Robredo: Duterte downplaying PH victory on West PH Sea a 'very serious’ matter, shows bias towards China

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 9) – Vice President Leni Robredo on Sunday expressed her deep concern over President Rodrigo Duterte’s statement describing the country’s arbitral win on the West Philippine Sea as "a mere scrap of paper" he can throw away.

Robredo said Duterte’s remark on the 2016 landmark victory is a “very serious” matter, as she stressed that the arbitral award is a huge boost in asserting the Philippines’ territorial claims in the disputed waters.

Seryoso ‘yun kasi kasarinlan natin tsaka sovereignty ‘yung pinag-uusapan dito. Hindi mo pwedeng i-take lightly ‘yung naging desisyon kasi kaya tayo umabot sa ganung punto dahil sa pananakop sa mga pag-aari natin. Napakalaking win ‘yun sa atin, eh,” the vice president said in her weekly radio show.

[Translation: It’s a serious issue because we’re talking about our independence and sovereignty. You cannot take that decision lightly because the reason why we reached that point is because of the seizure of our territories. That’s a major win for us.]

The President's statement, she added, also casts doubt on where his loyalty lies.

Para sa akin...may pagkiling na talaga, may pagkiling na sa China,” Robredo said.

[Translation: In my opinion...there really is a bias, a bias towards China.]

In his latest address to the nation, Duterte dared retired Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio to a debate on West Philippine Sea issues -- a challenge which was “gladly accepted” by Carpio. The former associate justice has been a critic of the President's soft stance on the sea dispute, while Duterte has accused Carpio of having a role in the withdrawal of Philippine Navy ships in an incident at the Scarborough Shoal.

Robredo said a debate between Duterte and Carpio would have been beneficial to the nation, especially to those not familiar with the issue on the contested waters.

Kasi ang katotohanan talaga, marami sa mga kababayan natin ang ‘di klaro ang issue sa West Philippine Sea. So kung magkaroon ng discussion, hindi naman nga kailangan na away ito eh, pero kung magkaroon ng public na latagan ng ano talaga, tingin ko magiging very educational ito sa publiko,” Robredo said. “Sayang kasi nag-back out si Presidente."

[Translation: The truth is the West Philippine Sea issue remains unclear to many of our countrymen. So, if there is going to be a discussion -- and it doesn't even have to be a debate -- but if there's going to be a publicized discourse, I think it's going to be very educational to the public. It's a pity the President backed out.]

After Carpio heeded Duterte’s call, the Philippine Bar Association offered to host the debate, but the President eventually assigned his spokesperson Harry Roque to argue on his behalf.