MANILA - Opposition lawmakers on Tuesday slammed President Rodrigo Duterte's joke of turning the Philippines into a province of China.
The President had made the quip late Monday at an event attended by Filipino-Chinese businessmen.
Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano, Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao, and Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV did not find Duterte's joke funny, saying issues of sovereignty are serious matters.
"The President should be reminded that our territorial integrity and sovereignty are issues that should never be joked about," Alejano said.
Casilao said Duterte's remarks show the government's defeatist stand on the maritime dispute in the South China Sea, where China has successfully made and fortified artificial islands.
"He only acts tough against opposition, critics and poor Filipinos, but with China, he had the audacity to even [go] too far to make the Philippines a province of China. That is very unpatriotic," he said.
Trillanes, meanwhile, said it is not appropriate for the President to make such jokes.
"...We need to call it out at 'yung mga statement na ganyan ay talagang mapagsasamantalahan 'yan ng China. Sa akin, especially on that issue, hindi appropriate na magbiro siya ng ganyan," he said.
(We need to call out those kinds of statements by the President because China might abuse it. For me, especially on that issue, it's not proper for him to make that kind of joke.)
Malacañang on Tuesday defended the President's remarks, saying it was only meant to show that the Philippines was "one with China."
Sen. Gringo Honasan also defended the President, saying his jokes should not be taken seriously and that the public should instead focus on the chief executive's policies.
“What we need is to fill up the policy vacuum. Dapat ang economic policy, foreign policy, security policy [clear] para we will develop... to protect our integrity, our territorial integrity, our sovereignty,” he said, noting that he sees the President's policies clearly.
(Our economic policy, foreign policy, and security policy should be clear so that we can protect our integrity, our territorial integrity, our sovereignty.)
-- with reports from RG Cruz and Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News