MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte can be impeached if he gives up the country's sovereignty over the Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal to China, Supreme Court (SC) Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said on Friday.
Carpio noted that Duterte would be violating the Constitution if he concedes to Beijing on the issue of the Scarborough Shoal.
"I would not want to go to that extent because if the president concedes now our sovereignty of Scarborough Shoal, yes, you can impeach him," Carpio said in a forum at the Asian Institute of Management in Makati City.
The SC justice added that Duterte can never recover the disputed territory once he gives it up as China will not submit itself to Philippine courts.
The case can be brought before the International Court of Justice but the court may only have jurisdiction over the case if China agrees to the arbitration.
"Once we lose sovereignty over Scarborough Shoal, we lose it forever. I would not want to wait for that time because we cannot recover it anymore," Carpio said.
Under the 1986 Constitution, the president may be removed from office by impeachment for violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of the public trust.
The Constitution also states that the national territory of the country comprises the "Philippine archipelago, with all the islands and waters embraced therein, and all other territories over which the Philippines has sovereignty or jurisdiction, consisting of its terrestrial, fluvial and aerial domains, including its territorial sea, the seabed, the subsoil, the insular shelves, and other submarine areas."
In July, the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled that China's nine-dash line claim over the disputed South China Sea does not have legal basis.
The international tribunal also concluded that China violated its commitment to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) when it constructed artificial islands inside the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.
Duterte will visit China from October 18 to 21. He will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping to discuss bilateral relations, cooperation across the board and regional issues of common interest.
He has said that he will set aside the issue of Scarborough Shoal during his trip.
“Pupunta ako ng China. Okay tayo sa kanila. Huwag muna nating pakialaman yung Scarborough. Di natin kaya. Magalit man tayo, hangin lang (I will go to China. We are okay with them. Let’s not dwell on the Scarborough issue for now. We can’t solve it even if we get angry),” Duterte said during an agrarian reform forum in Lamitan, Basilan earlier this week.
He said, however, that he would ask China to allow Filipino fishers back into Scarborough, which also known as Panatag Shoal and Bajo de Masinloc. — Video report by Efigenio Toledo IV