Carpio blasts honors given to Chinese envoy

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Carpio blasts honors given to Chinese envoy

MANILA, Philippines — The Duterte administration’s conferment of awards on the outgoing Chinese ambassador is an insult to Filipinos who had fought and died to defend the country from foreign invaders, retired Supreme Court justice Antonio Carpio said.

“Our national heroes who died defending our territory against foreign invaders must now be turning in their graves,” Carpio said in remarks at the University of the Philippines (UP) Law Alumni Homecoming on Friday.

He was referring to Ambassador Zhao Jianhua’s receiving the Order of Sikatuna with the rank of Datu from Malacañang and the Congressional Medal of Achievement from lawmakers.

In awarding Zhao a Medal of Achievement, the House of Representatives cited his role in “fostering stronger bonds of very good friendship between the Philippines and China,” Carpio said.

“The House of Representatives must be referring to the article penned by Ambassador Zhao in Philippine STAR on Nov. 15, 2018 where Ambassador Zhao asserted, and I quote, ‘Being separated by only a narrow strip of water, China and the Philippines have been close neighbors for centuries, sharing geographic proximity’,” he said.

The retired magistrate said that what Zhao may have meant in his article in The STAR was that “the Philippines and China are very close neighbors, because the nine-dash line is China’s national boundary in the South China Sea, leaving the Philippines with only a sliver of water as its territorial sea and Exclusive Economic Zone.”

He lamented that House leaders have found Zhao’s position a justification for honoring him.

“Of course, the House of Representatives was just following President Duterte, who earlier conferred on Ambassador Zhao the Order of Sikatuna with the Rank of Datu,” Carpio pointed out.

He reminded officials of the administration of their duty to compel or persuade China to respect the Philippines’ territorial rights as reaffirmed in the 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

“Before the adoption of the United Nations Charter in 1945, the defense of a state fell primarily on armed soldiers who were trained to fight in war. The United Nations Charter has outlawed war as a means of settling territorial or maritime disputes between states, and such disputes must be settled now only through negotiations and mediation and, as a last resort, through arbitration in accordance with the Rule of Law,” Carpio said.                      

“Thus, in territorial or maritime disputes, the defense of a state has fallen primarily on diplomats and on lawyers. When China seized Scarborough Shoal in 2012, we did not send the Philippine marines to retake Scarborough Shoal. Instead, we sent our lawyers to The Hague in an arbitration case to declare China’s nine-dash line without legal effect,” he said.

“And we won an overwhelming victory, a landmark victory that will shape the direction of the Law of the Sea for decades to come. Lawyers are now the warriors in defending sovereignty and sovereign rights, through the Rule of Law,” he stressed.

“We defended, and preserved, our Exclusive Economic Zone in the West Philippine Sea, an area larger than our total land area, by resorting to the Rule of Law, without firing a single shot in anger,” Carpio explained.

“We brought the maritime dispute before a forum where warships, warplanes, missiles and nuclear bombs do not count and where the dispute would be resolved only in accordance with the Rule of Law. In short, we used the Rule of Law in the grand manner in defense of our nation’s sovereign rights,” Carpio told his audience of lawyers.

“As lawyers who learned law in the grand manner, we have to convince everyone in government to be more vigilant and vigorous in protecting our sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea,” he said.

“We are faced with a nuclear-armed regional superpower that wants to seize 80 percent of our Exclusive Economic Zone in the West Philippine sea, and this superpower is right there battering at our gates. We cannot take the defense of our sovereign rights lightly,” he emphasized.

Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. defended the granting of awards to Zhao, admitting it was he who strongly recommended it.

“That was my strong and insistent proposal and I wouldn’t take no for an answer. The Palace protocol gave in and told him,” Locsin said in a post on Twitter.

“Zhao and I have had great intellectual duels. Honor your foe honor yourself. I disdain sissies. We fight fiercely rationally for our countries,” he said.

President Duterte bestowed the award on Zhao during his farewell call on the President at the Malacañang Palace on Oct. 28.

The Order of Sikatuna is given to diplomats, officials and foreign nationals who have rendered exceptional services to the Philippines.