'Mas masahol pa siya sa China'
Retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio on Saturday asserted that the Philippines' arbitral victory that invalidated China's sweeping claims to the West Philippine Sea is no mere piece of paper as claimed by President Rodrigo Duterte.
Carpio said the unanimous, 501-page ruling issued by the arbitral tribunal in July 2016 is established pursuant to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), in which the Philippines and China are signatories.
"Hindi lang scrap of paper yan kasi order 'yan ng arbitral tribunal," explained Carpio in Teleradyo. "Kasi pag pumirma ka sa UNCLOS, pumirma ang Tsina pumirma tayo, nakalagay doon you agree to abide to comply with the decision of the arbitral tribunal."
The case stemmed from a 2012 standoff that erupted at Scarborough Shoal, a small ring of reefs that lies about 230 kilometers from the Philippines and 650 kilometers from the nearest Chinese landmass.
The tribunal ruled in favor of Manila, giving the Philippines a nearly across-the-board verdict while junking Beijing's claim to about 90 percent of the South China Sea, within which is the smaller West Philippine Sea.
"'Yung Tsina hindi sumunod. They are what we call now rogue state, kasi hindi sumusunod sa international law na pumirma naman sila... Ito namang si presidente kumampi sa kanila. Anong klaseng presidente iyan?" said Carpio.
What is more puzzling for the former Supreme Court official was the way Duterte seemed to have invalidated the ruling.
Duterte likened it to a "piece of paper" that led to nothing.
"Sabi ng Tsina that is just a scrap of paper, null and void yan. Ito namang si presidente in-echo niya, kumampi siya ngayon sa Tsina," said Carpio.
"Sabi niya, 'Piece of paper lang yan, scrap lang iyan. Itatapon ko yan sa waste basket.' Mas masahol pa siya. At least 'yung Tsina sabi lang null and void."
He added that the president should be careful with his choice of words since it may become legally binding and cost the country its rights on the disputed territory.
"Pag sinabi ni Tsina agree kami kami kay President Duterte na yung abitral award scrap of paper na iyan... agreement na agad iyon, binding na iyon," he said. "'Pag dadalhin natin sa abirtal tribunal malaki na ang abante nila sa atin kasi we already abandoned it."
When asked if the president can be held liable for his actions when his term is over, Carpio said he'd rather focus on what really is at stake.
"I'm looking kung anong mawawala sa atin. Napakaimportante ng oil ang gas, 'yung isda," said Carpio.
"Wala akong pakialam kung makulong siya o hindi. That will not improve our situation, kailangan bawiin natin 'yung (sinabi niya)."