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US envoy summoned to Palace over report

United States Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim was summoned to Malacañang yesterday to explain a “US Intelligence Community” report that cited President Duterte in a portion that discussed “threats” to Southeast Asian democracy.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque told reporters that, in behalf of the President, Executive Salvador Medialdea met with Kim regarding the matter.
Roque, however, did not discuss details of discussions between Medialdea and Kim.
The US Intelligence Community in its Worldwide Threat Assessment released on February 13, included Mr. Duterte in its “regional threats” which also tagged Cambodian leader Hun Sen, Myanmar officials over its treatment of the Rohingya crisis and the Thai government’s militarization woes.
“In the Philippines, President Duterte will continue to wage his signature campaign against drugs, corruption, and crime,” it said.
“Duterte has suggested he could suspend the Constitution, declare a ‘revolutionary government,’ and impose nationwide martial law. His declaration of martial law in Mindanao, responding to the ISIS-inspired siege of Marawi City, has been extended through the end of 2018,” it added.
However, Roque said that Medialdea instructed Philippine Embassy officials in Washington to seek to correct perceptions contained in the US assessment.

“Executive Secretary Medialdea likewise instructed the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), through our Philippine embassy in Washington D.C., to coordinate and engage with the US agencies involved in the writing of the assessment,” Roque said.
“The Executive Secretary further directed our embassy officials and staff in the US to provide the latter accurate information on the realities happening on the ground in the Philippines,” he added.
Roque said that instead of reporting negatively about the Duterte administration, Philippine Embassy officials in the US should promote the Duterte administration’s positive policies.
Among those that Roque said he wanted pointed out are “[the promotion of] socioeconomic development for the country and provide a safe and secure environment for all Filipinos, respecting at all times the rule of law.”
US says source was annual report
The United States Embassy said Kim explained the nature of the report as an annual assessment on conditions in each of the world’s various regions based on widely available information.
”Their discussion focused on the references to the Philippines in the report, including clarifying that the information about the Philippines had been previously reported by media sources,” the embassy said in a statement.
According to Molly Koscina, press attache of the embassy, the meeting was requested by Medialdea.
For its part, the embassy underscored the US government’s commitment to continue cooperation with the government of the Philippines.
Additionally, it bared “shared interests and possibilities for expanding” partnership was even discussed.
”The meeting ended with both Executive Secretary Medialdea and Ambassador Kim reaffirming the strength of the broad and deep bilateral relationship,” it said.
The report merely provided an overview and assessment of conditions in all regions, and added the two countries remain “friends, partners, and allies”, according to the statement.
Koscina pointed out that the United States and the Philippines are “longstanding friends, partners, and allies.”
“We have a range of shared interests and continue to work with the Government of the Philippines and look forward to expanding our relationship across numerous fields, from defense cooperation to development aid, over the coming year,” she said.
As the United States is committed to the rule of law and respect for human rights, Koscina said the US also reiterates calls on other governments to do the same.
Last Thursday, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez called on the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to file a diplomatic protest against the US, saying this reflects meddling in the country’s domestic affairs.
The DFA has not yet given a statement.
Far from reality on ground
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, meanwhile, dismissed the US report, saying that it seemed to be merely based on the headlines of international media outfits.
Gatchalian pointed out, that most of what was written in the report missed the point and was far from the reality on the ground.
“I read that report. My analysis is that sentence is based on headlines that they read in international papers or international media outfits,” he said.
“That analysis (report) is based on the things that they read in the headlines. But if you go deeper into details, especially on the actions of the President, this is not what he does,” Gatchalian said.
While President Duterte did say in the past that he might be “tempted” to suspend the Constitution and impose nationwide martial law, Gatchalian noted the Chief Executive’s penchant for exaggeration and said that the Filipino people “are all used to that exaggeration.”
He said that for him, “actions speak louder than words” and the President’s actions were far from what the US intelligence report was implying.
“The report said there will be a suspension of the Constitution but there is no way to suspend the Constitution because we have a Senate that will prevent that from happening,” he said.
“It was stated there that the President will expand martial law but the President went to Congress to seek advice and to seek permission to expand martial law in Mindanao, and it was affirmed by the Supreme Court. So as we can see, we have a mechanism in place to prevent that from happening,” Gatchalian stressed.
Duterte placed the entire Mindanao under martial law after Islamic State-inspired terrorists attacked Marawi last May 23, 2017.
On his request, lawmakers extended martial law until December 31, 2017.
Due to the continued threat of terrorism, Congress approved anew Duterte’s request to further extend martial law in Mindanao for another year, or until the end of 2018.
On all counts, the Supreme Court upheld the validity of martial law in the region.


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