Malacañang refuted on Wednesday the WorldWide Threat Assessment report of the US Intelligence Community, which listed President Duterte as one of the Southeast Asian leaders that pose a threat to democracy and human rights.
Presidential Spokesman Harry L. Roque Jr. said in a news statement that the assessment was “myopic and speculative at its best.”
The report also stated that democracy and human rights in many Southeast Asian countries will remain fragile in 2018, as autocratic tendencies deepen in some regimes, while rampant corruption and cronyism undermine democratic values.
“Countries in the region will struggle to preserve foreign policy autonomy in the face of Chinese economic and diplomatic coercion,” the report stated.
Roque said that President Duterte is “no autocrat or has no autocratic tendencies” as he adheres to the rule of law and remains loyal to the Constitution.
“An autocracy is not prevalent, as they would like everyone to believe. Our media are still able to broadcast and print what they want —‘fake news’ included. Our judiciary and the courts are functioning as usual. Our legislature remains independent and basic services are still being delivered,” Roque said.
“There is no revolutionary government or nationwide martial law, which US intelligence officials are saying that the President might declare or impose,” he added.
In the report released on February 13, Daniel Coats, director of National Intelligence, said 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. His declaration of martial law in Mindanao, responding to the ISIS-inspired siege of Marawi City, has been extended through the end of 2018,” the report stated.
Also, it cited a Freedom House report in 2016 that listed Philippines as one of the 30 countries whose governments used social media to spread government views, to drive agenda and to counter government criticisms online. Other countries mentioned in the report were Turkey and Venezuela.
Roque admitted that while it is true that the administration uses and maximizes social media to promote its messages and accomplishments, members of the political opposition and other cause-oriented groups also use the same media to advance their agenda.
“We have to understand the use of social media has become an important part of the daily lives of Filipinos. It is therefore foolhardy not to tap social media as a tool when the technology exists for free. I don’t know of any government in the free world which does not use the Internet and social media to promote its agenda. This is very true, especially in the case of the US. This latest intelligence assessment is a classic case in point,” he said.
Aside from Duterte, Cambodian leader Hun Sen was also cited in the report as he is seen to continue repressing democratic institutions and civil society, manipulate government and judicial institutions and use patronage and political violence to guarantee his rule beyond the 2018 national election.
As for other Southeast Asian countries, the report mentioned that Rohingya crisis will also threaten Burma’s fledgling democracy, increase the risk of violent extremism and provide opportunities for Beijing to expand its influence.
In Thailand leaders have vowed to hold elections later this year, but the new Constitution will institutionalize the military’s influence.