Carpio to debate anyone on West Philippine Sea ‘possession’

This undated photo shows former Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio.
The STAR/Michael Varcas, file

MANILA, Philippines — With a verbal square-off with President Duterte now out of the question following the latter’s change of heart, retired Supreme Court justice Antonio Carpio said he is still willing to push through with the debate – even only with the Chief Executive’s alter egos.

“I am ready to debate with the President or with anyone he may designate on the factual accuracy and adverse legal implications to the Philippines of the President’s repeated claim that ‘China is in possession of the West Philippine Sea’,” Carpio said in a statement.

“I will debate with anyone on the false claim of Duterte that ‘China is in possession of the West Philippine Sea.’ I will take the negative side,” Carpio yesterday told The STAR.

“The US has returned the Balangiga bells in 2018. Now the biggest question is, when will China return Duterte’s balls?”

Carpio issued the statement shortly after Duterte backed out of his debate challenge to the former magistrate and assigned his spokesman Harry Roque to represent him instead.

Roque said Cabinet members dissuaded Duterte from debating with Carpio.

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The retired magistrate emphasized he would only agree to a debate with Duterte’s officials on issues that would benefit the Filipino people.

“I will not engage in a useless exercise that will only detract the public’s interest on the vital outstanding issues on the West Philippine Sea, like the President’s continuing false claim that ‘China is in possession of the West Philippine Sea’. This false claim is conceding more than what China is claiming – for China has never claimed that it is in possession of the West Philippine Sea,” he said.

He also disputed Duterte’s repeated claims that China seized Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal during the administration of president Benigno Aquino III and Panganiban (Mischief) Reef during the administration of president Fidel Ramos.

He added there was no factual or legal basis to claim that China seized Scarborough Shoal and Mischief Reef in violation of international law.

In an interview with ‘The Chiefs’ on Cignal TV’s One News, Carpio said Duterte’s pronouncement that the 2016 arbitral award was just a piece of paper could be interpreted by China as an abandonment or rejection by the Philippines of its own legal victory.

President’s word is binding

Carpio said that under the “unilateral declaration principle” on international law, a head of state is bound by all of his statements, including those that are against the interest of the state, making them acceptable to other countries.

“The President speaks for the country and when the president speaks he binds the country. So there is that principle, if the president says something against the interest of his state and if the other state accepts it even if it’s verbal, it is binding on the first state,” Carpio said.

“So we could be bound by that statement if that statement is interpreted as abandonment, waiver of the award. And it is dangerous because it happens several times in international law… because the principal spokesperson for the state is the head of state and the foreign minister,” he added.

Carpio said that he called up the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Thursday morning to make the necessary clarifications that the Philippines is not debunking the decision of the UN-backed tribunal.

He added that Roque might have also realized the presidential gaffe when he qualified Duterte’s statement referring to the sentiments of China.

“China will immediately accept that statement, patay tayo. We cannot go out of that, and that is the reason why Harry Roque had to qualify that what the President was saying was actually he was re-stating the position of China,” he said.

“But why would the President of the Philippines re-state the position of China and not our position?” – Ghio Ong, Helen Flores, Rhodina Villanueva, Janvic Mateo

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