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Carpio accepts Duterte debate challenge, dares him to resign

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Retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio on Thursday “gladly” accepted President Rodrigo Duterte’s challenge to debate on territorial issues surrounding the West Philippine Sea, even as he called on the Chief Executive to resign from the presidency.

“I gladly accept the challenge anytime at the President's convenience,” Carpio said in a statement issued after Duterte’s latest tirade against him. 

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, meanwhile, said Duterte is open to a “formal debate.”

“The debate [on West Philippine Sea] has been ongoing as far as the Filipino people are concerned, but if he [Carpio] wants a formal debate, regardless of the date, the President welcomes it,” Roque said at a news conference.

In a televised address Wednesday night, Duterte claimed that Carpio was involved in the decision to withdraw Navy ships during a 2012 standoff with China at Scarborough Shoal. He vowed to resign if proven false.

“Pareho naman tayong abogado, gusto mo mag-debate tayo? Dalawa, tatlong tanong lang ako” Sino ang nagpa-retreat at anong ginawa ninyo after sa retreat? (We're both lawyers; do you want us to debate? I only have two, three questions: who told our forces to retreat and what did you do after they retreated?)" the President said.

But in his statement, Carpio said he had limited knowledge on the matter as he was serving in the Supreme Court at the time.

“President Duterte should now resign immediately to keep his word of honor,” he said. “I state under oath that I was never involved in the decision to withdraw Philippine Navy ships from the West Philippine Sea during the 2012 Scarborough standoff.”

“I call as my witnesses former President Benigno Aquino III and the Defense Secretary, Foreign Affairs Secretary, and the Chiefs of the Philippine Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard at that time,” Carpio added.

Duterte earlier blamed Carpio and former Foreign Affairs chief Albert del Rosario for the construction activities that China was able to do at the West Philippine Sea (WPS) during their time.

However, it was both these officials who led the case against China’s territorial claims before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.

The Philippines won the case in a 2016 landmark decision upholding the country’s exclusive economic zone.

China rejected the ruling, saying its claims have historical basis and are “indisputable.” — with Virgil Lopez/RSJ, GMA News

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