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Palace: Duterte unbothered by rumors of withdrawal of military support
President Rodrigo Duterte witnesses the conferment of the Order of Lapu-Lapu to soldiers in his visit to Kuta Heneral Teodulfo Bautista Headquarters in Jolo, Sulu on January 22, 2021.
Presidential photo/Rey Baniquet

Palace: Duterte unbothered by rumors of withdrawal of military support

Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - April 19, 2021 - 8:50pm

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte is not bothered by reports that some retired and active soldiers are planning to withdraw their support for him over his supposed silence on China's incursions in the West Philippine Sea, Malacañang said Monday.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque dismissed as a "kwentong kutsero" or hearsay claims that some soldiers no longer support Duterte's leadership and expressed confidence that the military would continue to respect the constitution.

"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 (The president is not bothered. The president knows that he is loyal to the constitution and he knows that our soldiers respect our constitution)," Roque said at a press briefing.

"Kwentong 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 (It's just hearsay. We believe that all of our soldiers are loyal to the republic and they know that this is not the time for politics)," he added.

Roque said Duterte is aware that the armed forces could oust him anytime if they want to. 

The president had said that the military would have removed him from his post for a long time if he were incompetent, the Palace spokesman added.

"He (Duterte) knows that the military can have anybody ousted but he is confident that there is no reason for soldiers to act that way," Roque said in Filipino.

"Elections will be held in a year and we can elect the person we want to elect. If they think the policies of the president are not acceptable, then do not vote for the candidate of the president," he added.

Rumors have been swirling about the alleged existence of a Viber group composed of hundreds of active and retired military officers who want Duterte to condemn China's actions in the West Philippine Sea.

The rumors surfaced after the Philippine government filed diplomatic protests against the presence of several Chinese ships in the Julian Felipe Reef, which is within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.

Twitter user @infopsph, which floated the supposed existence of the Viber group, claimed that the withdrawal of military support is "probable" unless Duterte condemns China's actions.

The military and the defense department have dismissed the supposed plan of some soldiers to withdraw their support for the President  as "fake news."

Roque said he could not understand why critics want Duterte to speak about the West Philippine Sea issue even if the defense and foreign affairs departments have issued strong statements on the maritime row.

"(We have the) doctrine of qualified political agency. If the president did not disown what his alter egos said, it would be as if he is the one talking. He does not need to talk," Roque said in Filipino.

"The constitutional doctrine says that the utterances of the alter egos are utterances of the President unless the president renounces them, and he did not renounce them. So those remain official utterances of the highest officialdom of government," he added.

Roque said while the Philippines has collective security arrangements, including the Mutual Defense Treaty with the US, it has to stand on its own feet with regard to the West Philippine Sea issue.

"Based on our experience, while we have documents stating that we will be assisted if we are attacked, we lost two islands and we did not ger any help fro our partner in the Mutual Defense Treaty, which is the United States," he said.

"The lesson is we need to stand on our own feet... In the end, we have to assert our national interest and that is what the President is doing," he added.

Roque said Duterte has vowed not to give away any part of the Philippines' territory during the United Nations General Assembly.

ARMED FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE WEST PHILIPPINE SEA
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