Duterte on Philippine military: ‘If we can’t work together, what’s the point?’

John Gabriel Agcaoili, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 20 2021 02:03 AM | Updated as of Apr 20 2021 03:08 AM

Duterte on Philippine military: ‘If we can’t work together, what’s the point?’ 1
President Rodrigo Duterte presides over a meeting at the Malacañang Golf (Malago) Clubhouse in Malacañang Park, Manila on March 15, 2021. King Rodriguez, Presidential Photo

MANILA (UPDATE)—President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said he was discouraged when he caught wind of talk that some generals and officers planned to withdraw their support to him because of his position on the Chinese incursion into Philippine waters. 

"Talagang downhearted ako (I was really downhearted)," Duterte said in an aired public briefing. "If we cannot work together with (inaudible) . . . Maybe we cannot work together on bigger things. So what's the point?"

According to Duterte, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana submitted to him a document "full of foolery" during a command conference with the heads of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). 

Neither Duterte nor Lorenzana, who participated in the briefing online, elaborated on the document's contents or who was behind it.

The President also mentioned a general who was the point of concern of the meeting, but he did not give a name.

Duterte reiterated his past statement that if the heads of the AFP branches ask him to step down, he will resign and go home to Davao City.

"Sinabi ko talaga sa kanila, 'I do not work where I'm not needed. Then kayo na mag-explain, explain to the Filipino people bakit ganu'n'," Duterte said.

(I told them, 'I do not work where I'm not needed. You explain to the Filipino people why I resigned.')

"If I cannot have the cooperation of the Armed Forces, then there's no point in working for this government," he added, bringing up his preference of assigning retired military generals as his administration's government officials, rather than civilians.

A viral social media post last week alleged 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."

But Malacañang, the Department of National Defense and the AFP have denied allegations that some active and retired generals have withdrawn support for the Chief Executive, describing the reports as hogwash.

Manila has filed several protests against Beijing due to some 240 boats that are fishing illegally and gathering in the Philippine exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea. 

The Department of Foreign Affairs summoned Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian to press for the withdrawal of Chinese vessels at Julian Felipe Reef, which is part of the West Philippine Sea. 

But Duterte has maintained his stance that the Manila cannot do anything about Beijing's claim in the disputed territory, arguing the Philippines cannot avoid bloodshed should it decide to take back its territory by force. 

Beijing's sweeping claims over almost the entire South China Sea had been declared to have no legal basis by a UN-backed arbitration court.

Officials and the public have slammed Duterte for what they perceive is a weak stance on China, accusing him of cowing to President Xi Jinping, whom the President has called as his "most important friend."

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