Why my superhero of 2018 is Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio

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I HAVE yet to meet a Philippine Supreme Court judge. For most of us, they are remote, intimidating, dispassionate, imposing figures of authority. It is not hard to imagine them as cold, stern, rigid and aloof. This is perhaps not too far from reality. The journalist Marites Dañguilan Vitug, who has observed the Supreme Court for many years, has described the strict culture of impartiality, confidentiality, hierarchy and tradition under which justices operate, and how they are compelled to avoid politics and isolate themselves from public life.

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, to use his formal title, is not a typical Supreme Court judge. Neither is he, at least in the popular sense, a crime-busting, battle-hardened action man. Nonetheless, Carpio is a superhero.

In 2018, China stepped up its island militarization of the West Philippine Sea by deploying military planes and surface-to-air missiles to reefs located well within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. China also conducted a number of military exercises with the sole aim of intimidation, restricted Philippine navigation, and permitted Chinese vessels to harass lowly and defenseless Filipino fishermen

Since 2011, when he first publicly broached the idea of holding China legally accountable under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Carpio has been a vocal, passionate and untiring defender of Philippine territorial sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea. The Philippines went on to win the watershed case against China — which Carpio initiated — before the UN international arbitration tribunal in 2016. But in a stunning turnaround, President Rodrigo Duterte chose to set aside the favorable tribunal ruling and continues to steer the Philippines along a path of deference and submission to China.

Why my superhero of 2018 is Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio

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