A Supreme Court Justice in the Philippines has warned that President Rodrigo Duterte could be impeached, under national laws, if he gives up the country's sovereign rights on Scarborough Shoal to China. Beijing and Manila stake claim over the resource-rich reef in the disputed South China Sea.
Ahead of Duterte's visit to China between 18 and 21 October, there has been speculation that he could give up on the disputed island. He is set to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping to strengthen ties between the two countries. However, Duterte has reportedly said that he will not discuss the Scarborough Shoal issue during the trip.
Speaking at a forum at the Asian Institute of Management in Makati City on Friday (14 October), Antonio Carpio, Senior Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, said that Duterte would be violating the national constitution if he concedes to Beijing with regards to the long-standing maritime dispute.
"I would not want to go to that extent because if the president concedes now our sovereignty of Scarborough Shoal, yes, you can impeach him," the justice was quoted as saying by the Philippines Star. He added that if Manila gives in, the country would never be able to recover the disputed territory even if the matter is taken to court.
"Once we lose sovereignty over Scarborough Shoal, we lose it forever. I would not want to wait for that time because we cannot recover it anymore," Carpio reportedly said.
The Constitution of the Philippines states that the national territory of the country comprises the "Philippine archipelago, with all the islands and waters embraced therein, and all other territories over which the Philippines has sovereignty or jurisdiction, consisting of its terrestrial, fluvial and aerial domains, including its territorial sea, the seabed, the subsoil, the insular shelves, and other submarine areas". The constitution allows impeachment of the head of the state on charges of treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of the public trust, the paper noted.