Carpio accuses Duterte of 'grand estafa' over West Philippine Sea

Retired justice Antonio Carpio accused President Rodrigo Duterte of committing "grand estafa" by "fooling the Filipino people big time" when he made campaign promises about the West Philippine Sea.

Carpio shot back at Duterte on Tuesday, May 4, continuing the verbal tussle between the two men over the thorny issue of China and the West Philippine Sea.

"President Duterte cannot now say that he never discussed or mentioned the West Philippine Sea issue when he was campaigning for President. Otherwise, he would be admitting that he was fooling the Filipino people big time," said Carpio in a statement sent to reporters.

"There is a term for that – grand estafa or grand larceny. Making a false promise to get 16 million votes," said Carpio.

Carpio has been Duterte's recent favorite subject of tongue-lashing in his late-night speeches, even calling Carpio "fat" in a speech Monday evening, May 3. Duterte also claimed he never promised to retake the West Philippine Sea.

"I never, never in my campaign as president promised the people that I would retake the West Philippine Sea. I did not promise that I would pressure China," Duterte said.

"I never mentioned about China and the Philippines in my campaign because that was a very serious matter. We need to have a diplomatic talkatise diyan. Eh hindi ako diyan – nandiyan sa ating Foreign Affairs, trabaho nila 'yan. (That's not my job, that's the job of the Department of Foreign Affairs)," said the President.

Carpio reminded Duterte of his promise during a 2016 presidential debate that, if elected President, he would ride a jet ski to Scarborough Shoal and plant the Philippine flag.  

Carpio also reminded Duterte that on April 13, 2016, his campaign team categorically said he was "fully supporting" the arbitration case that at the time was still ongoing at the The Hague.

"As a Filipino, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte fully supports the case now pending in The Hague questioning China’s occupation of areas in the West Philippine Sea that the Philippines considers its territory. He is hopeful for a favorable ruling for the Philippines," the Duterte campaign said in April 2016.

Carpio, who is the face of the group 1Sambayan pushing to support candidates who can oppose Duterte's bets in the 2022 national elections, has been more relentless in his rhetoric against China, and now, Duterte.

In a statement made during a forum by the Philippine Bar Association (PBA), Carpio said Duterte "should wake up from his sleep under the kulambo (mosquito net) and admit to the nation the truth – that China is not in possession of the West Philippine Sea."

Duterte has lately been talking about the West Philippine Sea amid the swarming of Chinese ships in Julian Felipe Reef – something that Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has strongly been opposing, not backing down from heated exchanges with Chinese representatives.

Critics ask: Where is Duterte in this?

The strongest statement Duterte has issued so far on the issue is that he would "not compromise" on the Philippines' sovereign rights there and would order Philippine ships to stay there. He acknowledged, however, the great "debt" the country owes to China for giving access to its COVID-19 vaccines. – with a report from Pia Ranada/Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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