'It's a free country:' Palace says 'natural' for Duterte fans to hit back at critics

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 21 2019 01:00 PM

Skimmers perform a cheerdance routine critical of President Rodrigo Duterte. Gian Genoveza, IPO

MANILA- It is only "natural" for President Rodrigo Duterte's supporters to hit back at students who performed a cheerdance routine critical of the chief executive and his administration, Malacañang said Monday.

Just like how the students of the University of the Philippines Visayas in Miagao town and Iloilo City are free to criticize the President, his supporters too are free to air their reactions, Duterte's spokesman Salvador Panelo said.

"That's a very natural reaction to supporters of the President. It's a free country, they can react too," Panelo told reporters.

The students, part of the academic organization Skimmers, highlighted national issues in their cheerdance routine which has since become viral with over 170,000 views on YouTube.

Part of the group's routine was a criticism of President Duterte's close ties with China, as well as a joke, "let's kill this President! Charot!" which was inspired by a Korean pop song.

"It's a free country, they can dish out jokes, criticisms," Panelo said.

He added that the students may just be kidding and copying President Duterte's manner of speaking in their performance.

"Joke naman pala. Si Presidente din naman nagsasabi siya ng 'kill.' Baka ginagaya lang nila si Presidente," the Duterte spokesman said.

The viral performance however has made the Skimmers a target of attacks and harassment online.

Following the online attacks, the University Student Council, along with local college councils and other student organizations in UP Visayas “condemned the blatant acts of doxxing and harassment targeting members of the Skimmers academic organization.”

Panelo however downplayed the online harassment of students, saying it is only natural for President Duterte's supporters to react negatively.

"Natural lang yun na mag-react yan (Duterte's supporters). Siyempre ang dating sa kanila di sila (Skimmers) nagbibiro," he said.

(It's only natural for them to react because for them, it doesn't seem like a joke.)