MANILA - A founding member of a pro-Duterte group said on Wednesday critics of President Duterte should just present their case against the president after the latter steps down in 2022.
"It's fine. But let him do his job. Then after his term, you present your case," Citizen National Guard founding member Horacio Gonzales, a former director of the Department of National Defense, said in an ANC interview.
Another founding member, Antonio Valdes, added that "enemies of the state" are out not only to replace Duterte but also to create chaos in the country.
Asked if these "enemies" are the same as those who express political dissent, the former undersecretary of the Education Department said the burden of proof is on the critics.
"We will not differentiate that. I don't think we (as a group) should. It is they (critics) who should differentiate them (enemies) from there. If you are a political opponent, why don't you stand up categorically and say we are not pushing for regime change?" he said.
"Don't say that we're not destabilizers. You say, 'it is our interest and the interest of the country that Mr. Duterte continues as the president for the rest of his term,'" he added.
Organizers earlier said the Citizen National Guard is composed of retired soldiers and other supporters of President Duterte. During the group's launch last week, CNG organizers said the group's mission is to protect the Duterte administration from so-called "enemies of the state," including what it describes as "yellowtards" or "seditious political opposition".
"Enemies of the state" include Islamic State-inspired terrorists, Communist rebels, drug cartels, and foreign intelligence agencies pushing to replace the Duterte administration.
Members of the opposition, like Senator Bam Aquino and Kiko Pangilinan, earlier said they are not calling for regime change, but only change in the approach to the war against drugs.
"Naghahanap sila ng pantapal para malihis ang atensyon ng media at ng mamamayan sa alingasngas ng corruption, drug smuggling ng Davao group, at ang palpak na drug war na araw-araw ang patayan. Pekeng ouster plot," Pangilinan said.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana also earlier said he and the military officials are not aware of any destabilization plot against the government.
"Like you and the other, also the Chief of Staff, we just saw that on the news and also on TV, so we are still trying to find out who they are, kung ano ba talaga ito, what is their purpose," said Lorenzana, who heads the Cabinet Cluster on National Security.
Valdes said it is not enough that critics say they are not destabilizers. "They should be president if they think they can handle it differently,' he said.
"That's not enough, especially in the light of what's going on right now. A denial of being a destabilizer and somebody working for regime change is like admitting that you're already seditious. Unless you got really patriotic opposition members."
'PHILIPPINES WITHOUT DUTERTE IS CHAOS'
Valdes said the President is the only one keeping the country intact right now.
"We perceive that the President is the linchpin. He's the only one keeping the republic intact despite all of these sectors that want their interest to pursue their interest," he said.
"When you pull him out there will be chaos, and chaos is the objective of the enemies of the state. Once there is no strong leader, once the kind leadership is not there, all of these sectors will be able to achieve what they really want to achieve," he added.
Gonzales said the group plotting to unseat Duterte has a lot of resources to make it appear that they are a big group.
"Conspiracy to oust the President? You can see that in the papers, you can see that on TV, you can hear that on radio -- it's everywhere," explained Gonzales when asked to explain his sources.
"They make themselves appear like they are a big group because they have, perhaps, resources to provide those who become their loud speakers. I'm sorry, that's media."
Gonzales said he sees shades of what happened to ousted President Joseph "Erap" Estrada in what this group wants to achieve. But Valdes sees a more violent scenario like the one that happened to the deposed leader of Libya Muammar Gaddafi.
"To me, it's shades of what they did to Gaddafi. You see, the objective of what happened in Libya was chaos," said Valdes.