MANILA, Philippines — Retiring Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio will continue his crusade to defend the country’s legitimate claims in the South China Sea, former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said on Friday.
“On the eve of his retirement in the Supreme Court, Justice Carpio has assured us that he will remain a strong defender of Philippine territory and maritime entitlements in the South China Sea,” Del Rosario said in his speech at the joint membership meeting of the Makati Business Club, Management Association of the Philippines, Judicial Reform Initiative, and the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines where he and the justice were guests.
Del Rosario said the Philippines “owes an incalculable debt of gratitude” for his “acts of patriotism [which], though sometimes criticized as unwarranted, have proven to be invaluable to the country.”
“As an extraordinary jurist, Justice Carpio is also a staunch defender of the Constitution, which serves to defend and protect the waters of the Philippines for posterity. His example inspires us to be patriots each day of our lives and to do what is right in the face of adversity,” the former secretary said.
Wrapping up an 18-year stint in the high court, Carpio is set to leave the tribunal on Oct. 26 upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70.
Del Rosario called Carpio the “staunchest defender” of the country’s maritime rights and entitlements under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).
He recalled that, as early as 2011, Carpio had already anticipated that Beijing would embark on a unilateral action to establish de facto control over almost the entirety of the South China Sea.
Best option for Philippines
The justice had also argued that, under the circumstances, the best option for the Philippines was to bring China to an Unclos tribunal where China’s naval power does not count.
Following the 2012 Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal standoff, Del Rosario said the government under then President Benigno Aquino III, heeded Carpio’s advice and this resulted in the country’s “resounding victory” in the arbitration case decided by the Permanent Court of Arbitration four years later.
“Justice Carpio was eventually recognized as one of the key architects of the South China Sea Arbitration. As part of his personal advocacy, Justice Carpio undertook rigorous research and collated voluminous resources on the South China Sea dispute that were submitted and eventually reinforced the Philippines’ case during the arbitration proceedings,” Del Rosario said.
Del Rosario recalled that Carpio wrote in 2011 the Supreme Court decision in Magallona v. Ermita which upheld the Philippine Baselines Law consistent with Unclos.
“The Magallona case became an important precursor to the South China Sea Arbitration because it made the Philippines Unclos-compliant and thus established its credibility before the Unclos tribunal,” Del Rosario said.
The former secretary also lauded Carpio for exerting efforts to reach out to people, not only to raise the public’s awareness on the lawfulness of the country’s position in the South China Sea, but also to urge people to fight for what is right.
In 2015, the Department of Foreign Affairs sponsored Carpio’s world lecture tour on the South China Sea dispute. Carpio presented the Philippines’ perspective on the dispute before think tanks and universities in 30 cities covering 17 countries.
The justice later came out with a book, “The South China Sea Dispute: Philippine Sovereign Rights and Jurisdiction in the West Philippine Sea,” which stressed the importance of international law, the peaceful resolution of disputes and upholding the rights of all nations, large and small.