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Justice Carpio backs out from debate fearing possible Scarborough Shoal fiasco fallout

It’s really not surprising that retired Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio would seize an opportunity to himself back out from the debate on the Scarborough Shoal fiasco

Response of J Carpio on Debate with President Duterte

President Duterte personally and publicly challenged me to a debate on the West Philippine Sea issue. He said that since we are both lawyers, we should just debate on the issue. I accepted the President’s challenge without any conditions.

Now the President has backed out of his personal challenge to me without giving a definite reason. Instead, he has designated his Spokesperson Harry Roque to debate with me on the issue of what Administration lost Scarborough Shoal and Mischief Reef to China. There is no factual dispute that China seized Scarborough Shoal from the Philippines during the Aquino Administration. There is also no factual dispute that China seized Mischief Reef from the Philippines during the Ramos Administration. Further, there is no factual or legal dispute that China seized Scarborough Shoal and Mischief Reef in violation of international law.

Hence, it is pointless to debate about Scarborough Shoal and Mischief Reef. I will not engage in a useless exercise that will only detract the public’s interest on the vital outstanding issues on the West Philippines Sea, like the President’s continuing false claim that “China is in possession of the West Philippine Sea.” This false claim is conceding more than what China is claiming – for China has bever claimed that it is in possession of the West Philippine Sea. I am ready to debate with the President or with anyone he may designate on the factual accuracy and adverse legal implications to the Philippines of the President’s repeated claim that “China is in possession of the West Philippine Sea.”

If I recall correctly, Carpio was Chief Presidential Legal Counsel during the administration of former President Fidel Ramos which was the time China seized control of Mischief Reef. What was his recommendation to then President Ramos as to action to take?

Scarborough Shoal was lost during the administration of former President Noynoy Aquino. The question which has remained unanswered is what provoked China to do so? Was it because of the belligerent attitude of Aquino towards China, acting as the US proxy in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)? Then President Aquino and his Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario could only point to China as not complying with the deal brokered by the US. They didn’t ask the US to enforce it. Instead, they filed the case before the arbitral body in the Netherlands. China never recognized the same which was why the result would predictably be in the Philippines’ favor.


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Duterte was correct in his description. What use is a piece of paper if what it contains cannot be enforced? Why didn’t the US make further representation with China about it not living up to its end of the bargain? I recall that the arbitral decision stipulated that Scarborough Shoal was to be shared between China and the Philippines. If losing territory is really a serious matter, why wasn’t the issue addressed during the Ramos administration?

The other unanswered question is what really happened to the proceeds of the sale of military base lands which was supposed to be used for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) modernization program? Perhaps this is why Carpio backed out of the debate as well. He knows where the bodies are buried and the operative principle is the less talk, the less mistake.

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