MANILA — Malacañang on Monday dismissed as hearsay the rumors that some military generals have withdrawn their support for President Rodrigo Duterte over his alleged failure to condemn Chinese incursion into Philippine waters.
A Twitter account last week claimed that nearly 500 junior and senior military officers wanted Duterte to "denounce China’s invasion in the strongest possible terms", and that "a withdrawal of support is very imminent."
"Kuwentong kutsero lang po 'yan," said Palace spokesman Harry Roque. "Naniniwala po kami na lahat ng ating kasundaluhan, tapat sa Republika at alam po nila, hindi po talaga panahon para sa pulitika ngayon."
(That's just hearsay. We believe that all our soldiers are faithful to the Republic, and they know that now is not the time for politics.)
Asked if the President would initiate a loyalty check, Roque said, "Hindi po nababahala ang Presidente."
(The president is not bothered.)
"Alam po ng Presidente, tapat siya sa Saligang Batas at alam po n’ya, nirerespeto rin ng ating kasundaluhan ang ating Saligang Batas... Kampante po siya na walang dahilan para naman umakto nang ganyan ang ating kasundaluhan," he said in a press briefing.
(The President knows that is faithful to the constitution and he knows that our military respects our constitution. He is confident that there is no reason for our soldiers to act that way.)
Duterte has not addressed the Chinese incursion because his aides have spoken on the issue, said Roque.
"Kapag hindi po dini-disown ng Presidente ang sinasabi ng kaniyang mga alter egos, parang siya na ang nagsasalita. Hindi na siya kinakailangan magsalita," he said.
(If the President does not disown what his alter egos say, it's like it was he who said those. He does not need to speak.)
The Department of Foreign Affairs has filed several protests against some 240 boats that are allegedly fishing illegally and massing in the Philippine exclusive economic zone.
The agency also summoned Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian to press for the withdrawal of its vessels at Julian Felipe Reef.
DFA Secretary Teodoro Locsin said on Twitter, "they really are fishing everything in the water that belongs by law to us."
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said "the continued presence of Chinese maritime militias in the area reveals their intent to further occupy (areas) in the West Philippine Sea."
Since coming to power in 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte has criticized US foreign policy and sought to improve ties with Beijing, but China's maritime assertiveness has put him in a difficult spot at times.
The Philippine navy planned to deploy 3 more ships in the South China Sea, within which is the Philippines' territorial waters.
"We have to understand that to say that one area is ours, we have to be there," army spokesman Major General Edgard Arevalo said.
– With a report from Reuters