On Monday, May 10, President Rodrigo Duterte showed the public that he needs more allies to defend his decision to back out from debating former Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio regarding the West Philippine Sea issue.
In a televised meeting that same day, Duterte had two more Cabinet members to stand by his side. Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo had to speak out and defend what the critics are saying about the cowardly move of the Commander-in-Chief.
Locsin said the previous Administration shouldn’t have pulled out Philippine ships from Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal in 2012 before Chinese ships did.
“If I had UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea) by my side saying we are within the exclusive economic zone and the Chinese ship is not, from my point of view, let us look at the other side, ‘go.’ ‘If you go, I’ll go, but you go first.’ Instead, our side withdrew so what happens to our claim that this is ours? Just give it up,” Locsin said.
“I think before you need to start any debate on the obligations generated by the arbitral award, we must first settle the issue, who in the game of chicken stopped this car on the edge of an abyss first?”
Duterte agreed with Locsin without hesitation.
“That was what was in my mind when I challenged Carpio to a debate.” the President said.
He also brought up Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea’s argument. Debating Carpio could “affect the future actions of Government.”
“It’s not because I’m afraid of debates. How many debates have I gone through during the elections? There was one almost every day,” Duterte said.
Carpio immediately reacted to the briefing.
“If the President does not retract these statements that he made publicly, then he knows that these statements could bind the Philippine government under present and future administrations,” Carpio said.
Panelo on his part said he was always against holding a debate. Adding that there was “nothing to debate about” since Carpio himself stated that China already took over Scarborough Shoal under former President Noynoy Aquino’s watch and that it was during the Ramos administration when China took control of the Mischief Reef.
“Mr. President, from the very beginning, I was not supportive of a debate,” said Panelo.
Critics were quick to make fun of Duterte, whose popularity with the people seems to dwindle every time he is on television.
He’s digging his own grave everytime he speaks! He got 2 unexpected guest in his presscon. With Panelo and Locsin on his side he will surely reach his doom in no time!
— MJean (@meytienza_8) May 11, 2021
Daig pa ng mga batang hindi nagsusumbong sa nanay kapag napapaaway. https://t.co/qVXk2Nv2uY
— bedshot (@tagatansa) May 10, 2021
Mukhang nasaktan si Harry Roque sa Rant the Nation ngayong gabi dahil hindi sya nakaporma kay FA sec Teddy Boy Locsin at naisahan sya ni Sal Panelo nang tawagin naman ito ni Digong na isang legal luminary.
In the end, pipitsuging baboy pa rin ang turing sa kanya ni Duterte. pic.twitter.com/Qnp0iyKqyf
— AkoNgaSyLico 璃乎. リコ. りこ. #DuterteDuwag (@SyLicoNgaAko) May 10, 2021
Haha. Nagtawag ng back-up si Duterte at iprinentera si Locsin, Panelo at Roque.
Duwag nga. 🙈😅
Ang issue ay simple:
BAKIT MAS PINAGTATANGGOL NINYO ANG TSINA.
BAKIT NINYO PINAPALAKAS ANG POSISYON NG TSINA AT SINASABING:
“SA INYO ANG PAPEL, SA KANILA ANG KARAGATAN.”
— Ryan (@rryyyaaaannnn) May 10, 2021
— Quentin Quarantino (@marcuss76) May 10, 2021
KItams, talagang ginawang palabas un miting kagabi para udyokan ang sambayanan na hindi daw sya umayaw sa debate. teddybear and butiki depends him. but what they all said were the same. nasabi na un ni SCJ Carpio. https://t.co/KAydpThv1n
— sindarius zendmeur carr (@zendmeur) May 10, 2021
In short, he's inciting his cabinet members to commit treason.
— Ms Candid (@MsCandid2) May 11, 2021
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, who Duterte chose to stand in, in case the debate with Carpio happens. Meanwhile, Roque expressed that he’d be open to engaging in a ‘debate’ with Vice President Leni Robredo.
“Kung talagang ayaw ni Associate Justice na makipagdebate sa ordinaryong abogado gaya ko dahil siya ay retiradong mahistrado ng Supreme Court, tayo po, magdebate po tayo kasi gaya ni Associate Justice Carpio, wala pong tigil ang pagsabi niyo na nagbigay ng teritoryo ang Presidente.
“Dahil wala ring tigil si VP Leni, baka gusto nya kaming dalawa na lang.” Roque said before Netizens made memes out of him, indicating that the people are no longer taking the debate issue seriously.