US intelligence sources have listed President Duterte as one of the Southeast Asian leaders who pose a threat to democracy and human rights.
The claim is included in the ‘Worldwide Threat Assessment’ by the US Intelligence Community, which is a federation of 16 government agencies.
Earlier this month, Daniel Coats, director of national intelligence of the US, released the unclassified report, a PDF copy of which is now available online (here).
“In the Philippines, President Duterte will continue to wage his signature campaign against drugs, corruption, and crime. Duterte has suggested he could suspend the Constitution, declare a ‘revolutionary government,’ and impose nationwide martial law,” the report said.
The assessment also cited a Freedom House report that listed the Philippines as one of the governments that use social media to spread propaganda and counter criticisms of government online.
“We note that more governments are using propaganda and misinformation in social media to influence foreign and domestic audiences,” the report read.
The US Intelligence Community predicted that democracy and human rights in the region would remain fragile this year as “autocratic tendencies deepen in some regimes and rampant corruption and cronyism undermine democratic values”.
The world threat assessment report emphasized that amid China’s “economic and diplomatic coercion”, Southeast Asian countries will struggle to preserve foreign policy autonomy.
Today (Wednesday, February 21) presidential spokesman Harry Roque poured scorn on the report.
“Well I don’t think that’s true,” he said. “He’s a lawyer. He knows the law. He wants to uphold the rule of law. He knows about the bill of rights. And of course I wouldn’t have joined him if he was a threat to human rights.”
He added that the Philippines still wanted to be friends with the US “but with declarations such as this, it is very difficult to be friendly with the United States… It doesn’t seem to be too friendly a declaration,” he said
Nonetheless, Mr Roque said the Malacañang was taking the report “very seriously”.
“This is something that we have taken very seriously. It’s from the intelligence community. It’s not even coming from the State Department, and it’s something that the president, of course, will take seriously as well.”
Meanwhile, Senator Antonio Trillanes, a staunch critic of the president, said the report should serve as a “warning shot” for the administration.
“If they are sensitive enough, they should look at it as some form of a warning shot that he’s nearing that red line because domestically, he has been pushing boundaries because he knows he’s popular enough to do that.
“He keeps on extending the boundaries on what he can do. As I mentioned, there is a creeping dictatorship.”