“It’s nothing but an outrageous tale. We believe that all the military respect the Constitution and you know, it’s already time for politics. It’s just 12 months… before elections,” Roque said in a press briefing.
The Palace official made the statement after Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Gen. Cirilito Sobejana dismissed a supposed statement of retired and active military officers withdrawing their support from Duterte due to his weak stance against China.
“There is no reason for the military to forcibly remove the President from office. The military respects the Constitution. If the President were indeed useless, he would have been ousted by the military a long time ago,” Roque said.
Roque said concerned government agencies such as the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of National Defense have already repeatedly called on the Chinese vessels to leave the West Philippine Sea and there was no need for the President to speak.
“The utterances of the alter-egos are the official utterances of the President, unless they are renounced by the President,” Roque said.
The UN Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague issued a ruling in July 2016 rejecting China’s claim of sovereignty in the entire South China Sea.
Th ruling, which stemmed from a case filed by the Philippines against China in 2013 during the Aquino administration, also ruled that the Spratly Islands, Panganiban (Mischief) Reef, Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal and Recto (Reed) Bank are within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
Beijing, however, has refused to recognize the Philippines’ victory, and Chinese vessels, including warships, continue to be spotted in the West Philippine Sea.
Meanwhile, an online petition calling for Duterte to resign over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and his alleged subservience to China gathered more than 50,000 signatures days after it was launched.
“This statement will attest that people are no longer satisfied. If he doesn’t step down, then at least, the positive effect of this is it has made more people aware, made more people to be able to stand up and speak up,” Dr. Edelina De La Paz, chairperson of Health Alliance for Democracy, told ANC.
The Change.org petition titled “Save the Nation! Duterte Resign!” was initially signed by some 500 medical workers, lawyers, businessmen, members of the academe, media workers and civic leaders.
De La Paz said that for her, the petition is not a political statement but an authentic call for the President to step down.
Also on Monday, the University of the Philippines Vanguard urged the government to protect what is rightfully ours.”
“The UP Vanguard Inc. expresses its grave concern over the continued presence of Chinese militia vessels along the Julian Felipe Reef and its utmost support to the positions of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. for the Chinese militia’s immediate withdrawal from Philippine waters,” the group said in a statement.
“The West Philippine Sea is recognized as one of the most important waterways in the world as it is used by the international community to navigate trade. The freedom to navigate these waters is also of international concern.
“As part of the international community, we should all be bound by the spirit of amity under the rule of law. Might is not right. The sincerity of nations is borne by their actions and willingness to address issues using international mechanisms available and be bound by the outcomes within the framework of the rule of law.
“The Republic of the Philippines and the People’s Republic of China are both state parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Any territorial dispute concerning the sea should, therefore, be resolved in accordance with the said international law.”
Also on Monday, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Cirilito Sobejana denied claims on social media that he is part of a Viber group consisting of 300 ranking military officials planning unauthorized movements to address issues in the West Philippine Sea.
“The AFP trusts the government’s management of the situation in the disputed area and its diplomatic thrust in protecting the sovereignty and sovereign rights of our country,” he said in a statement forwarded to reporters Sunday night.
Sobejana also branded as “fake information” claims that there is a group of retired and active military officials planning to withdraw support for President Rodrigo R. Duterte.
“Nevertheless, the military leadership takes cognizance of the presence of individuals and groups that are determined and are engaged in orchestrated efforts to undermine the government,” he added.
Talk of a military grumbling came as Filipino and American troops staged military maneuvers in this year’s Balikatan exercise.
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