By Roy Mabasa
Former foreign affairs secretary Albert Del Rosario on Monday extolled retired Supreme Court associate justice Antonio Carpio for having served as a “clear voice” in cautioning the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte on its policy in the South China Sea.
“A man with honor and dignity, he has been the clear voice that has been cautioning the current administration on its policy on the South China Sea. Justice Carpio has been a vocal supporter of the need for ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) to make a united stand against China’s unlawful claims in the South China Sea to protect the entitlements of ASEAN Member States under international law,” Del Rosario said in his opening remarks at a forum in Makati City.
In praising Carpio’s contributions as the “staunchest defender” of the country’s maritime rights and entitlements under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Del Rosario remembered how the former magistrate “anticipated, in 2011, Beijing’s expansionist agenda to establish de facto control over almost all of the South China Sea.”
Carpio retired on Saturday after serving the High Court for 18 years and upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70.
During his time as secretary of foreign affairs, Del Rosario said the Philippine government listened to Carpio’s advice for the need to bring China to an UNCLOS Tribunal where China’s naval power does not matter.
He was referring to the Philippine petition filed before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in 2013 seeking to nullify Beijing’s “nine-dash-line” claim in the South China Sea.
“Eventually, the Philippine government listened to his advice. The result was a resounding Philippine victory as embodied in the Award of The South China Sea Arbitration,” the former top diplomat said in his remarks.
From day one, Del Rosario further said that Carpio’s advocacy was exemplified by rigorous research and a collation of voluminous resources on the South China Sea dispute.
These resources, he added, were subsequently submitted to the Tribunal and eventually reinforced the Philippines’ case during the arbitration proceedings, earning the retired justice the recognition as “one of the key architects of The South China Sea Arbitration.”
In 2011, prior to the filing of the arbitration case against Beijing, Del Rosario remembered when Carpio penned the Supreme Court decision in Magallona v. Ermita which upheld the Philippine Baselines Law consistent with UNCLOS.
The said case, Del Rosario said, “served as the precursor to The South China Sea Arbitration in 2013, registering the Philippines as UNCLOS-compliant; and thus established its credibility before the UNCLOS Tribunal.”
Also highlighted by Del Rosario was the effort of Carpio to broaden the reach of the arbitral case by reaching out to the people, not only to raise the public’s awareness on the lawfulness of the country’s position in the South China Sea, but also to urge people to “fight for what is right.”
“We fully agree with Justice Carpio in saying that we should not gamble our country’s waters on the uncertain prospects of monetary gain. It is not only us who own these waters but our children and the unborn generations of Filipinos. As enshrined under our Constitution and as a matter of national honor, we Filipinos have a solemn duty to protect and preserve our country’s rights. our gratitude to Justice Carpio for his patriotism,” Del Rosario said in the forum sponsored by the ADR Institute, one of the premier think tanks in the region which was named after him.