Duterte is wrong to call Carpio buang… or maybe not

  • Reading time:11 mins read

PRESIDENT Duterte is wrong to call Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio buang, for criticizing his statement to allow Chinese fishermen access to “Philippine waters.” Buang means stupid — certainly a description that applies to the Yellow senators who claim Duterte would be violating the Constitution to allow that.

But Carpio isn’t stupid. He’s worse. He is so ignorant about an issue he blabbers on about but doesn’t understand that he should be ashamed to be in the Supreme Court, an institution dedicated to arriving at the truth based on facts.

But I don’t think Carpio is ignorant. He is diabolically devious, and his criticism of Duterte is just another instance of his incessant propaganda to stoke anti-Chinese xenophobia using our territorial disputes with China, exploiting the respected pulpit of a Supreme Court justice.

First, let’s be clear about what Duterte said. He was asked on Monday night whether government would bar Chinese fishermen from Philippine waters after a Filipino fishing boat was allegedly sunk in the Reed Bank by a Chinese vessel. He answered, in a roundabout way: “I don’t think China would do that. Why? Because we’re friends. They are of the same view that that should not result in any bloody confrontation.”

Duterte obviously meant that if we ban Chinese fishermen from the area, the Chinese will retaliate by banning our fishermen. The two countries won’t do that because they respect each other now.

Probably reading the news over coffee that day, Carpio got so excited he could throw more dirt at Duterte, and pounced on the President’s comment, as reported by media. Taking advantage of his image as an expert on law since he is a Supreme Court justice, he announced that this was a violation of the Constitution, which says our exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is for the “exclusive use” of Filipinos.

Carpio, however, showed his ignorance of the issues, since the “intrusion” is in a way more serious as we have a higher level, as it were, of sovereignty claim to Reed Bank (Recto to us) than sovereign rights accorded to an area within our EEZ.

Recto Bank is within what we call our Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) which we annexed as Philippine territory, thanks to the strongman Marcos when he ordered his troops to occupy it a few years after he declared martial law, and then formalized this territorial expansion through Presidential Decree 1596 of 1978. He declared the area was “vital to the security and economic survival of the Philippines.”

Marcos justified his land-and-water grab by claiming the area does not “legally belong to any state” and that anyway, the Philippines established occupation and control of it, internationally a recognized means of establishing sovereignty over an area.

Of course, the three countries (and Taiwan) — China (which calls it Nánshā Qúndǎo), Vietnam (Quần đảo Trường Sa), and Malaysia (Keulauan Spratly) — which claimed that it was their territory protested loudly and issued all the diplomatic protests they could.

China had been declaring it as theirs not just because of “ancient history”, and not just because it falls within the infamous “nine-dash line” which the communists’ arch enemy, the Kuomintang, first drew. The Chinese had classified the area as an “archipelago,” actually the template for Marcos to declare a polygon as the Kalayaan Group of Islands, which in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) terminology was “regime of islands.” Several official declarations and communications starting in the 1930s, the latest in 1992, were made by the Chinese state, which no government, even the superpowers, protested against.

We have our map (2016 edition), the Chinese (2001 map) have theirs.

Vietnam, other than also claiming it as part of its ancient kingdom, claimed that France annexed it in 1887 as part of French Indochina. France then turned it over to Vietnam when it achieved independence. Japan grabbed the area, as well as most of South China islands in 1939, in order to build bases for its invasions in the region during World War 2. Tokyo then relinquished its claims when it unconditionally surrendered to the Allies in 1945.

But then the Philippines under Marcos, or during what the Yellows call the “Dark Age,” had a strong military, which the dictator demonstrated by building the first military airstrip on the biggest island in the KIG, Pag-asa island, in a few months’ time. Neither China nor Vietnam could forcibly evict the Filipinos from the KIG, which after all the United Nations declaration had banned as a means of gaining territory.

China could do nothing as it was at that time a nation devastated by Mao’s Great Cultural Revolution. North Vietnam defeated the United States and its puppets only in 1975. It was still crawling out of the horrendous destruction of its nation.

