DFA Secretary has the duty to implement foreign policy and protect the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country.
The SC eventually dismissed my petition on the ground that foreign policy falls under the exclusive realm of the executive department of the government. Del Rosario’s political taskmaster, retired SC Justice Antonio Carpio, was a justice of the SC when my petition was dismissed in 2013.
That was eight years ago. Today, del Rosario and Carpio have made a complete about-face and are questioning the way President Duterte is handling Philippine foreign policy on the West Philippine Sea issue. This misguided duo has been hurling all sorts of accusations against President Duterte. Carpio, in particular, uses stinging language against the President.
Like his glorified underling del Rosario, Carpio has no moral authority to denounce the way by which President Duterte is handling the West Philippine Sea issue with China.
The SC categorically declared that the executive department, headed by the President of the Philippines, has the exclusive control over the way Philippine foreign policy is to be conducted. In other words, the SC said that judicial review of the manner by which the President conducts foreign policy will be tantamount to unconstitutional meddling by the SC in the exclusive concerns of the executive department.
As a justice of the SC in 2013, Carpio is expected to know the ruling of the SC in my petition in G.R. No. 206323. Didn’t Carpio read that ruling?
Despite that pronouncement by the SC, Carpio now insists on meddling in Philippine foreign policy, particularly in the way President Duterte is handling the West Philippine Sea issue.
Carpio’s handlers will argue that the ex-justice has the right to speak up on a public issue like everyone else. That may be so, but Carpio’s public statements have the effect of undermining whatever strategy President Duterte has in mind regarding the West Philippine Sea issue.
More to the point, while Carpio’s statements are obviously designed to embarrass President Duterte before the Filipino people, they also have the effect of embarrassing the President in the eyes of China. Publicly embarrassing the President dilutes whatever bargaining chips the President has in his diplomatic chest for his use as leverage against Beijing. In fine, Carpio’s public statements actually compromise and sabotage Philippine foreign policy to the prejudice of the Filipinos.
Since free speech is not an absolute right, Carpio’s public statements against the President regarding the West Philippine Sea issue cannot be justified in the name of free speech, because Carpio’s public statements prejudice public interest.
I really hope that the debate between Malacañang spokesman Harry Roque and Carpio pushes through. That debate is one way of shutting up that meddling Carpio and, by derivative application, his similarly-minded underling del Rosario, once and for all.
By the way, Carpio announced last week on television that he has no plans of running for public office. That announcement is incompatible with his press statements when he organized 1Sambayan months ago, and anointed it as the political opposition party in the 2022 elections.
Surely, this duplicitous Carpio character cannot be trusted.