By Deighton Acuin

PHOTO: One News

Former Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio has welcomed President Rodrigo Duterte's challenge to have a debate on the issues of the West Philippine Sea.

“I gladly accept the challenge anytime at the President’s convenience,” Carpio said in a statement on Thursday.

Carpio also dared Duterte to be true on his pronouncement that he will immediately resign once his claim that the former magistrate was involved in the withdrawal of Navy assets in the contested waters is proven false.

“President Duterte should now resign immediately to keep his word of honor. I state under oath that I was never involved in the decision to withdraw Philippine Navy ships from the West Philippine Sea during the 2012 Scarborough standoff.”

“At that time and all I knew about the withdrawal of Philippine Navy ships was what I read in the newspapers. I call as my witnesses former President Benigno Aquino III and the Defense Secretary, Foreign Affairs Secretary and the Chiefs of the Philippine Navy and the Coast Guard at that time,” he added.

During his national address on Wednesday night, Duterte called Carpio as “stupid” for advocating the 2016 ruling in which the President likened as a “piece of paper” that can be thrown in a trash bin.

Duterte also said that former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario must be investigated allegedly after ordering the withdrawal of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) from conducting patrols in the area.

Carpio is one of the champions of the country’s sole control of the sea by means of bringing the case to the Hague-based Tribunal.

It was in July 2016 when the Hague Court of Arbitration favored the Philippines’ case against China’s nine-dash claim sovereignty in the South China Sea.

The decision also concluded that the Spratly Islands, Panganiban Reef, Ayungin Shoal, and the Recto Bank are within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines.

However, China rejected the ruling by saying the territorial issue is “indisputable.”