BANGKOK - Palace officials on Friday belied reports that Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn told President Rodrigo Duterte to "behave" during his visit here for a regional summit.
A viral photo showing a digital copy of the the Bangkok Post frontpage with a headline "King orders PH Duterte, behave during ASEAN Summit" is "fake news," Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said in a press briefing here.
"We asked him (a reporter from Bangkok Post) if there was any truth to the front page and he said outright that it was fake news," Andanar said, while holding a physical copy of the Bangkok Post issue.
The actual newspaper had the same photos and layout, but instead of the alleged story about Duterte, one of its headlines read: "Suvit calls for Thailand to embrace 5G fast, or lag behind rivals."
The digital image, thus, appears to have been edited.
"I would remind everybody to be respectful to His Majesty, the King of Thailand. They have been very generous, very courteous and have been good hosts to us Filipinos and the rest of ASEAN," Andanar said.
"I would also like to remind everyone to be respectful to the good relations between the Philippines and Thailand, and not to create any fake news that would be detrimental to these relations," he said.
Presidential Spokesperson and chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo condemned the fake report and labelled it as "black propaganda" and a "cheap political stunt" against the Philippine President.
"The Office of the President expresses its indignation over this cheap political stunt aimed at embarrassing PRRD (President Rodrigo Roa Duterte), thereby humiliating our country which he represents before the global audience," he said in a statement.
"The political enemies of the President appear to have thrown decency to the garbage bin even as they parade themselves as a rambunctious minority in our country," he said.
Panelo warned that Thailand "has one of the strictest" laws against people who offend the dignity of a reigning sovereign.
Disrespecting the King of Thailand is a criminal offense punishable by imprisonment up to 15 years, Andanar said.
The National Bureau of Investigation has been tasked to trace the source of the fake report, the Communication chief said.
The false report surfaced online hours before Duterte arrived at the Royal Thai Air Force Base and a day before the opening of the 35th ASEAN Summit in the Thai capital.
- report from Vivienne Gulla, ABS-CBN News