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Bowing out with grace

Associate Justice Antonio Carpio retires from the Supreme Court October 26. On his last flag-raising ceremony with his colleagues and High Court employees on Monday, Carpio said he had mixed emotions about his retirement—happy he had done his best to serve, but sad he was saying goodbye to his family of 18 years.

Bowing out with grace

Colleagues were effusive in their tributes to him. “Through his participation and leadership, he defined an era of the Supreme Court,” said Justice Marvic Leonen, who described Carpio as the quintessential scholar, a patient mentor, an enlightened and patriotic Filipino, and a passionate and just jurist.

Court employees showed their support by wearing the colors of the Philippine flag.

Many things can be said of the retiring justice. He is most visible and vocal in his advocacy in asserting our sovereign rights on the issue of the West Philippine Sea. His research on the matter—the book “The South China Sea Dispute: Philippine Sovereign Rights and Jurisdiction in the West Philippine Sea”—is a primary resource for all who wish to know more and fight harder. He was a key player in the arbitration case filed by the government before the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

The arbitral court ruled in favor of the Philippines in that case, but the current administration has, for a myriad of reasons, been feeble in asserting that victory. Carpio has shown no letup of this cause­—and likely because of this, he will not fade from our consciousness anytime in the next few years.

Carpio, with his unifying leadership and congenial relationship with his colleagues, ably led the High Court during difficult times, specifically when Chief Justices Renato Corona and Maria Lourdes Sereno were being threatened with removal.

We find most profound, however, was the fact that Justice Carpio never quite became the head of the judiciary that he had served so well,

He had been bypassed more than once for the post, the latest instance of which was thought to be because of his position on the maritime dispute with China. He had also declined nomination several times. After Sereno’s removal, for instance, he said no because he had voted against the petition that eventually ousted her, and he said did not want to benefit from a decision to which he disagreed.

We are sure he has had many disappointments as well during his career. But Justice Carpio has exhibited a quality rare among public officials—a lack of attachment to titles and positions, and a refusal to compromise what he believes in despite the costs.

Any law student would say to be Chief Justice was an ultimate dream. Carpio proves it is possible to be at the peak of one’s career—or calling—even without being at the pinnacle of power.

Topics: Antonio Carpio , Supreme Court , Marvic Leonen , West Philippine Sea , Permanent Court of Arbitration
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