MANILA, Philippines – Senator Leila de Lima paid tribute to Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, whom she called a “true sentinel of law and democracy,” as he retired from the Supreme Court on his 70th birthday on Saturday, October 26.
De Lima penned a 5-page tribute to Carpio, from her detention cell in Camp Crame, calling him an inspiration and a true patriot, and thanking him for his service to the country.
“You served our country exceptionally well with courage, dignity, and brilliance that equally matched your compassion for the rule of law. You are a true sentinel of law and democracy. For all of these and more, we, as a nation, are forever in your debt,” De Lima said. (READ: Philippines owes ‘incalculable debt of gratitude’ to retiring Justice Carpio)
De Lima and Carpio were part of the Philippine legal team in the historic battle against China over the West Philippine Sea dispute before an international arbitral tribunal, which the Philippines won.
“Working alongside Justice Carpio in The Hague for the Philippines’ historic case against China is among the things I treasure, as we defended our country’s territorial rights in the West Philippine Sea together with the rest of the Philippine delegation,” the senator said.
“It was a monumental victory for our country and generations yet to come. I know that Justice Carpio will keep on fighting for this victory even in retirement,” she added.
She was also grateful to Carpio for his 39-page dissenting opinion on the High Court’s majority ruling in October 2017, when he called her continued detention “one of the grossest injustices” in recent memory.
“Indeed, you are the best chief justice we never had,” she said.
Aside from De Lima’s case, Carpio also dissented on the hero’s burial for dictator Ferdinand Marcos, the constitutionality of martial law in Mindanao, the closure of Boracay, and the quo warranto ouster of Maria Lourdes Sereno. (READ: The importance of integrity)
Carpio has also been vocal about his criticism of the Duterte administration’s handling of China’s claim to the West Philippine Sea, earning him a verbal beating from the President.(READ: Retiring Justice Carpio on Duterte’s tirades: ‘It comes with the territory’)
Carpio’s career in the High Court spanned 3 presidents, starting from then-president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who appointed him in 2001. (Rappler Talk: Justice Carpio on his 18 years in the Supreme Court) – Rappler.com