Malacañang on Wednesday downplayed the US intelligence assessment listing President Rodrigo Duterte as one of Southeast Asian leaders that pose a threat to democracy and human rights.
In a statement, Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said the US intelligence community’s 2018 Worldwide Threat Assessment was “myopic and speculative at best.”
“For one, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is no autocrat or has autocratic tendencies. 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,” Roque said.
“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,” he added.
Roque also said there was “no revolutionary government or nationwide martial law,” which, US intelligence officials said, the President might declare or impose.
“While it is true that the Administration uses and maximizes social media to promote government messages and accomplishments, members of the political opposition and other cause-oriented groups use the same media platform to advance their agenda,” Roque said.
“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 added.
In its recently published worldwide threat assessment report, the US intelligence said democracy and human rights in many Southeast Asian countries will “remain fragile” this year due to corruption, “cronyism” and “autocratic tendencies.”
“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, shape public opinion 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 covers 16 government agencies that work separately and together to gather intelligence to support the foreign policy and national security objectives of the US.
Aside from Duterte, also cited as a threat to freedoms in the Southeast Asian region was Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who will be relying on China’s political and financial support in national elections this year.
Other threats to democracy and human rights in the region, the report said, were the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar and Thailand’s new Constitution, which gives its military more influence in the country’s upcoming elections in 2019.