• By The Financial District


President Rodrigo Duterte will no longer pursue his planned debate with retired Supreme Court senior associate justice Antonio Carpio on issues surrounding the disputed West Philippine Sea (WPS), Malacañang said on Friday.

Duterte was “ready” to debate with Carpio but decided to heed his Cabinet men’s advice to cancel his plan since it would not benefit the country, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in an announcement aired over state-run PTV-4.

The Cabinet officials, Roque said, also believed it would be “unfair” for Duterte, the country’s chief executive, to hold a debate with Carpio who is now an “ordinary lawyer”.

Parang hindi naman po tabla na ang Office of the President, ang Presidente mismo ay haharap sa isang ordinaryong (abogado (It’s not fair for someone from the Office of the President, the President himself, will face an ordinary lawyer),” Roque said.

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Roque said the Cabinet also raised worry that Duterte might spill some classified information, should he decide to debate with Carpio.

Ibig sabihin, lahat po nang masasabi ni Presidente doon sa debateng ‘yun ay makakaapekto po sa mga polisiya ng gobyerno. Hindi na po mababawi ang pupuwedeng sabihin ni Presidente sa debateng ‘yun (Meaning, the President might mention during the debate several information that could affect the government’s policy. He could not backtrack everything that he would say during the debate),” he said.

Roque as Duterte’s representative

On Thursday, Roque initially said Duterte is willing to hold a formal debate with Carpio on territorial issues surrounding WPS.

Despite his decision to back out of the planned debate, Duterte assigned Roque to debate with Carpio on his behalf.

Roque said it would be a “pleasure” to debate with Carpio.

Ang sabi po ni Presidente, tinatalaga niya po ang inyong abang lingkod na makipagdebate kay retired justice Antonio Carpio at tinanggap ko naman po ang pagtatalaga ni Presidente. (The President said he is designating me to debate with retired justice Antonio Carpio and I accepted the new designation),” he said.

The debate, Roque said, should only focus on who should be held accountable for China’s continued presence in WPS.

Roque said he and Carpio can also touch on issues on whether or not Duterte is giving the Philippine territories to China and ignoring Manila’s 2016 victory against Beijing in the petition filed before the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA).

On July 12, 2016, the Philippines won its case against China after the PCA ruled China has “no legal basis” to claim historic rights over almost the entire WPS.

In a public address delivered Wednesday night, Duterte sought an investigation against Carpio and former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario due to their supposed role in the Philippines’ failure to defend its sovereign rights over Scarborough Shoal.

Duterte also chided Carpio and del Rosario for their alleged involvement in the withdrawal of Philippine vessels from Scarborough Shoal during the 2012 standoff with China. In a statement on Thursday, del Rosario said it was a “national tragedy” that Duterte is taking the side of China.


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