MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte still respects Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, even while the tough-talking leader has repeatedly blasted the magistrate for criticizing his foreign policy.
The Palace made the comment in the wake of Carpio's appearance at a media forum on Monday, where the magistrate warned that the administration's foreign policy track seemingly submissive to China may undermine Philippine sovereignty.
“The President has respect for Justice Carpio, and he can assure the justice and the people of the Philippines that the policies of this administration are not only directed at protecting the sovereign of the Republic," Abella said in a press briefing.
"They [are also] directed [at] ensuring that our nation and our region remains conflict-free," he said.
For the President, said Abella, these objectives went hand in hand.
"The President and his cabinet are working with governments of all nations with legitimate interests in the South China Sea to ensure that our national interests are protected and the region remains as a zone of peace,” Abella said.
“Confrontation does not serve the interest of our country, and that’s why we are committed to a process of engagement and negotiation that will ensure that our rights are respected and protected well into the future,” he said.
He explained that Duterte’s friendly overtures to China have been reaping benefits for the Philippines, citing the progress in bilateral talks between the two countries on the sea row and improved economic cooperation.
Carpio has been urging the Duterte administration to stand up to China and assert the Philippines’ sovereignty over the South China Sea, where Beijing has stepped up militarization and island-building activities.
China has continued to ignore the Philippines' arbitral victory over its nine-dash line claim, instead asserting indisputable sovereignty over nearly all of the resource-rich waters.
Duterte, who has been seeking improved ties with Beijing, had earlier blasted Carpio for criticizing him, saying the magistrate has not done enough to prevent China from building artificial islands in the Spratlys archipelago.
Carpio, who actively campaigns for the Philippine claim in the South China Sea through lectures, was part of the delegation that brought China before an arbitral tribunal.