Palace summons US envoy over intel report's 'threat' tag vs Duterte

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 23 2018 05:25 PM | Updated as of Oct 06 2018 05:43 AM

MANILA - Malacañang on Thursday summoned United States Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim over a US intelligence report that branded President Rodrigo Duterte as among “threats” to democracy in Southeast Asia.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea summoned Kim on Thursday to discuss the Worldwide Threat Assessment Report published by US intelligence agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency.

In a statement, the US embassy said Kim explained to Medialdea that the Worldwide Threat Assessment Report published by the US Director of National Intelligence was "an annual assessment on conditions in each of the world’s various regions based on widely available information."

Roque said Medialdea instructed the Department of Foreign Affairs, through the Philippine Embassy in Washington D.C., to coordinate and engage with the US agencies involved in writing the assessment. 

“Medialdea further directed our embassy officials and staff in the US to provide the latter accurate information on the realities happening on the ground in the Philippines, including the actions taken by the President and his administration to promote socioeconomic development for the country and provide a safe and secure environment for all Filipinos, respecting at all times the rule of law,” Roque said in a statement.

The report published last week identified Duterte, along with ruling Thai officials and Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen, as among regional leaders who threaten democracy and human rights.

"In the Philippines, President Duterte will continue to wage his signature campaign against drugs, corruption, and crime. Duterte has suggested he could suspend the Constitution, declare a 'revolutionary government,' and impose nationwide martial law. His declaration of martial law in Mindanao, responding to the ISIS-inspired siege of Marawi City, has been extended through the end of 2018," the report said.

Roque has described the report as “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 on Thursday.

“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 and his threats to suspend the Constitution, declare a “revolutionary government,” and impose a nationwide martial law as among the reasons why the tough-talking leader was considered among “regional threats.”

The Worldwide Threat Assessment Report also cited findings of US democracy watchdog Freedom House, which alleged that the Philippines was among states that used 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.

Speaking to ANC on Thursday, 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 1986 case of Republic of Nicaragua against US military and paramilitary intervention. 

"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."

Ties between the Philippines and the United States had soured in the early months of Duterte's term amid US criticism of his drug war. A turnaround was seen when US President Donald Trump took power and commended the Philippine government's anti-drug campaign.