However, Marcos’ KIG annexation — which gave us control of 11 islands, rocks and reefs — prompted the other claimant countries to rush to occupy and fortify the other features in the area. Thus, Taiwan now occupies the biggest island in the area, which it calls Taiping and one reef. Vietnam occupies eight islands, rocks and reefs, and Malaysia, six.

China was late to the party because of the chaos of its Cultural Revolution from which it recovered only in the 1980s, that it was left with the morsels: five reefs and atolls, with not an island. Especially after we sued it, China had been on a spree of building artificial islands on these.

Those who think that the US military will assist as in case of a military confrontation over the KIG with other countries because of our Mutual Defense Treaty should note: The US does not recognize our KIG claim, and therefore as our territory. The MDT categorically involves only what the treaty terms as our “metropolitan territory.” The US is officially neutral to claims of other countries.

Yes, because of the Unclos, which we ratified in 1997, and thanks to President Arroyo, who got Congress to pass Republic Act 9522 in March 2009, while she had to defend her very regime against the onslaught of the Yellow forces, our “baselines” were defined, the KIG and Scarborough were declared as “regimes of islands” and we have our 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone over which we have sovereign rights.

But no way can we impose our view of what is our territory or what is our EEZ on nations which claim it as their territory, which is a higher-level sovereign claim than an “EEZ right.”

In a crude way of putting it, we have our own map of the South China Sea that says the KIG is part of our territory. China and the Vietnamese have their own maps that claim it is theirs (2001).

And we aren’t the US or Great Britain that we can tell the world, respect our map or we’ll kick your ass — as the latter did the Argentinians in 1982 over the Falkland Islands, an island 400 kilometers from Argentina and halfway across the globe from England.

If China and Vietnam — and their peoples — believe as much as we do that the Spratlys is theirs, is it a correct foreign policy to insist that it is ours, ban their fishermen from the area, and mobilize our coast guard to enforce that ban?

To mislead the public that this policy is correct, del Rosario, Carpio and the Yellows — helped by the US — have been on a massive disinformation campaign over the arbitral panel’s decision versus China.

Yes, the panel ruled that our EEZ covers Recto Bank. But it was totally silent on the territorial claims of China (and Vietnam) over the Spratlys which it claims is its territory. It can’t because Unclos on which the arbitral panel based its ruling categorically cannot rule over and cannot talk about, sovereignty disputes over territory. It can only rule on maritime claims such as to what extent does a country’s EEZ covers.

Haven’t we learned from the Yellow regime’s Scarborough Shoal fiasco? For decades, fishermen from Zambales, China and Vietnam had been fishing in the area. China claims it as their Huangyan Island, and we as Bajo de Masinloc. But both countries had a joint de facto control of the shoal.

President Aquino 3rd broke that tranquility in 2012 when he ordered a Navy warship to arrest Chinese fishermen, blustered that it was our territory, and declared in so many words that the US would help us to assert our sovereignty.

China of course defended its claims on the island. And we ended up losing Bajo de Masinloc, as I have explained in so many previous columns, and in my book Debunked.*

Wouldn’t it better if rather than a ban which we can’t enforce, and which would likely result in a Scarborough kind of confrontation, we simply agree with China and Vietnam to let our fishermen and theirs fish in the area, and work for an agreement to regulate fishing in the area as to maintain its ecosystem, and to jointly police poachers capturing endangered species?

Do we want a repeat of Aquino’s loss of Scarborough? But this time we will be losing not just a shoal, but the entire KIG, and we will be saying goodbye to the third biggest island there, Pag-asa.

Or maybe this is the outcome Carpio wants, through his effort to frighten Duterte if he allows foreign fishermen to fish in the Spratlys. I don’t think Carpio is ignorant of the facts I have presented, as he has even written a book on the South China territorial disputes.

Maybe Duterte is right in calling Carpio buang if that term is used in its more precise meaning, which is “someone deranged, and possibly dangerous.”

Carpio is deranged in his anti-China xenophobia, which I think he got from his ideological guru Jose Almonte, around whom so many rumors have been swirling for years over his deep connections with the US CIA.

And Carpio is dangerous, for his skill in spreading disinformation that even two of my colleagues have fallen for hook, line and sinker.



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