Malacañang dared critics to file an impeachment complaint against President Rodrigo Duterte over the issue on West Philippine Sea (WPS), saying the President did not give up any single territory of the Philippines to China.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque made the challenge after former Supreme Court associate justice Antonio Carpio said the President has betrayed the public trust and the national interest over his stance on the maritime conflict.
The retired SC justice earlier claimed that Duterte’s actions on the West Philippine Sea could be considered an impeachable offense.
“Why betrayal of public trust? Was there a territory lost under the administration of President Duterte? None. Did he give territory to China? None,” Roque said.
“You know a political newbie will say everything to get attention and this is yet another instance of Justice Carpio saying things just for the attention,” Roque said.
Roque said President Duterte’s policy of pursuing other areas of cooperation with China such as trade and investments pending the resolution of the territorial conflict was not an impeachable offense.
The Palace official said if his critics think the President violated any law with regards to the WPS issue, they can bring the matter to the Supreme Court.
He said since Carpio is now an ordinary citizen, he can file a complaint before the Supreme Court.
“The truth is it is not just because it is a numbers game. It is because it is utterly bereft of merit because the President is the sole architect, primary architect of foreign policy,” he added.
Duterte faced an impeachment complaint in 2017 over drug war killings, alleged corruption, and supposed failure to defend the country’s sovereign rights and territorial sea claims but the case did not prosper.
Carpio earlier said the President’s actions related to the West Philippine Sea could be seen as an impeachable offense.
However, the former justice admitted that the impeachment complaint won’t prosper since Congress is dominated by the President’s allies.
Meanwhile, Roque challenged Vice President Leni Robredo to a debate whether or not Duterte had given away any Philippine territory to China under his administration.
Like retired SC Associate Justice Carpio, Roque said Robredo was among those who claimed that the Philippines lost territories under the Duterte administration.
Roque also said the President had nothing to prove after the hashtag #DuterteDuwag (Duterte coward) spread rapidly on social media following the announcement that Duterte would not debate Carpio after the latter accepted his challenge.
Roque said there is no reason for Duterte to debate Carpio because he had debated this issue before during his campaign to become president.
In his press briefing on Monday, Roque said the President has shown the public his ability to debate when he ran for president in 2016.
“The President has participated in many debates during the presidential elections. He has nothing more to prove,” he said. “He has nothing to prove. He is done with that.”
Carpio maintained his attack on Monday, urging the President to retract what he described as a “dangerous” statement on the West Philippine Sea.
Carpio, who has been advocating for the government to strongly assert its maritime territory in the West Philippine Sea as upheld by the United Nations-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016, said that Duterte’s remarks that the arbitral ruling in favor of the Philippines is a scrap of paper meant to be thrown in the wastebasket is prejudicial to the country’s interests.
“The head of state, the President, or even the foreign minister can bind the country with his pronouncements and if these pronouncements are adverse, admissions against interest, this will bind the country if accepted by the other party. And that’s why it’s very dangerous,” Carpio said, in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel.
Carpio also debunked Duterte’s repeated statement that China is in possession of the West Philippine Sea, a portion of the disputed waterways in the South China Sea. China has insisted claims in almost the entire South China Sea through its so-called “nine-dash line.”
“Legally China is not in possession. And if he says that, what happens to our fishermen, what happens to the service contractors? They will not get the gas,” the former magistrate said.
Duterte must also stop Chinese nationals from fishing in the West Philippine Sea, he said.
Carpio urged Filipinos to prod the President to take back his recent statements on the West Philippine Sea issue, which the former SC justice considered as betrayal of public trust.
“The Filipino people must demand that President Duterte retract all these statements. He must retract. All of us must come out with manifestos, position papers; all organizations, all schools must come out with resolutions,” he said.
Carpio said he believes that Duterte’s statements could be considered a betrayal of public trust, which is an impeachable offense.
But the retired SC magistrate acknowledged that impeaching a president who enjoys majority support in Congress will be an exercise in futility.
“He has the majority, so it will never prosper. So, that’s a problem because there is a failure in the checking mechanism. Congress should check the President but Congress is not doing its job,” Carpio said.
When asked why President Duterte gives pronouncements contrary to the strong statements issued by some Cabinet members like Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., Carpio said: “I think he honestly believes that China is in possession.”
Besides, Carpio also noted Duterte’s 2018 statement that Chinese President Xi Jinping had promised to protect him from any ouster attempts.
“I think that is what’s behind his mind, that President Xi Jinping is his personal protector against his own military if there is a coup d’état, so he will side, whenever possible, with China against the Philippine interest and we see that everyday,” Carpio said.
Duterte recently backed out from his challenge to debate with Carpio on the West Philippine Sea issue upon the advice of some Cabinet members.
Nonetheless, the President endorsed his spokesman Harry Roque to debate with Carpio.