Carpio hits awards to China envoy: 'Our heroes turning in their graves'
MANILA, Philippines – Retired Supreme Court justice Antonio Carpio did not mince words when he criticized the awards recently given by the Duterte administration to outgoing Chinese ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua.
"Our national heroes who died defending our territory against foreign invaders must now be turning in their graves," Carpio said in a speech at the University of the Philippines College of Law homecoming on Thursday night, November 7.
Zhao, who ends his 5-year stint in the Philippines in November, had earlier been conferred the Order of Sikatuna with the Rank of Datu by President Rodrigo Duterte. He also got the Congressional Medal of Achievement from lawmakers in the House of Representatives. Davao City's government, the President's hometown, likewise heaped praises on Zhao for what it said were his "historic achievements" in developing Philippines-China relations.
Zhao arrived in the Philippines in 2014 nearly a month before the deadline for the Philippines' written pleading in its historic case against China at the Hague, in which Carpio played a key role. Since then, Zhao has managed to foster closer ties with officials of the Duterte administration.
In conferring the awards, Malacañang earlier recognized Zhao for his “vital role in a growing and more robust bilateral relationship between the Philippines and China.” The House, meanwhile, praised Zhao for his work in fostering “stronger bonds of very good friendship between the Philippines and China.”
Carpio questioned this and pointed out that Zhao asserted that China and the Philippines were separated by "only a narrow strip of water," and that the two countries shared close geographic proximity, cultural ties, and "blood bonds."
The retired justice said that through Zhao's assertion of these in a November 2018 opinion piece on PhilStar, "Zhao was saying to the entire Filipino people that the Philippines and China are very close neighbors, because the nine-dash line is China’s national boundary in the South China Sea, leaving the Philippines with only a sliver of water as its territorial sea and Exclusive Economic Zone."
"For this, Ambassador Zhao was conferred a Congressional Medal of Achievement by our House of Representatives. Of course, the House of Representatives was just following President Rodrigo Duterte, who earlier conferred on Ambassador Zhao the Order of Sikatuna with the Rank of Datu," Carpio said.
China's expansive 9-dash line has been struck down by the 2016 Hague ruling which the Philippines won against China. The landmark ruling asserted the Philippines' rights in the West Philippine Sea but the Duterte government has refused to enforce the ruling, claiming it would lead to war with China – a claim debunked by Carpio as a "hallow attempt" to scare Filipinos into submission.
Uphold the law in a grand manner
Speaking to a room full of lawyers, Carpio urged the UP law alumni to practice their profession in the service of Filipinos which, in his words, would be to "practice law in the grand manner."
"To practice law in the grand manner is to practice law not for personal gain alone, but to practice law most especially in service to our country and people," he said.
"We may have different political beliefs, and we may belong to different political, professional or social organizations, but there is one issue that unites and binds us all as Filipinos. We are one in defending our sovereignty and sovereign rights as an independent and sovereign nation," Carpio added.
He said, "No Filipino, and no one here, will ever say that he or she does not want to defend our sovereignty and sovereign rights as an independent and sovereign nation." (READ: Carpio on West Philippine Sea: Every Filipino's duty to defend PH territory)
Carpio – one of the of the Philippines' biggest stalwarts in its case against China – said that lawyers each had the duty "convince everyone in Government to be more vigilant and vigorous in protecting our sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea." (READ: Carpio's retirement goal: To convince Duterte to assert arbitral ruling)
He said, "We cannot take the defense of our sovereign rights lightly....Lawyers are now the warriors in defending sovereignty and sovereign rights, through the Rule of Law." – Rappler.com