Marcos-Duterte word war rages

Helen Flores, Diana Lhyd Suelto - The Philippine Star
Marcos-Duterte word war rages
This combination photo shows former President Rodrigo Duterte and his successor Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
Presidential Communications / Toto Lozano | Bongbong Marcos / Release

Marcos calls Duterte response to secret deal ‘nothing but excuses’

MANILA, Philippines — The word war between President Marcos and his predecessor Rodrigo Duterte continues, with the Chief Executive taking a jab at the former president’s possibly treasonous deal with China, but himself having to parry accusations of power lust.

At a forum organized by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines yesterday, Marcos said Duterte and his former officials were making too many excuses to justify his “gentleman’s agreement” with Chinese President Xi Jinping to keep the rusty BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal from undergoing repairs.

Meanwhile, at a “prayer rally” in Tagum City, Davao del Norte on Monday night, Duterte said Marcos was initiating Charter change to keep himself in power.

Marcos was asked at the FOCAP forum whether he would hold his predecessor accountable for the secret agreement that the President said undermined the country’s security and its sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea.

The President said he was trying to find out what the agreement “is all about” but was not getting straight answers.

“I’ve talked, I’ve tried to get in touch with former officials of the previous administration who could possibly have been involved in these discussions and I have to tell you I haven’t gotten a straight answer out of anyone,” Marcos said.

“I’m finding a (great) deal of difficulty in finding answers because I hear one thing, and another thing, and another thing. It’s all very – maraming palusot (too many excuses), in other words. I don’t know how to translate in English but maraming palusot,” he said.

He said one official of the previous administration claimed there was no secret pact while another party explained that the supposed arrangement between Duterte and Xi was only for a “status quo,” even as Duterte himself had admitted there was some agreement.

He said there are three questions that he wanted the Duterte camp to answer: Was there a secret agreement? What was in the secret agreement? And why was it kept secret?

The Chief Executive said he believes there is indeed a secret agreement between Duterte and Xi.

“I think by now we can see in fact that there was a secret agreement and what verifies that and what I think for me at least convinces me that there was in fact a secret agreement is the insistence of the Chinese government that there was a secret agreement,” he said.

Marcos believes Beijing would not be insisting on an agreement if there was none to begin with.


He, however, expressed belief that even with no less than Duterte himself admitting there was an agreement, there would be no way to hold him accountable, given that such a deal appears to be not only secret, but also verbal.

“I cannot see how there could be possibly any legal liability if there is no evidence of any agreement,” Marcos said.

“Is there a document that was signed? I’d love to see it. It does not affect the Philippines and if there is, I’ve said that before when this first came out a few months ago... Should there be such a secret agreement, I am now rescinding it,” the President said.

“We are so far from getting to the truth, to… the thing, so far away from it yet. It’s very hard to give a reaction to those (accountability of Duterte) questions,” he said.

Marcos earlier said he would meet with Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian to clarify the supposed secret deal between Duterte and Xi.

In an interview in San Juan before flying to Washington last week, Marcos said he was “horrified” by the secret agreement, warning that it could have compromised the country’s “territory, sovereignty and sovereign rights.”

Harry Roque, who served as Duterte’s presidential spokesman, earlier said the Philippines and China agreed to keep the status quo in the territorial waters, meaning only basic supplies, not building materials, would be delivered to the Sierra Madre which serves as an outpost for a handful of troops.

But former Duterte chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo said there was no such agreement.

In his remarks in Tagum City, Duterte did not mention anything about the controversy over his gentleman’s agreement with Xi, but called on his supporters to block what he claimed was President Marcos’ plan to stay in power after the end of his six-year term.

“Mr. President, be happy and finish your term of six years. Be content that God has given you the chance to serve the country in spite of the fact of your father’s unpleasant departure from office,” Duterte told the crowd attending his Hakbang ng Maisug prayer rally.

Remember fate of Marcos Sr.

Duterte, who started his speech by reading a provision of the Constitution on the term of office of the president and vice president, reminded Marcos of the fate of his father who was ousted in a bloodless revolution.

“I hope, Mr. President, you are able to recall what happened to your father. See to it (that you don’t follow) or you might find yourself in the same (circumstance) as your father,” he said.

Duterte also reminded the crowd that it was during the time of the President’s father and namesake that the Constitution was first changed to extend his term.

“The first one (Marcos Sr.) did not want to step down. Now this one (Marcos Jr.) is trying so hard to stay in power,” he said.

President Marcos earlier expressed his support for amending the economic provisions of the Constitution purportedly to boost the country’s economy.

Duterte, however, argued that changing the economic provision of Constitution is the usual excuse of proponents to pave way for other amendments like term extension.

“They will just remove the line ‘term of six years’ from it and add ‘eligible for re-election for another six years,’ until they die,” he claimed.

US propaganda

It was his son, meanwhile, Davao City Mayor Sebastian Duterte, who spoke about the West Philippine Sea issue, blaming the US for spreading propaganda to disrupt trade with China.

“That is just propaganda. The Americans are just trying to create a tiff to disrupt China’s trade route through the Indian and Atlantic Ocean,” the mayor said.

The Davao City mayor urged Filipinos not to take part in the power struggle between the two giant nations.

“It’s not about being pro-American or pro-China. What we want here is not to be engaged in something that has got nothing to do with us,” Mayor Duterte said.

He said there is nothing to gain and everything to lose for the Philippines if it takes sides in that power struggle.

The Davao mayor also said that it is big businessmen who are behind the warmongering.

Meanwhile, Sen. Risa Hontiveros said the Senate should investigate the conflicting statement of the former president and his men on the “gentleman’s agreement” with China.

“Duterte and his men all have conflicting claims. They are all a mess, like his government when he was the leader,” Hontiveros said.

“Their contradictory statements all the more require that the Senate resolution I filed be heard at the soonest possible time,” the senator said.

Hontiveros also said Duterte should stop saying that the West Philippine Sea was better managed during his time. — Cecille Suerte Felipe

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