Former Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio should take legal action if he believes President Duterte violated the law related to West Philippine Sea issue, Malacañang said Thursday.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque told Carpio to cease his rants and instead bring the issue to the court, insisting the President remained committed to upholding the national interest in the West Philippine Sea.
Roque made the suggestion after Carpio argued the President’s some policies on the West Philippine Sea were allegedly illegal while others were supposedly irresponsible and dumb. The President earlier challenged Carpio to a debate on the WPS issues, including the ship pullout from Panatag Shoal in 2012 as well as the arbitral ruling on the South China Sea dispute. The former magistrate has reportedly accepted Duterte’s challenge.
“Kung talagang labag sa Saligang Batas, bakit hindi siya magdemanda? Abogado po siya, founder ng isang pinakamalaking law office sa Pilipinas, dating mahistrado ng Supreme Court. Itigil na po ang dakdak lang! Kung sa tingin ninyong nalabag ang Saligang Batas, mademanda po kayo (If it really violated the Constitution, why won’t he file a case? He is a lawyer, a founder of one of the biggest law offices in the Philippines, and a former Supreme Court justice. He should stop talking. If he thinks the law was violated, then file a case),” Roque said during a televised press briefing Thursday, May 6.
Roque insisted the President has not been remiss in defending the country’s interest in the West Philippine Sea as well upholding the arbitral award on the sea dispute. He mentioned the coast guards’ recent dispersal of Chinese ships from the Sabina Shoal, located within the country’s exclusive economic zone.
“Unang-una, anong sinasabi niya na walang ginagawa ang Presidente, eh sa administrasyon ni Pangulong Duterte kauna-unahang pagkakataon tinaboy ng Philippine Coast Guard ang mga mangingisdang Tsina diyan po sa 72 nautical miles from Palawan (First, what is he saying that the President isn’t doing anything. It is only under the administration of President Duterte when the Philippine Coast Guard for the first time drove away Chinese fishermen in an area located 72 nautical miles from Palawan),” he said.
On the tribunal ruling in favor of the country’s sea claims, Roque disputed Carpio’s claim that the President has set aside this award. He highlighted that the President raised the country’s arbitral win in the South China Sea dispute when he spoke before a virtual assembly of the United Nations last year.
In 2016, the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled that China’s claim of historic rights over the South China has no basis in law. China however has ignored the court ruling.
“Sa UN General Assembly mismo sinabi ni Presidente, pinaninindigan niya ang arbitral award. Ang problema lang talaga, wala pong mekanismo sa larangan ng international law para mapatupad o ma-enforce iyang ganiyang arbitral award (The President declared before the UN General Assembly that he will uphold the aerial award. The problem really is there is no mechanism in international law to implement or enforce the arbitral award),” Roque said.
Roque said the court victory could only be enforced if the United Nations Security Council makes a vote. But he voiced doubts the security body will make such vote on the “collective security measures” such as use of force since China is among the five states with veto power.
“Iyan po ang konteksto ng polisiya ni Presidente na isasantabi muna ang hindi pupuwedeng mapagkasunduan, isusulong ang mga pupuwedeng isulong, kagaya ng kalakalan at ng pamumuhunan (That’s the context of the President’s policy that he will set aside a disagreement and advance areas of cooperations such as trade an investments),” he said.
The President earlier said he pursued the arbitral win to assert the country’s WPS claim but nothing happened.
Tensions between the Philippines and China have reignited after Manila protested the unlawful presence of Chinese vessels within the local waters. Some Chinese vessels have left Julian Felipe Reef while others dispersed to other parts of the contested sea.