A former Philippine president, a retired Supreme Court justice, a former Ombudsman and a former Foreign Affairs secretary were given the Ka Pepe Diokno Human Rights Award Friday, Feb.26 for defending the country’s sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
The De La Salle University (DLSU) and Jose W. Diokno Foundation bestowed the award to former President Benigno S. Aquino III, former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, retired Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio, and former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. Del Rosario during a virtual ceremony.
Aquino was recognized for his role in pursuing the country’s claim over the West Philippine Sea, wherein he dealt with the Chinese militarization of Scarborough Shoal as president.
The university and the foundation honored Aquino for “recognizing the threat to Philippine sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea” and for “leading the country towards the unprecedented step of filing the case of the Republic of the Philippines before the Permanent Court of Arbitration over the disputed waters, including the ‘nine-dash’ demarcation line.”
“We stood up to them, and now so many others are doing the same. We stood up to China because it was the right thing to do. China’s aggressiveness gave us the opportunity to finally resolve this long-standing dispute in this part of the region,” the former president said in his speech, which was delivered by De La Salle’s College of Law Dean Virgilio delos Reyes.
“I accept this award you are bestowing in the name of all these people who strove and fought for all of us. This award is meaningful given the current political atmosphere in the country,” Aquino said.
The same award was conferred to former Ombudsman Morales for her role in upholding the rule of law in both the domestic and international spheres when it comes to Philippine sovereignty and the rights of Filipinos in the WPS.
The foundation further recognized Morales for upholding the principle of accountability when Philippine sovereignty was encroached upon, for asserting the importance of safeguarding livelihood of citizens dependent on marine resources for future generations, for emphasizing the significance of environmental protection in the context of international criminal justice, and for shedding light on the role of law and legal processes in upholding the nation’s rights and ideals.
During her speech, Morales recalled how she learned about the “project” of filing a communication before the international criminal court against President Xi Jinping of China and others for crimes against humanity during a breakfast meeting with Del Rosario and other officials.
“I pondered if the majority of the national leadership and its constituency hardly care about national territory or national integrity or national sovereignty or on a more symbolic but practical scenario, hardly care about the plight of the Filipino fishermen whose lives were in peril in the West Philippine Sea, why should the minority succumb to majorities virtually surrendering the rights of the fishermen and the greater majority of the nation,” she shared.
Carpio was also honored for his “unselfish contributions as one of the country’s foremost legal minds to the cause of Philippine territorial integrity and national sovereignty.”
The foundation said it acknowledges Carpio’s advocacy and commitment to assert Philippine sovereign rights in the WPS and his “unflinching effort to promote and protect the legal rights of the Philippines as enunciated in the case of Philippines versus China before the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague in 2013.”
Del Rosario, on the other hand, was given the award for his leadership during the country’s arbitration case.
The foundation recognized his continuing efforts “to assert the Hague ruling in all available arenas, public and legal, domestic, and international, in support of the sovereignty of the Philippines and nation’s adherence to international law.”
In 2005, DLSU, in partnership with the Jose W. Diokno Foundation, established the Ka Pepe Diokno Human Rights Award to recognize persons or groups who exemplified their commitment to the furtherance of human rights, social justice, and Philippine sovereignty.
The awarding also coincided with the 99th birth anniversary of Ka Pepe Diokno.