Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque on Monday set the topic for his proposed debate with retired Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio and other critics of the administration, including Vice President Leni Robredo.
“Mga kritiko ng Presidente, mag-debate [tayo]. Ang proposition: sa independent foreign policy ng Presidente, meron bang derogation ng soberaniya? Meron bang nawalang teritoryo? Kahit kailan, haharapin ko kayo,” Roque said.
(To the President’s critics, let us debate. Was there ever a derogation of sovereignty or lost territory that happened due to the independent foreign policy of the President? I will be ready to face you anytime.)
President Rodrigo Duterte last week designated Roque, a lawyer, to debate with Carpio after the President backed out from it upon advice by his Cabinet officials.
Roque insisted that Carpio's involvement or lack of in the Philippine Navy’s pullout from Scarborough shoal in 2012 amid a standoff with China was not mentioned by Duterte in his public addresses, even if the Chief Executive has said that Carpio, during his stint at the high court, should have convinced then-President Benigno Aquino III not to pull out the Philippine ships.
“Ang gusto niyang debatihan wala raw siyang kinalaman sa pagpapaalis ng sundalo nung may standoff tayo sa Scarborough Shoal. Sino ba nagsabing meron siyang kinalaman don? Hindi naman sinabi ng Presidente,” Roque said.
(What he wants to debate is his lack of involvement in the decision to out our soldiers from Scarborough. Who said he was involved in that decision? The President did not say that.)
During his April 29 address, Duterte said, "Nasa Supreme Court naman kayo noon, bakit di niyo sinabihan si PNoy na magawa nito, maggawa noon instead nag-retreat kayo."
(You were part of the Supreme Court at that time, so why did you not tell President Benigno Aquino III to do something instead of retreating.)
Scarborough shoal is a traditional fishing area, meaning it is open for non-commercial fishing whether Filipino or Chinese.
After pulling out in 2012, the Philippines sued China before the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration over its repeated aggression within the Philippines exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea.
In a July 2016 ruling, the court rejected China's claim of sovereignty in the entire South China Sea.
The same decision also ruled that the Spratly Islands, Panganiban (Mischief) Reef, Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal and Recto (Reed) Bank are within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone. --KBK, GMA News