President-elect Rodrigo Duterte has promised not to go after his critics when he assumes the presidency next month.
In a televised interview with GMA News on Tuesday night, Duterte, incumbent Davao City mayor, said he welcomes any criticism as a public servant.
“Criticism, good or bad, true or not, is part of the territory of governance,” he added.
“Maybe when I sit as President, I will be asking, but I am not going to prosecute. I am not up to it, actually, going after political enemies,” according to the mayor.
When asked how he will handle critics like Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th, Duterte replied that he will not hinder anyone from exercising his or her right to democracy.
“I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend your right to say it. We are in a democracy,” he said.
“I am also criticizing him [Trillanes] now,” Duterte added.
The tough-talking mayor also promised not to prevent the media from reporting criticisms about him and his administration.
Journalists, Duterte said, will be free to report on anomalies in the government, if there are any.
“If they want to look into the papers of any transaction in the government, I will open [them to anyone interested to see the papers]. [I won’t] hide anything,” he added.
Duterte expressed concern about the status of Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) amid reports of tensions in the area.
“I would be interested to know why we lost Scarborough Shoal,” he said, adding that the area is an economic zone, and that structures constructed there impede freedom of navigation that would have an effect on the country’s economy.
“It is not a matter of territorial issues but it is an issue of an exclusive economic zone [being]threatened,” he said.
Trillanes was sent to Beijing by President Benigno Aquino 3rd in 2012 to meet with Chinese officials and ease tensions on Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal.
In a recent interview, Duterte was quoted as saying that the Philippines “lost the Scarborough Shoal” and blamed the senator and the President for it.
The loss, he said, came after Trillanes’ 16th visit to Beijing.
The mayor could face an impeachment complaint over that statement, according to Trillanes,
On the country’s relationship with China, Duterte said, “I said we are allied with the Western powers. Historically, we have never been on the side of China. Communism [is what China believes in].”