Duterte spokesman says US report ‘myopic, speculative’
MANILA - Malacañang on Wednesday slammed a United States intelligence community report which branded President Rodrigo Duterte as a threat to democracy and human rights in Southeast Asia.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the World Threat Assessment, which identified Duterte, ruling Thai officials and Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen as among regional leaders who threaten democracy and human rights, “is myopic and speculative at best.”
"For one, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is no autocrat or has autocratic tendencies. He adheres to the rule of law and remains loyal to the Constitution. An autocracy is not prevalent, as they would like everyone to believe,” Roque said in a statement.
“Our media are still able to broadcast and print what they want - ‘fake news’ included. Our judiciary and the courts are functioning as usual. Our legislature remains independent and basic services are still being delivered.”
The US report cited Duterte’s war on drugs, threat to suspend the Constitution and declare a “revolutionary government,” and impose a nationwide martial law, as among the reasons the tough-talking leader was considered to be among the “regional threats.”
The World Threat Assessment Report also cited the findings of Freedom House, which lists the Philippine government as allegedly using social media to silence government critics.
“We note that more governments are using propaganda and misinformation in social media to influence foreign and domestic audiences,” the report read.
Roque defended the government’s use of social media, saying it is also being used by members of the political opposition. He noted other cause-oriented groups use the same media platform to advance their agenda.
“We have to understand the use of social media has become an important part of the daily lives of Filipinos. It is therefore foolhardy not to tap social media as a tool when the technology exists for free,” he said.
“I don't know of any government in the free world which does not use the internet and social media to promote its agenda. This is very true especially in the case of the US. This latest intelligence assessment is a classic case in point.”
Speaking to ANC, Roque said the report is something the Palace and even Duterte “will take seriously.”
"We view this declaration from no less than the intelligence department of the United States with some concern, knowing that at least in one case the International Court of Justice has found the US guilty of interference in the affairs of a domestic state," he added, citing the case of Republic of Nicaragua v. The United States of America.
"This is something we are taking very seriously. It is coming from the intelligence community. It is not even coming from the State Department. It is something that the President will take seriously as well."
Roque said the Philippines still wants to be friends with the US "but with declarations such as this, it is very difficult to be friendly with the United States...It doesn't seem to be too friendly a declaration."
Opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes IV said the assessment by the US intelligence community is fair given the number of people who died in the administration's war against drugs and the recent actions by the President which shows a "creeping dictatorship."
"If they're sensitive enough, they should look at it as some form of a warning shot that he's nearing that red line because domestically he's pushing boundaries because he's popular enough to do that," he told ANC Wednesday.
The International Criminal Court is proceeding with the preliminary examination of a communication filed by lawyer Jude Sabio, accusing President Duterte of crimes against humanity in connection of the drug war.
Trillanes, who has filed additional information on the case, said the international tribunal has communicated with him early January that they have enough materials to proceed with the preliminary probe.
Roque, for his part, said he does not believe the assessment report would affect a lawsuit filed against Duterte before the International Criminal Court since the US refused to be a member of the ICC.
Since assuming power, Duterte has sought to loosen up ties with the US, the Philippines treaty ally, partly because of then US President Barack Obama’s criticism of his war on drugs.
Ties between the Philippines and the US, however, have improved, when Republican Donald Trump won the elections. Trump is seen to be less critical of Duterte, and at one point reportedly praised the Filipino leader for “doing a great job.”