Not Roque but Tiglao vs. Carpio

TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag (The Freeman) - May 10, 2021 - 12:00am

Ostensibly upon the advice of his Cabinet, President Duterte has taken back his challenge to former Supreme Court associate justice Antonio Carpio for a debate on South China Sea issues, which Carpio accepted. Did Duterte chicken out? His critics will swear he did. But whether he chickened out or not does not prove anything about the contentious issues hounding the South China Sea.

Besides, there is really no point in having a Duterte-Carpio debate. Duterte, as president, is the sole architect of Philippine foreign policy, not Carpio even if he is correct and Duterte is wrong. If Duterte won the debate, it will not prove anything more than what is already the policy in effect. If Carpio won, darn if Duterte will change anything that only he has the power and authority to do so.

For Carpio to have his way, rightly or wrongly, in the South China Sea, he has to first win the presidency, which many believe is what this whole hullabaloo is all about. If Carpio wins the presidency, then and only then can he formulate his own foreign policy, in the South China Sea, or anywhere else, and not bother with any interference from noise-makers.

But since Carpio has already picked up the gauntlet, the Duterte Cabinet had to find someone to debate on behalf of the president. And they picked presidential spokesman Harry Roque, a brilliant lawyer and debater. Nevertheless, for the same reason there should not be a Duterte-Carpio debate, a Roque-Carpio face-off will be as pointless as far as changing course in the South China Sea is concerned.

If Carpio has to debate anyone at all, let it be someone not from government whose views on the South China Sea are diametrically opposed to Carpio's and is as passionate about them as is Carpio. And for that I have precisely one person in mind --Manila Times columnist Rigoberto Tiglao. Tiglao has written many pieces on the issues in the South China Sea that are so well-researched they simply cannot be ignored.

More importantly, Tiglao has made some very serious allegations about Carpio that Carpio has refused to answer or refute despite repeated and open challenges by Tiglao for Carpio to do so. The allegations are so bold and in-your-face most journalists would not dare make them for fear of getting sued for libel.

It could not be that Carpio has not heard of Tiglao's columns. The articles have been so many, and the subject so bold and loud, it is impossible for someone, anyone, not to have heard and read them and tipped off Carpio. And Carpio could not have regarded Tiglao as some lightweight not worth his time answering. Tiglao, among others in his CV, was a former press secretary.

A Carpio-Tiglao debate would be far better and more informative and educational than a Duterte-Carpio or Roque-Carpio. The latter would not lead to anything because Duterte is not going to budge in his policy come hell or high tide in the Spratlys. But a Carpio-Tiglao debate on the South China Sea and its ancillary issues will be like a Pacquiao-Mayweather 2 air-purifier.

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