Duterte withdraws from West PH Sea debate with Carpio

Published May 7, 2021, 1:30 PM

by Genalyn Kabiling

President Duterte will no longer engage in a debate with former Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio on issues related to the West Philippine Sea upon the advice of his Cabinet.

President Rodrigo Duterte (File photo/Manila Bulletin)

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque gave three reasons for the President’s decision to withdraw from the debate challenge against Carpio, including such activity would not benefit the nation.

Any pronouncement of the President in the debate might also affect existing government policies on the West Philippine Sea, according to Roque.

The debate with Carpio, however, may still continue after the President designated Roque to face the former magistrate instead.

“Handang-handa sana ang Presidente na dumibate pero kagabi po tinanggap nia ang advice ng ilang miyembro ng Gabinete kasama si Executive Secretary (Salvador)Medialdea. sinabi ng Gabinete at sinusugan ito ng dalawang Senador si Senate President (Vicente) Sotto at Senator (Aquilino) Pimentel (III) na unang-una na walang mabuting magiging resulta ang debate para sa sambayanang Pilipino (The President was prepared to debate but last night he accepted the advice of some Cabinet members including Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea. The Cabinet said, backed by two senators namely Senate President Sotto and Senator Pimentel, that first nothing good will result in the debate for the Filipino nation),” Roque said over government television Friday, May 7.

Roque said it would also be unfair for the President to debate with Carpio who is now an ordinary citizen.

“Pangalawa, nanindigan ang mga miyembro ng Gabinete na bakit papayag sa debate eh nakaupo naman na presidente si Presidente Duterte at si Atty. Antonio Carpio, bagamat siyang dating mahistrado, ay ordinaryong abogado na ngayon. Parang hindi naman yata tabla na ang Office of the Presidente ay haharap sa ordinaryong (mamamayan) parang hindi patas (Second, the Cabinet members believed why the President would agree to a debate since he is already the incumbent president while Antonio Carpio, a former magistrate, is an ordinary lawyer no. It won’t be fair that the Office of the President will face an ordinary citizen. It’s unfair),” he said.

Also, the President backed out from the debate with Carpio after the Cabinet raised concern about its potential impact of government policies. Roque has invoked executive privilege in matters relating to foreign policy and national security, among others.

“Napakahirap mag-participate ang Presidente sa ganyang debate. Bakit po? Kasi nakaupo pa siyang presidente. Ibig sabihin lahat ng masasabi ni Pesidente sa debateng ‘yun ay makakaapekto sa mga polisiya ng gobyerno. Hindi na mababawi ang puwedeng sabihin ng Presidente (It is very difficult for the President to participate in the debate. Why? Because he is the sitting President. It means anything the President will say in the debate will affect the policies of the government. He cannot take back these statements),” he said.

Roque said the President mentioned that if Carpio will agree, the debate can still push through but with the spokesman taking his place. He said it was important to discuss the issues related to the West Philippine Sea so people can reach their own conclusion.

Roque said he was prepared to debate with Carpio on the issues particularly on who was to blame for the loss of the Panatag Shoal to China years ago.

Duterte previously asked why the country “lost” West Philippine Sea if Carpio and former Foreign Affairs Albert del Rosario were supposedly bright. He blamed the past administration for pulling out Philippine ships from Panatag Shoal during a standoff with China in 2012. When local ships moved out supposedly upon the intervention of the United States, China did not budge and effectively took possession of the territory.

“Sabihan lang ng Philippine Bar Association kung kailan at saan ang debate at sisipot tayo doon (The Philippine Bar Association should say when and where the debate will be and I will be there),” Roque said.

He said the debate should also include allegations the President has disregarded the arbitral ruling that upheld the country’s claim over West Philippine Sea. The allegation that Duterte was giving away territories must also be addressed in the debate, he added.

“Retired Justice Carpio, it would be a pleasure to debate against you. I’ll see you at the designated time and place,” he said.

The President earlier challenged Carpio to a debate on the West Philippine Sea, saying he would have three questions to the former justice including the ship pullout from Panatag and the 2016 arbitral award.

Carpio has accepted the President’s challenge.