Philippines 'concerned' as US report labels Duterte a threat to democracy

MANILA • Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is taking seriously the United States Intelligence Community's report tagging the firebrand leader a threat to democracy in South-east Asia, his spokesman said yesterday.

The report, produced by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, places Mr Duterte alongside Cambodia's Hun Sen, the Rohingya crisis and Thailand's military-backed Constitution as threats to democracy.

"We view this declaration from no less than the intelligence department of the United States with some concern," presidential spokesman Harry Roque told DZMM radio.

Mr Roque rejected the US intelligence assessment of Mr Duterte as a threat to democracy.

"I do not think that's true. He is a lawyer, he knows the law, he wants to uphold the rule of law, he knows about the Bill of Rights," he said.

Democracy and human rights in many South-east Asian nations will remain fragile in 2018 because of autocratic tendencies, rampant corruption and cronyism, the US Intelligence Community said in its Worldwide Threat Assessment report dated Feb 13.

"In the Philippines, President Duterte will continue to wage his signature campaign against drugs, corruption, and crime," the report read, adding that Mr Duterte has suggested he could suspend the Constitution and declare a revolutionary government.

Mr Roque said in a statement that Mr Duterte is "no autocrat".

"He adheres to the rule of law and remains loyal to the Constitution," he said, adding that there is no revolutionary government or nationwide martial law.

This is not the first time the US has criticised Mr Duterte.

Mr Duterte was infuriated by expressions of concern by former president Barack Obama's administration about drug war killings in the Philippines.

Since July 2016, more than 4,000 people have been killed in what Philippine police call legitimate operations against suspected drug dealers and users. Rights groups have accused the police of summary executions, which the authorities refute. International Criminal Court prosecutors have opened a preliminary examination into Mr Duterte's anti-drug campaign.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 22, 2018, with the headline 'Philippines 'concerned' as US report labels Duterte a threat to democracy'. Print Edition | Subscribe