Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario on Tuesday declined the invitation of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque for him and Vice President Leni Robredo to join in the debate on the West Philippine Sea.
In a statement, Del Rosario said such a debate, which Roque is “endeavoring to promote”, is not the best way to spend the time of Filipinos since “it will only manifest to the world that we are not united and we do not know what we are doing”.
The former DFA secretary, who was one of the architects of the Arbitration case filed by the Philippines against China before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, even questioned Roque’s credibility as a spokesperson for President Duterte.
“We are made to understand, however, that Secretary Roque’s own department is undergoing serious credibility challenges. The question arises – Is the problem with the marketer, or is it the product, or both?” he said.
Last week, President Duterte challenged former Supreme Court Association Justice Antonio Carpio, a known China critic and ally of Del Rosario, to a debate on issues surrounding the 2012 Scarborough Shoal standoff.
However, after consultations with his Cabinet, the President opted to designate Roque to represent him in the debate.
The President also chastised both Carpio and Del Rosario for allowing the Philippine Navy ship to leave the Scarborough Shoal during the standoff with the Chinese Coast Guard and fishing vessels while suggesting that the two should be investigated for their actions.
Instead of debating on the West Philippine Sea issue, Del Rosario urged the government to “listen to what the Filipinos are saying”.
“Secretary Roque can then serve as our pathfinder,” said the former top diplomat who also served as Philippine ambassador to the United States.