Lorenzana refutes Duterte on threat to Yanks in South
There’s little substance to fears that US soldiers could be high-value targets for reprisal by Moro rebels, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told lawmakers on Wednesday, refuting the rationale for President Duterte’s wish to see the pullout of the Americans from Mindanao.
“As for the President’s fears that they might be subject to reprisal by the Muslims, it is a little bit unfounded because they are in their camp, and they don’t go out of the camp when they’re alone or they are also armed,” the official said.|
Lorenzana, who appeared at the House of Representatives to defend his department’s P178 billion proposed budget for 2017, said the concerns raised about the safety of the US troops might be “misplaced.”
“Let us remember, your honor, that these people are also combatants. They are not civilians that are subject to kidnapping by terrorists. When they go around, I think they go to Cebu or Manila but they don’t spend their time unarmed in the area of Mindanao,” he said.
On Monday, Mr. Duterte said the US Special Forces in Mindanao “have to go… They have to (leave) Mindanao. There are many (Americans) there,” the President said in a recent speech at Malacañang.
Lorenzana said the President did not consult the Cabinet security cluster on these matters and was apparently just speaking his mind.
Speaking at the same hearing, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Ricardo Visaya said the military would nontheless fully support the withdrawal of US troops, if ordered by Mr. Duterte.
“He is our commander-in-chief and we are always behind him,” he said.
Lorenzana said there were at present only 107 American soldiers in Zamboanga.
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