It seems the word war between President Rodrigo Duterte and retired Supreme Court senior associate justice Antonio Carpio won’t be over soon as they have expressed their willingness to debate over the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
Duterte on Wednesday night challenged Carpio for a face-off after he accused the latter as responsible for the loss of some Philippine islands to China.
“We’re both lawyers. Do you want the two of us to debate? I only have two to three questions,” Duterte told Carpio.
“Who asked the ships to retreat and what did you do after the retreat? We filed a case; then we won. Can we enforce it?” the President added.
The former magistrate on Thursday noon responded to Duterte, saying he “gladly accepts the challenge anytime at the President’s convenience.”
In a televised briefing, presidential spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque noted that the debate between Duterte and Carpio over the maritime dispute has been ongoing.
“If he (Carpio) wants a formal debate, the President will welcome that anytime,” Roque told reporters.
Duterte has been insisting that Carpio and former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario were involved in the controversial pullout of Navy ships from the WPS during the 2012 standoff between the Philippine and Chinese naval vessels in Scarborough Shoal, locally known as Panatag.
He said he would resign if anyone could prove that he was lying about it.
Duterte also suggested that both Carpio and Del Rosario could be investigated for their role in China’s occupation of some islands in the WPS Sea during the Aquino administration.
“That’s the truth, my countrymen. You can ask any lawyer. That’s what happened. Now if I’m lying, then I would resign — immediately — tomorrow,” he said.
Carpio denied Duterte’s allegations, adding that the President should step down from his post to “keep his word of honor.”
He also called former President Benigno Aquino III, previous defense secretary, foreign affairs secretary, and the Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard chiefs his witnesses.
“President Duterte should now resign immediately to keep his word of honor. I state under oath that I was never involved in the decision to withdraw Philippine Navy ships from the West Philippine Sea during the 2012 Scarborough standoff,” he said in a statement.
“I was serving in the Supreme Court at that time and all I knew about the withdrawal of Philippine Navy ships was what I read in the newspapers,” Carpio added.
The former magistrate has earned Duterte’s ire over his criticisms of the President’s refusal to act on the implementation of the 2016 arbitral ruling which reaffirmed the country’s rights in the WPS and junked China’s sweeping claims in the area.
Carpio was among the legal luminaries who filed the arbitral case against China before The Hague-based court.
Duterte, in his speech Wednesday night, described the landmark ruling as a “piece of paper,” which he said should end up in the trash bin.
He lamented that “nothing” had happened even after he followed proposals to assert the arbitral decision, citing the lack of an enforcement mechanism and Beijing’s refusal to acknowledge it.
“They filed a case; we won. But that paper, in real life, between nations, that paper is nothing,” Duterte said in the vernacular.