Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio retires at midnight today, October 25, after serving the Supreme Court (SC) for 18 years.
On Saturday, October 26, he will be 70 years old, the mandatory retirement age for members of the judiciary.
Carpio was appointed SC associate justice by former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2001. He assumed office on his birthday on Oct. 26, 2001.
“It was a very long journey allowing me to write 935 full blown long decisions, 79 dissenting opinions, 30 concurring opinions, 13 separate opinions and four concurring and dissenting opinions, leaving no backlog,” Carpio said during his last flag-raising ceremony at the SC last Monday.
He said that after his retirement, he will continue on his research and writings, and will hold lectures in the country and even abroad.
“I have several invitations to talk about the West Philippine Sea (WPS) in Japan and in the United States. I have friends researching on the same subject who are also interested in the same subject and we agree to meet regularly and see how we should proceed from there,” he said.
He added: “I am always available to defend our sovereign rights in the WPS. I don’t have to have any formal position. They want my opinion, my recommendation, I will give it willingly and gladly.”
In 2011, Carpio wrote the SC decision which upheld the Philippine Baselines Law consistent with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
In 2017, Justice Carpio published the book titled “The South China Sea Dispute: Philippine Sovereign Rights and Jurisdiction in the West Philippine Sea.”
He was a part of the Philippine legal team that won in 2016 the country’s claim against China over the South China Sea territories.
The 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) invalided China’s nine-dash line claim to the South China Sea, including part of the WPS.
The ruling also held that China violated its commitment under UNCLOS in building artificial islands within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Carpio has been very vocal on issues involving the WPS and the EEZ.
In one of his speeches, Carpio called on Filipinos to use their freedom of expression and the power of social media to expose the “falsity” of China’s claim on the disputed South China Sea.
He said there must be a “truth movement” among Filipinos “to expose to the world, and to the Chinese people themselves, the falsity of the historical claim of the Chinese government to the South China Sea,” particularly the “the falsity of China’s nine-dash line claim.”
“We can invite the peoples of Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei — countries whose EEZs are also encroached by China’s nine-dashed line claim — to join us in this Movement,” he stressed.
Carpio had been by-passed many times to the coveted post of Chief Justice. He was designated acting Chief Justice several times, the last was when Chief Justice Lucas P. Bersamin retired last October 18.
On Thursday, October 24, Carpio relinquished his acting Chief Justice post when the new Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta was sworn in by President Duterte as the 26th head of the judiciary.
Because of his long years of service in the SC and having acted several times as Chief Justice, Carpio would get all the retirement perks befitting a Chief Justice.
On Monday, Carpio said he was both happy and sad about his upcoming retirement.
“Happy because I have done my best to serve our people, and sad because I am bidding farewell to my family for the last 18 years. I cannot name all of you individually. You have made my long journey pleasant and productive,” he said.
SC justices praised Carpio as a “statesman and a patriot.”
They said: “Carpio’s effort to protect our national sovereignty and ensure the accountability of all government officials remains tireless, unceasing, and enlightening. His knowledge and applied wisdom on National and International Law are unparalleled.”
Carpio was born in Davao City.
He finished his law at the University of the Philippines where he graduated valedictorian and cum laude in 1975. He placed sixth in the 1975 bar examinations.
He earned his undergraduate degree in Economics from the Ateneo de Manila University in 1970.
He went into private practice and founded the Carpio, Villaraza, and Cruz law firm.
In 1992, he was appointed Presidential Legal Adviser by then President Fidel V. Ramos.
In 2001, at the age of 52, he was appointed SC associate justice.
At the time of his retirement, Carpio, among other posts in the SC, was chairman of the High Court’s second division and head of the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET).
In May, 2017, Justice Carpio published the book titled “The South China Sea Dispute: Philippine Sovereign Rights and Jurisdiction in the West Philippine Sea.”
Carpio’s other accomplishments listed in the SC’s website include:
“Justice Carpio was a member of the Board of Regents of the University of the Philippines from 1993 to 1998. He was a member of the Technology Transfer Board of the Department of Industry from 1978 to 1979. He served as Special Representative of the Department of Trade for textile negotiations from 1980 to 1981. He was elected President of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Pasay-Makati Chapter (1985-1986).
“For his ‘distinguished and exemplary service’ to the Republic, Justice Carpio was awarded in 1998 the Presidential Medal of Merit by then President Fidel V. Ramos. In 1991, Justice Carpio received the Outstanding Achievement Award in Law from the Ateneo de Manila Alumni Association. In 2002, he was the recipient of the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Ateneo de Davao Alumni Association. In 2009, he was conferred a Doctorate of Laws, honoris causa, by the Ateneo de Davao University. In 2015, he was named an Outstanding Alumnus in Public International Law by the UP Alumni Association and on August 18, 2017, he was awarded as one of the UP Alumni Association Most Distinguished Alumni.
“In 2015, the Department of Foreign Affairs sponsored Justice Carpio on a world lecture tour on the West Philippine Sea dispute. Justice Carpio presented the Philippines’ perspective on the dispute before think tanks and universities in 30 cities covering 17 countries.”