Duterte belittles Hague ruling: 'I'll throw it in waste basket'

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte denigrated the historic 2016 legal victory of the Philippines against China's claims to its waters, saying the decision should end up in the trash bin.

"Nag file sila ng kaso, nanalo tayo. 'Yang papel, sa totoong buhay, between nations, 'yang papel, wala 'yan," said Duterte on Wednesday, May 5, in a televised address.

(They filed a case, we won. That paper, in real life, between nations, that paper is nothing.)

Duterte then said that even after he followed recommendations to assert the arbitral award, "nothing" happened, leading to his frustration at critics who continue to pressure him to stand up to China.

"Pinursue ko, walang nangyari. Actually, sa usapang bugoy, sabihin ko sa 'yo, 'Bigay mo sakin? Putangina papel lang 'yan. Itatapon ko 'yan sa waste basket,'" said the President.

(I pursued it, nothing happened. Actually, in street parlance, I would tell you, 'Give that to me? Son of a bitch, that's just a piece of paper. I'll throw it in the waste basket.)

Stark contrast to Duterte's UNGA speech

Yet last year, Duterte himself told the United Nations General Assembly that he would "reject attempts to undermine" the Hague ruling.

"The Award is now part of international law, beyond compromise and beyond the reach of passing governments to dilute, diminish, or abandon," Duterte declared in September 2020, before world leaders in the high-profile international summit.

The 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, Netherlands, gave the Philippines a ringing victory against regional giant China by invalidating Beijing's claim to waters within its exclusive economic zone, also known as the West Philippine Sea.

Duterte's strongest action internationally to build on the ruling was his speech at the UN General Assembly. But his Cabinet members, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr have recently strongly spoken out against China for the continued presence of its ships in the West Philippine Sea.

Only two days ago, however, Duterte had told Cabinet members not to be "rude or disrespectful" to China. In recent speeches, he has also emphasized the debt of gratitude the Philippines supposedly owed China for access to its COVID-19 vaccines.

In the same public address, Duterte again lobbed insults against critics of his China policy, former foreign secretary Albert del Rosario and retired Supreme Court justice Antonio Carpio, figures who were instrumental in bringing China to court.

Duterte cursed at Del Rosario, challenged Carpio to debate with him, and even commented on Carpio's looks, calling him foreign-looking and "from a different stock."

The President had also devoted big portions of his previous two public addresses on railing against Del Rosario and Carpio. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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