Just as soon as I hit the “Publish” button on my previous piece “The LIAR Justice Carpio should accept President Duterte’s challenge to a debate”, news that Retired Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio had accepted Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s challenge to a debate was out and sending Yellowtardom into a frenzy of shrill battle screeching. Shortly following that, the Philippine Bar Association (PBA) chimed in reportedly offering to host the debate. PBA president Rico Domingo, in offering the services of his organisation, promised to “provide a balanced arena fit for two lawyers of eminent stature and experience to dispassionately discuss the core issues relating to the dispute on the West Philippine Sea”.
In his acceptance message, Carpio called on Duterte to resign “now” and included a sworn statement on the matter of the Philippines’ naval pullout from the Scarborough standoff in 2012…
I state under oath that I was never involved in the decision to withdraw Philippine Navy ships from the West Philippine Sea during the 2012 Scarborough standoff…
It seems, Carpio would like to frame this debate within narrow terms favourable to him personally — that he was not involved in the 2012 Scarborough Shoal imbroglio that left the Philippines holding the short end of the stick. If that is all he is after, then he is being the dishonest man he had long been called out to be. In essence, Carpio, in his acceptance statement, has thrown his partner-in-crime former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario under the proverbial bus. If Carpio comes out of this debate with his name washed off the Scarborough fiasco, that leaves the question of del Rosario’s incompetence in the handling of that row still up for scrutiny and judgement.
|SUPPORT INDEPENDENT SOCIAL COMMENTARY!
Subscribe to our Substack community GRP Insider to receive by email our in-depth free weekly newsletter. Opt into a paid subscription and you'll get premium insider briefs and insights from us.
Subscribe to our Substack newsletter, GRP Insider!
Manila Times columnist and former ambassador Bobi Tiglao in his piece “Del Rosario lost Panatag to China” points out that “del Rosario ordered our vessels to leave the shoal, according to a written aide memoire by then senator Antonio Trillanes 4th, who was appointed by [then President Noynoy] Aquino to be his backchannel negotiator to the Chinese and an eyewitness as it were to the events.” Tiglao goes on to cite the disastrous result of del Rosario’s daft actions.
The Chinese didn’t leave the lagoon and subsequently blocked our ships from returning. The Philippines lost Scarborough — forever, as it were since there’s no chance in the world the Chinese would be persuaded to return it to us.
Perhaps del Rosario heard what he just wanted to hear — the Chinese had agreed to leave — as the mess was the consequence of the belligerent position, he advised Aquino to adopt. He and Aquino were desperate as the US had refused to intervene in the stand-off.
Del Rosario trusted the Americans so much, claiming he was told by US Assistant State Secretary Kurt Campbell, relayed through our ambassador in Washington, Jose Cuisia, the Chinese had agreed to a simultaneous withdrawal.
The issue of the dispute between the Philippines and China over South China Sea territories is bigger than Carpio and his pompous legal jargon. Thus the occasion of this debate should not be all about him alone. Indeed, as big as this issue are the lies of a Philippine “win” in the South China Sea dispute that the Carpio-Del Rosario “tandem”, as Tiglao puts it, have been propagating.
Duterte does not have to respond to Carpio’s acceptance of his debate challenge in the terms that Carpio tabled. Rather, the President should propose a broader frame to this debate and use this event to settle on national television once and for all — at least via a categorical statement of position from Carpio — the following questions:
(1) Who really ordered the Philippine pullout from Scarborough Shoal in 2012? The culprit is seen to be del Rosario but ultimate responsibility falls upon the shoulders of former President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III under whose watch this disaster unfolded. To him reported the other characters who contributed to this imbroglio — then Ambassador to the United States Jose Cuisia and his China backchannel agent convicted mutineer Antonio Trillanes.
(2) Was the Philippines’ ability to execute and enforce the “arbitral award” ever considered by the Aquino administration? Seeing the rabid trust in the US del Rosario applied in his handling of the row and the narrow legal lens through which Carpio sees things, the elephant in the room seems to have been missed here. Again, any leader worth his or her salt would have considered the big picture — one that both encompasses and includes factors beyond what the underlings prefer to specialise in.
With the Philippine Bar Association involved in this, it is likely they will muddle the culpability of Carpio, del Rosario, Aquino, Trillanes, and all the stooges of the Second Aquino Administration behind legalese smoke and mirrors. This is a dishonest tactic considering that the other party in this affair — China — does not use all that legal mumbo-jumbo to frame its position on this matter. President Duterte is within his right to frame the Scarborough Shoal fiasco from the perspective of the chief executive that he is — not from the mere legal regard that Carpio and his pals in the PBA prefer. As leader of the Filipino people Duterte’s job is to expose the full picture — beyond Carpio’s lawyerly pomposity — of what the South China Sea means to the Philippines.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.