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President Rodrigo Roa Duterte talks to the troops during his visit to the Edwin Andrews Air Base in Zamboanga City on July 3, 2020. ROBINSON NIÑAL JR./PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

DND, AFP dismiss rumors of military officers' withdrawal of support for Duterte

(Philstar.com) - April 18, 2021 - 3:53pm

MANILA, Philippines — The country's top defense officials on Sunday dismissed rumors on social media that a group of retired and active military officers have withdrawn support for President Rodrigo Duterte, supposedly over his silence on Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea. 

Rumors of a supposed Viber group of disgruntled military officials and retired generals started on Twitter earlier in the week and the Palace announced Wednesday that the president would give a "public address" that night. But Duterte did not mention the West Philippine Sea in the recording of the meeting that the Palace aired.

Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Sunday described the rumor as "irresponsible propaganda" and urged those behind it to stop, stressing that the country is in the middle of a COVID-19 pandemic.

"I am not, and will never be, a part of any such group," he said. "Such disinformation is an act of reckless agitation emanating from detractors, who have a limited and myopic appreciation of issues."

Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, also sought to quash the rumor,  saying it is meant to stir panic and confusion. 

"We will focus on our mission and continue to perform our constitutional mandate," he said in a separate statement. "We will veer away, as we appeal to all quarters, to spare your AFP from partisan politics."

AFP: No foreign 'warplanes' in Clark

Sobejana also denied social media posts saying "warplanes" from several countries have landed in the Clark Airbase in Pampanga. 

This comes in the wake of diplomatic protests from the Philippines on the presence of Chinese vessels at Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef. The reef is part of the country's Exclusive Economic Zone, but China has maintained it is within its maritime borders.

"The AFP is on normal alert as opposed to the claim of that spurious sender," Sobejana said. "We advise the public to remain calm and dismiss them as another disinformation."

Duterte has made it a priority to foster good relationship with soldiers and cops. He has hiked their salaries and as the pandemic swept through the country, personally saw to it that they would be included in the priority sectors to COVID-19 vaccines. — Christian Deiparine

ARMED FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES CIRILITO SOBEJANA DELFIN LORENZANA DEPARTMENT OF NATIONAL DEFENSE RODRIGO DUTERTE WEST PHILIPPINE SEA
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