Duterte backs out of debate on China


President Rodrigo R. Duterte has backed out of a debate with a critic of his China policy and asked his spokesman to represent him instead.

The President heeded the advice of Cabinet members and two senators not to proceed with the debate because nothing good would come out of it, presidential spokesman Herminio L. Roque, Jr. told a televised news briefing on Friday.

Mr. Duterte earlier dared retired Supreme Court Justice Antonio T. Carpio, who has criticized him for failing to stop China’s militarization of the South China Sea, to a debate.

Mr. Roque said said it would not be fair to the President to debate with Mr. Carpio, who is now just an ordinary citizen.

He said the Philippine Bar Association, which volunteered to host the debate, should tell the time and venue and he would be there.

Mr. Duterte on Wednesday night belittled the country’s 2016 legal victory against China, saying an international tribunal’s decision rejecting China’s claim to more than 80% of the South China Sea was just a piece of paper that could end up in a trash bin.

He also challenged Mr. Carpio, a critic of the government’s response in the South China Sea, to a debate on the issue. The retired justice accepted the challenge. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

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