Retiring soon, Carpio vows to continue defending West Philippine Sea

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 18) — Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio promised to continue fighting for the country's sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea – and he does not need any government post to do so.

"I am always available to defend our sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea. I don't have to have any formal position. They want my opinion my recommendation, I will give it willingly and gladly," Carpio said Friday during a testimonial lunch for his retirement.

"I will continue with my research. I will continue to write. I will continue to give lectures all over the country and abroad if I get invited," Carpio added.

Carpio has been a vocal critic of President Rodrigo Duterte's policies on the South China Sea dispute. Carpio was part of the Philippine delegation to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague that argued for and won the country's case against Beijing in July 2016. The landmark decision recognized the Philippines' sovereign rights in areas within its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) that China claims. The government calls the portion of the South China Sea that the Philippines either claims or occupies as the West Philippine Sea.

Carpio is leaving the Supreme Court on October 26 upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70.

He will spend his remaining work week as Acting Chief Justice since Lucas Bersamin also retired on Friday. The most senior member of the high court is automatically the acting top judge.

Many, including her cousin former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, believe Carpio is the best Chief Justice the country never had.

She said whenever a member-in-charge was going to present a draft decision to the en banc, Carpio would always intervene and offer ideas.

"Sabi namin, 'Tony wag kang mangialam sa ponencia ng iba let them also research.' You know what Tony said? 'It is for the institution,'" Morales recalled.

Former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban revealed that a person close Duterte told him the President “was open” to finally appointing Carpio as next Chief Justice, even just for a few days.

"But he preempted the President again by declining the automatic nomination believing he could do nothing with a few days only. Besides, he didn’t want to known as Mr. One Day Chief Justice," Panganiban said.

There will be no “traditional majestic ceremony” to honor Carpio because he declined it, preferring a simple dinner instead.

The Judicial and Bar Council has submitted to Duterte a shortlist of eight candidates to replace Carpio. They are Manuel Barrios, Edgardo Delos Santos, Japar Dimaampao, Ramon Garcia, Jhosep Lopez, Jose Midas Marquez, Pablito Perez, Ricardo Rosario, and Maria Filomena Singh.

Meanwhile, three Supreme Court Associate Justices are vying for the Chief Justice post: Diosdado Peralta, Estela Perlas-Bernabe, and Andres Reyes. Jr.

CNN Philippines' Anjo Alimario and Eimor Santos contributed to this report.