Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa on Saturday, May 8, defended President Duterte after the latter backed out from his challenge to debate with former Supreme Court (SC) Justice Antonio Carpio on issues about the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
Dela Rosa said that if someone is a “coward”, it will be Carpio, should he refuse to face Presidential spokesman Harry Roque whom Duterte designated to debate in his stead.
“Pwede rin tayong mag-hashtag na ‘Duwag si Carpio’ dahil ayaw niya lumaban kay Roque, di ba (We can counter them with the hastag ‘Carpio is a coward’ because he does not want to debate with Roque),” Dela Rosa said in an interview with DWIZ radio when asked about the “#DuterteDuwag (Duterte is a coward)” that trended on social media Friday, May 7, after Duterte withdrew from the debate.
For the former police chief, the President did not back out but rather opted to “not stoop down” to Carpio. Roque had explained that a siiting president cannot debate with an “ordinary lawyer”.
The retired SC senior associate justice had also served as chief presidential legal counsel during the administration of former President Fidel V. Ramos.
“Kung ayaw ni President magstoop down sa level ni Carpio, then bakit mo pipilitin, presidente natin ng bansa ‘yan. Bakit ka makipagdebate, ano ang makukuha mo diyan? (If the President doesn’t want to stoop down to Carpio’s level, that why would we force him, he is our country’s president. And why would you even debate, what will you get from it)?” Dela Rosa said.
“Gusto man ni Presidente na makipagdebate, kung ayaw ng gabinete niya — inadvise-an siya na huwag siyang mag-stoop down kay Carpio — so hindi na siya makikipagdebate (Even if the President wants to engage in a debate, when his Cabinet opposes it — he was advised not to stoop down to Carpio — he will not do it),” he added.
It was Duterte who challenged Carpio to a debate on the WPS, saying he will ask the latter three questions, including the pullout of Philippine Navy ships from the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal in 2012 and the 2016 arbitral ruling that scrapped China’s sweeping claim over the South China Sea.
Carpio accepted Duterte’s dare.
Senator Imee Marcos, also a Duterte ally, said she also does not see the need for Duterte to debate with Carpio, echoing officials in blaming the former administration for China’s incursion in the WPS.
“What’s there to debate about?” Marcos said.
While she agreed that the arbitral award is not enforceable, Marcos, on the other hand, said she would not throw away the Philippines’ victory against China.