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Duterte expecting a coup?

12 July 2019

President Rodrigo R. Duterte has raised questions when he pleaded with the military and the police not to stage a coup d' etat against him when he spoke on July 2 for the 72nd anniversary of the Philippine Air Force at Villamor Air Base in Pasay City

“I know that the Armed Forces and the police will have to decide one day, somehow,” he said.

But he said, “Do not do it, please, during my term.”

He added: “I told you before: Kung ayaw ninyo ako, do not bring your weapons and mechanized armors there. Just call me and we will have coffee and I am ready to say: ‘It’s yours.’”

President Rodrigo Duterte salutes one of the wounded soldiers he visited at Camp Navarro General Hospital in Zamboanga City on July 3, 2019. Robinson Niñal Jr./Presidential Photo

As if to reinforce his plea, the President also promised: “I assure you that this administration will continue to pursue all efforts to enhance your capabilities against these threats through modernization and capacity building initiatives such as the Military Pilot Training and your conduct for all qualified student officers, thereby assuring a strong future for our Air Force.”

He reminded the military sector of past favors: “And during my time, I have never said no to any of the commanders and to (Defense Secretary) Delfin Lorenzana and to Secretary (Hermogenes) Esperon all the things that they wanted for our Armed Forces even to the police.”

Duterte’s meekness did not escape Jose Maria “Joma” Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

He told the Inquirer: “Duterte is having coup jitters. He is feeling the heat and is getting wet in his pants.”


Sison said Duterte now anticipates that the people “can rise in gigantic mass actions against his traitorous, tyrannical, brutal and corrupt regime and the military and police can turn against him as they did against Marcos and Estrada.”

But the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) rejected Sison’s assertion.

What could have prompted Duterte's comments, when recent surveys indicate his popularity is even rising?


Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo speculated: “Could be dahil, otherwise, hindi sila nagsasalita ng ganoon eh. Meron siguro siyang info, very reliable,”

He added: "The premise here is that under the Constitution the AFP is the protector of the people. So if the military knows that there has been so much mischief, so much corruption — as the President was saying, there’s the Manila Water contract that is so onerous. The military knows that. So it will react: Why is it like that?"

In any case, Panelo said, “Any coup attempt against President Duterte will certainly fail. It will not get the support of a critical mass of people who remain overwhelmingly supportive of PRRD [President Rodrigo Roa Duterte] and his administration.”

A survey by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) on June 22 to 26 indicated that the President received a net satisfaction rating of +68, setting a new personal record from +66 in March 2019 and June 2017.

“As always, sinabi ko, if you are satisfied with my work, then I’m happy. If you are not satisfied, then I’ll work more. Dagdagan ko ’yung pawis ko,” the President said when asked to comment on the survey results.

The survey was conducted  amid criticism of his downplaying the sinking of a Filipino fishing boat by a Chinese ship in  Recto Bank, and subsequent statements that he was giving Chinese fishermen access to the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone.

When several lawmakers and former government officials said that he could be impeached for forging an agreement with Chinese President Xi Jinping that allows Chinese fishermen to trawl within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), Duterte threatened to jail those who would file an impeachment case against him, which would violate the Constitution.

This drew  a rebuke from the Commission on Human Rights, which asserted that filing an impeachment complaint is not a crime.

“... no one should be arrested for merely asserting a Constitutional right nor should they be targeted for doing such. Filing an impeachment charge is not a crime,” said CHR spokeswoman Atty. Jacqueline Ann de Guia.

“We remind the government, including the Philippine National Police, that they draw their mandate from the people. Obedience must always be premised on a lawful order, lest we disregard the rule of law, which they too vowed to respect and protect,” she added.

Panelo also said: “How can a President be scared of an impeachment? An impeachment is a numbers game. We have a supermajority in Congress. It will not even pass the committee on justice.”

But a string of related statements might also have ruffled feathers in the military, which is duty-bound to uphold the Constitution.

On June 21, for example, Duterte asserted: “Remember na ‘yung sa Recto [Bank], it was not a matter of sovereignty. Twelve miles lang tayo, that is part of our territory as a Republic. Beyond that, ang binigay sa atin is the Exclusive Economic Zone. It is not an attack on our sovereignty. Malayo ‘yan.”

On June 27, he belittled the Constitutional provision that defines the EEZ. Section 2, Article XII states that the State shall protect the nation’s marine wealth in its archipelagic waters, territorial sea, and exclusive economic zone, and reserve its use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino citizens.

“That is a provision for the thoughtless and the senseless,” Duterte said.  “The protection of our economic rights about the economic zone resolves this? I am protecting the country and 110 million Filipinos.”

He added: “Pupunta ako sabihin ko get out, this is the Constitution. Sabihin sa iyo, 'naubusan ka na ng toilet paper, gamitin mo yan (You want me to go there and tell them to get out, this is the Constitution? They’ll tell you, did you run out of toilet paper? You can use that),'” he said.

“Ako kung sabihin (If they say) you present to me a constitution like that and we have this ruckus claiming the same place in our jurisdiction. Sabihin ko, kung wala kang pang-ilo gamitin mo yang constitution mo (I will say you can use your Constitution as toilet paper),” he added.

Human rights lawyer Chel Diokno fired off tweets  in reply, one of which said: “’Di na dapat tawaging Pangulo si Duterte sapagka’t ang pwestong iyan ay galing sa 1987 Constitution na sabi niya’y pampahid lang ng pwet.”

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