Carpe diem — Duterte vs. Carpio

AS A MATTER OF FACT - Sara Soliven De Guzman (The Philippine Star) - May 10, 2021 - 12:00am

After challenging retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio to a debate, the President withdrew from the fight. Now we know how the President works. Didn’t he just lure the ex-justice into a battle? Why didn’t he confront the ‘enemy’ so to speak? Has he started to lose ground? Mr. President, stop listening to your Cabinet and advisers. They are making you look weaker than ever.

By the way, are the President’s men all in toe? From an observer’s perspective this administration is going bananas. I guess their midnight meetings are starting to take a toll on them. Not all seem aligned with the President’s views. All the energies are scattered. Get your act together!

Our countrymen are starting to wake up, realizing how Il Presidente continues to contradict his very statements. Some wonder why he seems furious all the time. Many can easily read his antics by now. Even if he tries to be funny, people are not taking his pleasantries lightly anymore. The Filipinos are not only concerned about the direction we are taking to conquer COVID-19, we are also disturbed with how the President is handling the West Philippine Sea issue – our sovereignty. Susmariosep!

In recent weeks, Filipinos and the international press have been setting their eyes on retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio. In just a few weeks, Carpio has been able to enlighten us on the concerns we face on the WPS. His wisdom has surely shed more light into our lives. He brings a ray of hope amidst our troubled waters.

You would wonder why Justice Antonio Carpio is the only one speaking about the West Philippine Sea. He started researching on the nine-dash line in 2010. He went to then secretary of foreign affairs Alberto del Rosario and explained why it was time to go to UNCLOS. In October 2011, as a guest speaker at the 50th Founding Anniversary of the Ateneo de Davao College of Law, he launched his advocacy to challenge the validity of China’s nine-dash line before a tribunal under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Since then, he has been giving lectures all over the country on the issue.

In August 2014, Justice Carpio delivered the speech, “Grand Theft of the Global Commons,” where he called “…the fishery Regulations of Hainan a grand theft of the global commons in the South China Sea.” He also said that “the Philippines is fighting a legal battle not only for itself but also for all mankind. A victory for the Philippines is a victory for all States, coastal and landlocked, that China has shut out of the global commons in the South China Sea.”

In 2015, the Department of Foreign Affairs sponsored Justice Carpio on a world lecture tour on the West Philippine Sea dispute. He presented the Philippines’ perspective on the dispute in leading universities, think-tank, the Filipino community and foreign ministries in 35 cities covering 18 countries.

In February 2016, in a 4-part lecture organized by the Philippine Social Science Council, Justice Carpio laid the historical and legal narratives behind the opposing maritime claims of the Philippines and China on the South China Sea.

In May 2017, Justice Carpio published the ebook titled, “The South China Sea Dispute: Philippine Sovereign Rights and Jurisdiction in the West Philippine Sea,” a collation of his over 140 lectures and speeches “intended to convince the Chinese people that the nine-dash line has no legal or historical basis.” The ebook “explains in layman’s language the South China Sea dispute from A to Z.”

On Dec. 10, 2020, the University of the Philippines conferred a Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, degree on Justice Carpio. He was lauded for his “distinguished service to the nation” as Senior Associate Justice of the Supreme Court; exhibiting impartiality, accountability and dedication to upholding the Constitution and the rule of law;” for ardently defending human rights and championing freedom of expression; for advocating “the protection and preservation of the country’s territorial rights and maritime sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea amid great adversity” and for being “a true icon of the Filipino people, embodying a courageous life led in service to the country,” among others.

After the President withdrew from the debate last week, Justice Carpio responded by saying: President Duterte personally and publicly challenged me to a debate on the West Philippine Sea issue. He said that since we are both lawyers, we should just debate on the issue. I accepted the President’s challenge without any conditions.

Now, the President has backed out of his personal challenge to me without giving a definite reason. Instead, he has designated his spokesperson Harry Roque to debate with me on the issue of what Administration lost Scarborough Shoal and Mischief Reef to China. There is no factual dispute that China seized Mischief Reef from the Philippines during the Ramos Administration. Further, there is no factual or legal dispute that China seized Scarborough Shoal and Mischief Reef in violation of international law.

Hence, it is pointless to debate about Scarborough Shoal and Mischief Reef. 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. 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. 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.”

In a story written about him in the February 2017 issue of Esquire magazine, Justice Carpio said: The only thing that can prevent barter of our sovereign rights is when the people know it belongs to them. When the people know it belongs to them, you cannot barter it away. Everybody says “we’re fighting a windmill.” But we don’t really have any choice. The only other choice is to give up and give it to them. If we do that, we might as well be a satellite of another state. To remain sovereign and independent, we have to think that way.

We are blessed with this man who doesn’t have the ambition to run for president but has the civic virtue and conviction to protect our sovereignty on high moral grounds; a very good and timely defense of a true patriot in a time Filipinos need it most.

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It’s always a constant struggle to present the truth against those who try to distort the truth. You just cannot give up! – Retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio

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