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Carpio's retirement goal: To convince Duterte to assert arbitral ruling

'TRUTH'. Retired SC Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio tells journalists on October 29, 2019, to tell the world about the u0022historical truthu0022 that China never owned or controlled the West Philippine Sea.

Photo by Lian Buan/Rappler

In public, retired justice Antonio Carpio is generally a man of few words, except if you get him to talk about the West Philippine Sea, his expertise and advocacy.

Carpio's speeches at his retirement events have been short, almost anti-climactic to the long testimonials given by friends and colleagues, but at a gathering with journalists Tuesday night, October 29, his message was a little longer. Because it was about the West Philippine Sea.

It was a shame that Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo didn't catch it. A few minutes before Carpio's speech, during one of the testimonials, Panelo dropped by briefly to shake Carpio's hands. Panelo was having a separate birthday party on the same floor.

Just a month ago, Panelo had ribbed the justice about China saying, “Ito namang fraternity brod ko na justice, he’s very fond [of] engaging in speculation (This fraternity brother of mine who is a justice, he's very fond [of] engaging in speculation)." That's light compared to the President calling Carpio stupid.

But news for Malacañang, whether good or bad, Carpio's retirement from the Court now only gives him all the time in the world to talk about the West Philippine Sea and China.

"At age 70, I plan to spend most of my remaining waking hours defending our sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea through the means I know best – through the rule of law," Carpio said during the testimonial dinner on Tuesday organized by the Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication.

Carpio said it himself: the goal is to convince the man in the Palace, President Rodrigo Duterte, to assert to China the arbitral ruling that awarded us unequivocal rights to the islands in the West Philippine Sea.

"In the Philippines, 93% of`the Filipino people want the arbitral ruling asserted, 93%. I still have to work on President Duterte and the remaining 7%. As a DHO, a die hard optimist, I believe the seemingly impossible dream can still be achieved with your help," he told the room of journalists. (READ: 'The best chief justice we never had')

LOOK: Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo drops by Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio's testimonial dinner. Panelo has his own party in the same floor. The two men shake hands. Panelo didn't stay for long. @rapplerdotcom pic.twitter.com/xfQhtfOvgK — Lian Buan (@lianbuan) October 29, 2019

The truth movement

They call it the "truth movement," a loose global information campaign to one, convince Duterte, and two, to pressure China to abide by the ruling. The key to achieving the second goal, Carpio said, is to get the world's opinion on the Philippine side.

"A wise man once said that there are only two ways for China to comply with the arbitral ruling. First, China, voluntarily, on its own, complies with the ruling, a scenario that does not seem possible," he said.

"Second, world opinion, pressures China to comply with the ruling, something within the realm of possibilities. China needs the world. It has to export to and import from the world, continue its economic development. Shaping world opinion starting within the Philippines, spreading throughout Southeast Asia and then through the rest of the world is tailor-made for journalists like you," the justice said.

Carpio's interviews with the media about the West Philippine Sea are seen as unorthodox for a justice of the Court. Carpio shared that for the first 10 years in the Supreme Court, he was the "quintessential justice who spoke only though my decisions."

"But when I started my advocacy to defend the West Philippine Sea, I realized that media is a crucial partner in explaining to the Filipino people why we must defend the West Philippine Sea and how we can defend the West Philippine Sea," Carpio said.

Defending his public opinions and lectures, Carpio said China was never going to be under the jurisdiction of the Philippine Supreme Court so there will be no conflict of interest. 

It seems like a herculean mission, but post-retirement, free from the dockets of the Court, Carpio looks like a man on a mission.

"Shaping world opinion starting within the Philippines, spreading throughout Southeast Asia and then through the rest of the world is tailor-made for journalists like you. All  you have to do is to tell the historical truth about the South China Sea. The truth affirmed by the arbitral ruing that China never owned or controlled the South China Sea throughout its history," he said. – 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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