MANILA, Apr 20 (Mabuhay) — President Rodrigo R, Duterte is “unbothered” about rumors that a group of retired and active military officers has allegedly withdrawn support for him over his supposed silence on Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte believes that the military officers would have ousted him a long time ago if they believed that he was “useless”.
“Hindi po nababahala ang Presidente. Alam po ng Presidente na tapat siya sa Saligang Batas at alam po niya na nirirespeto din ng ating mga kasundaluhan ang ating Saligang Batas. Sabi nga po niya kung talaga siya ay inutil, matagal na siyang pinatalsik ng military (The President is not alarmed. The President knows that he has been faithful to the Constitution and he knows that the military also respects the Constitution. He said that if he is useless, he has long been ousted by the military),” he said in a virtual press briefing.
Roque said Duterte is confident that there is no reason for the military to remove him from office.
“Alam po niya na kung gugustuhin ng military, kahit sino ay pupuwedeng ipatanggal ng militar, pero kampante po siya na walang dahilan para naman umakto ng ganiyan ang ating kasundaluhan (He knows that if the military wants, they can remove him from office. But he is confident that there is no reason for the military to act that way),” he added.
He also dismissed the allegations as “hearsay”, noting that the military knows that now is not the time for politics.
“Kuwentong kutsero lang po iyan. Naniniwala po kami na lahat ng ating kasundaluhan ay tapat sa Republika at alam po nila na hindi po talaga panahon para sa pulitika ngayon (That’s just hearsay. We believe that the military is faithful to the Republic and we know that it’s not the time for politics),” he said.
Roque said Filipinos have only over a year to wait until they elect new leaders.
“Isang taon naman po mag-eeleksiyon na pupuwedeng halalin kung sino ang gusto nating halalin. Kung tingin nila na hindi karapat-dapat ang polisiya ng Presidente, huwag iboto ang magiging kandidato ng Presidente (In a year comes election so they can elect who they want to elect by that time. If they think the President’s policies are no longer worthy, then don’t vote for the candidate of the President),” he added.
He insisted that there is no need for Duterte to make remarks about Chinese vessels in the WPS since his alter egos, particularly Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana have already made public statements on the matter.
“Hindi ko po maintindihan kung ano pang gusto ng mga kritiko ni Presidente. Nagsasalita na po ang kalihim ng Foreign Affairs, nagsasalita na ang kalihim ng National Defense (I don’t understand what more critics of the President want. The Secretary of Foreign Affairs and National Defense have already spoken),” he said.
Citing the doctrine of qualified political agency, he said utterances of the alter egos are words of the President unless the President renounces them.
“Kapag hindi po dini-disown ng Presidente ang sinasabi ng kaniyang mga alter egos, parang siya na po ang nagsasalita, hindi na siya kinakailangang magsalita (If the President did not disown what his alter egos said, it is as if the statement came from him, he doesn’t need to speak about it),” he said.
Roque also pointed out that Duterte has already affirmed the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s (PCA) ruling in favor of the Philippines’ arbitration case against China’s expansive maritime claims in the disputed sea during the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in September 2020.
“He said that we will not give away any part of our territory, we believed that the West Philippine Sea dispute should be resolved under UNCLOS and that we stand by the arbitral decision,” he added.
PH must stand on own feet
Roque shrugged off suggestions made by political analysts to strengthen partnerships and security agreements with other countries for a common policy to defend the Philippines’ arbitral victory.
He said the Philippines has already entered into several agreements with countries such as the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the United States.
However, he lamented that such agreements have failed to prevent the growing militarization of China over the WPS.
“Wala tayong nakuhang tulong doon są ating kapartido sa Mutual Defense Treaty ang Estado Unidos so ang leksyon natin kinakailangan na tumayo sa dalawang paa (We did not get any help from the United States, our partner in the Mutual Defense Treaty then. So the lesson is we must stand on our own two feet),” he said.
China seized control of the Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal in a controversial standoff where China blocked the access of Filipino fishermen in the area in 2012. This prompted Manila to file a case before the international arbitration.
On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague, Netherlands ruled in favor of the Philippines’ petition, saying China has no legal basis to assert its supposedly historic rights over nearly the entire South China Sea.
He noted that the Philippines will have to learn to assert its national interest.
“In the end po, we have to assert our national interest at iyan po ang ginagawa ng ating Presidente (and that is what the President is doing),” he added. (MNS)