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Roque dares Robredo to join West Philippine Sea debate



Vice President Leni Robredo (FILE PHOTO)
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque is willing to debate not only with a retired Supreme Court associate justice, but with the vice president, too.

Roque on Monday dared Vice President Leni Robredo to debate with him on China’s seizure of areas in the West Philippine Sea, noting her continuous criticism on the administration’s handling of the maritime dispute.

“Since Vice President Leni keeps talking about this, maybe she wants us to debate,” the Palace official said in his televised briefing.

“That’s dorm-mate versus dorm-mate,” said Roque, referring to his and Robredo’s days as University of the Philippines students. “Friends can debate,” he added.

He said the face-off between them could revolve around whether President Rodrigo Duterte’s foreign policy led to “derogation of sovereignty or the loss of Philippine territory.”

During his briefing, Roque also said “someone from the opposition” should stand up to debate on whether or not President Duterte gave away Philippine territory to China.

Roque’s challenge came a day after Robredo lamented that the debate between Duterte and retired Supreme Court senior associate justice Antonio Carpio did not push through.
Last week, Duterte challenged Carpio to a debate regarding issues related to the West Philippine Sea, only to back out days later upon the advice of his Cabinet members. The Philippine leader asked Roque to face the retired magistrate instead.

On her radio program Sunday, Robredo also raised concerns over Duterte’s remarks belittling the country’s 2016 arbitral victory against China, noting its implications for the Philippines.

Robredo is an ally of former President Benigno Aquino III, and serves as the figurehead of the opposition.

Duterte has blamed the Aquino administration for the loss of Scarborough Shoal in the West Philippine Sea after a 2012 standoff between the Philippine Coast Guard and the Chinese Coast Guard.