Palace denies Duterte a ‘threat to democracy’
President Rodrigo Duterte is no autocrat, Malacañang said on Wednesday.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque branded as “myopic and speculative at best” a US Intelligence Community report that branded Mr. Duterte a threat to democracy and human rights.
Roque insisted that Mr. Duterte has no autocratic tendencies and that he follows the rule of law and the Constitution.
“An autocracy is not prevalent, as they would like everyone to believe. Our media are still able to broadcast and print what they want — ‘fake news’ included. Our judiciary and the courts are functioning as usual. Our legislature remains independent and basic services are still being delivered,” Roque said.
“There is no revolutionary government or nationwide martial law, which US intelligence officials are saying that the President might declare or impose,” he added.
The US assessment was released in the wake of Mr. Duterte’s decision to ban news website Rappler from covering his events, which Roque said was due to the President losing trust in it.
Rappler is the latest news organization to draw Mr. Duterte’s ire. He earlier accused the Inquirer and ABS-CBN of publishing “garbage” about him and hurled expletives at their owners.
Mr. Duterte also warned last year that he would ignore temporary restraining orders issued by courts in cases involving government projects.
Roque defended the Duterte administration’s use of social media to promote its message.
The opposition, as well as other governments do this as well, he said.
“We have to understand the use of social media has become an important part of the daily lives of Filipinos. It is therefore foolhardy not to tap social media as a tool when the technology exists for free,” he said.
Even the US government does this, he pointed out.
“I don’t know of any government in the free world [that] does not use the internet and social media to promote its agenda. This is very true especially in the case of the US. This latest intelligence assessment is a classic case in point,” he said.
The US Intelligence Community report, produced by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, places Mr. Duterte alongside Cambodian leader Hun Sen, the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar (Burma) and Thailand’s military-backed constitution as threats to democracy.
Democracy and human rights in many Southeast Asian nations would remain fragile in 2018 because of autocratic tendencies, rampant corruption and cronyism, the US Intelligence Community said in its Worldwide Threat Assessment report, dated Feb. 13.
“In the Philippines, President Duterte will continue to wage his signature campaign against drugs, corruption and crime,” the report read, adding that Mr. Duterte had suggested he could suspend the Constitution and declare a revolutionary government.
This is not the first time the United States has criticized Mr. Duterte, who is notorious for his defiance of international pressure.
Mr. Duterte was infuriated by expressions of concern by former US President Barack Obama’s administration about killings in his war on drugs.
More than 4,000 have been killed in what police call legitimate operations against suspected drug dealers and users under Mr. Duterte’s campaign against narcotics since July 2016.
Rights groups accused police of summary executions, which the authorities deny.
International Criminal Court prosecutors have opened a preliminary examination into a complaint against Mr. Duterte’s war on drugs.
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