Carlos: Transcript of China call ‘twisted, manipulated’

Carlos: Transcript of China call ‘twisted, manipulated’

The former chief of the Western Command says he did not consent to the recording of his phone conversation with the Chinese military attaché. He condemns the transcript that was published for promoting Beijing’s ‘corrosive narrative.’
By: - Reporter / @santostinaINQ
/ 05:30 AM May 23, 2024

Carlos: Transcript of China call ‘twisted, manipulated’

Former AFP Western Command Chief Alberto Carlos (left) with DND Usec. Ignacio Madriaga during the Senate hearing on wiretapping on Wednesday. —Inquirer/Marianne Bermudez

MANILA, Philippines — The former chief of the Western Command (Wescom) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines on Wednesday admitted speaking on the phone with a Chinese official early this year, but denied entering into a secret deal that would “redefine” Philippine foreign policy and “compromise” the national interest in the West Philippine Sea.

Vice Adm. Alberto Carlos told senators inquiring into the alleged wiretapping of a phone conversation with a Chinese Embassy officer that he received a call from the embassy’s military attaché, whom he identified as Senior Colonel Li, and they talked for about three to five minutes last January.


READ: Ex-Wescom head Carlos breaks silence: No ‘new model’ talks with China


Carlos, who was removed from his post last week, is at the center of a controversy over the embassy’s claim that senior Philippine security officials had allegedly agreed to a “new model” arrangement to ease tensions between Manila and Beijing whenever Philippine vessels resupply troops at the Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal outpost.

The Chinese Embassy distributed copies of a transcript of a part of the alleged tapped phone conversation in which Carlos supposedly confirmed four times that his superiors had agreed to the deal to transport only food, water and humanitarian supplies to the outpost—the BRP Sierra Madre, the aging and rusted warship grounded on the shoal.

Nothing on ‘new model’

“I thought he was just going to greet me ‘Happy New Year,’” he said of the caller. “We did not discuss the ‘new model.’ The terms ‘common understanding, new model’ were not part of our conversation.”

Carlos said he had a “casual and informal” conversation with the Chinese official.

“But I condemned the act of the Chinese Embassy to record the conversation without my consent much more to divulge it to the public with malicious twists and manipulation in order to appear that our discussion supported the corrosive narratives of the PRC (People’s Republic of China),” he said.

He told the hearing that he was aware of stories about him making “secret deals” with Chinese officials.


“These are completely false,” Carlos said in the statement he read during the hearing. “I did not forge any agreement at the level and magnitude that would bind our two countries for the long term and redefine foreign policy.”

Reacting to Carlos’ statements, Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry, said his removal from his post was the “exact evidence” of the agreement on managing the situation at Ayungin, which China calls Ren’ai Jiao.

“The Philippines’ persistent denial and breach of commitment—and blaming it all on China—shows exactly their guilty conscience and who is acting in bad faith, infringing the other side’s sovereignty and making provocations on Ren’ai Jiao,” Wang said in Beijing.

‘A loyal servant’

Carlos said he was “only” the commander of the Wescom and “not even of the entire West Philippine Sea” who had tried his best to “operationalize the President’s marching orders to deescalate the tension in my area of operation.”

He stressed, however, that he was not authorized to enter into any agreement with another country.

“And I will never pretend to be my country’s authority on matters regarding policy and country-to-country agreements. That should have been obvious to China officials, as it is obvious to everyone else,” Carlos said.

“I have not given up our sovereign rights and entitlements. I am a soldier for the Filipino. I remain a loyal servant of the Republic,” he said. “We are on the same team. Let us be united against this false narrative.”

Addressing the senators and the Filipino public, he said the “front-liners” on the Sierra Madre, the Wescom, the Philippine Coast Guard and other agencies involved in the rotation and resupply (Rore) missions to Ayungin need “all the support we can give them.”

“Let us continue to stand by them and give them strength,” he added.

Ready to bare more

He said the phone call from the Chinese military attaché followed the China Coast Guard’s water cannon attack in December 2023 on the Filipino supply boats that were headed to Ayungin.

He told the senators that the embassy officer sent him a message two days before Wednesday’s hearing but he did not reply.

He said he was willing to disclose other details of the phone conversation and the “operational concept” of Rore missions in an executive session.

Foreign Assistant Secretary for Asia and the Pacific Affairs Aileen Mendiola-Rau said they had not summoned the Chinese ambassador regarding the alleged wiretapping.

She explained that they could only do so if there is evidence of the alleged act, adding that diplomats enjoy immunities and privileges unless these are withdrawn.

Wiretapping probe

Senior State Counsel Fretti Ganchoon of the Department of Justice (DOJ) said the DOJ, through the National Bureau of Investigation, was doing its own probe.

Ganchoon said it was the first time they heard Carlos’ statements on the alleged wiretapping.

“We were also not sure before of the truthfulness, the authenticity of the transcript,” she said. “But we have a testimony now that we can use that indeed there was a call and it was recorded, so it can be considered as a violation of the antiwiretapping law,” Ganchoon said.

“And in fairness to the DFA they also did not know of the truthfulness of this transcript because anything that comes from our friend, from our neighbor, we treat it very carefully because we are in the middle of a fight for the West Philippine Sea,” she added.

AFP chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. earlier said that Beijing may have used “deepfake” audio recording to fabricate proof of the alleged “new model” arrangement.

Sen. Jinggoy Estrada said he would file remedial measures against the apparent manipulation of a wiretapped phone conversation between a ranking AFP official and a Chinese military attaché “to make it appear that a secret deal was hatched to handle tensions in the West Philippine Sea.”

Sen. Francis Tolentino vouched for Carlos’ competence and integrity.

“Let the record reflect that no amount of downgrading of a person’s reputation can besmirch his records in the military service,” he said.

Carlos was supposed to retire at age 56 in December 2023, but his service as Wescom commander was extended to December this year.

Prior to his appointment as Philippine fleet commander in 2019, he was AFP deputy chief of staff for logistics. He also served as a ship captain, a Navy aviator and head of the Naval Combat Engineering Brigade.

Carlos was sent by the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, where he graduated with merit in 1989 with a degree in computer science. He was part of PMA Class of 1989.

In 2008, he completed his General Staff Course at the Naval Command College-People’s Liberation Army-Navy in Nanjing, China.

He is the younger brother of former Philippine National Police chief Dionardo Carlos.

Col. Francel Margareth Padilla, the AFP spokesperson, told reporters that Carlos was now assigned to the General Headquarters Support Command.

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Commodore Roy Vincent Trinidad, the Philippine Navy spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea, told a press briefing on Wednesday that the military would not investigate Carlos. —with reports from Nestor Corrales, Frances Mangosing, Jane Bautista and Inquirer Research

TAGS: Alberto Carlos, Wescom

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