MANILA--Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio on Wednesday laughed off Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo's remarks calling him "unpatriotic."
Panelo earlier Wednesday said Carpio may be helping the Chinese by looking for non-existing loopholes in the $62-million loan agreement with China for the Chico River Pump Irrigation Project.
Sought for comment, Carpio replied via text message: "Hahaha."
"That's my comment," he elaborated.
Carpio had warned China could seize oil and gas in the Reed Bank -- estimated to hold up to 5.4 billion barrels of oil and 55.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas -- in case the Philippines fails to pay its loan obligations.
Panelo on Tuesday tried to refute Carpio by claiming a public property like the Reed Bank could not be sold or given away unless it is first converted to patrimonial property through a law. He claimed there was no such law and President Duterte will never pass such a law.
But Carpio clarified that a 1972 law had in fact converted the oil and gas in the Reed Bank which are covered by a service contract into patrimonial assets by allowing their sale domestically or internationally.
Panelo conceded this point in the same interview on ANC on Wednesday morning.
"Sabi niya (Carpio) mayroon na ngang batas. Pero even mayroon na ngang batas... it doesn't alter the situation," insisting that a lender has the right to impose terms on its borrower.
(He said there's already a law. But even if there is, it doesn't alter the situation.)
Bayan Muna chairman and Makabayan senatorial candidate Neri Colmenares refuted Panelo's allegation that Carpio is helping the Chinese find loopholes in the loan agreement.
"It is stupid for Panelo to say na hindi alam ng China ang loopholes ng loan agreement. Eh template ng China 'yon. We ask Malacañang: sino nag draft ng loan? China, di ba? The Palace allowed China to write the agreement and like vassals Duterte and his minions simply agreed to it," he said in a statement.
"So don't blame Justice Carpio for exposing the loopholes. Blame yourselves for signing up even if you know there are loopholes and the loans are extremely disadvantageous to Philippine interests. Daig nyo pa ang mga 'Makapili' nung panahon ng Hapon," he added.
CARPIO REFUTES GUEVARRA
Carpio also addressed Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra's statement late Tuesday that the $62-million debt in the Chico River project is a small amount compared to the country's total obligations.
"The total loan from China will be from 12B to 24B dollars. If all loan agreements will follow the Chico River template, that will be a huge problem," he said.
He suggested that "future loan agreements with China must do away with arbitration under CIETAC rules and with collateralization of our patrimonial assets" insisting that "collaterals are not standard in ODA loans."
Carpio had claimed the Philippines stands no chance of winning an arbitration case against China if it is held in Beijing, under a panel with Chinese arbitrators having the majority, governed by Chinese laws.
"Also, there must public bidding of the projects, not the present system where China pre-selects three Chinese contractors and the Philippines can bid out the project only among the three Chinese contractors," he stressed.