By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
Malacañang said that it was impossible for President Duterte to order the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to cease from patrolling the disputed West Philippine Sea.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made the statement after Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano said he received information that Duterte made such order, resulting for the AFP to patrol the area only once a week.
Alejano, recalling information he received “some months ago,” said that the AFP was not in favor of the said directive to halt its watch amid continuing Chinese militarization in the area.
Roque, in a text message Saturday, had two words in response to questions confirming Alejano’s claims.
“That’s impossible,” Roque said.
The AFP also belied Alejano’s claims and said they do not know where the lawmaker got his information from.
“I do not know where Cong. Alejano got that supposed instruction from the Commander-in-Chie,” AFP spokesman Col. Edgard Arevalo said.
“Malamang kuryenteng balita ‘yan (That is most likely false news), if not yet another malicious imputation on the President dragging the AFP in,” he added.
Arevalo also set on record that there was no such order coming from the President. He also assured that the AFP will not be remiss in their mandate to protect the Philippine sovereignty.
“As a matter of fact, our maritime and aerial patrols continue—contrary to such information allegedly received by the Party list Congressman,” he said.
“Let me assure our people that your AFP continues and will continue to perform its mandate,” he added.
Alejano’s claim came a few days after GMA News reported that Chinese nationals were taking the catch of Filipino fishermen in the Scarborough Shoal.
According to Roque, he did not see any sign of bullying in the video obtained by GMA News, but said that if proven, it would ground for protest against China.
A fisherman interviewed for the report told GMA News that Chinese nationals would just go through their catch and pick out the best ones.
Alejano’s allegation also came a few days after President Duterte said he had no knowledge of the reported harassment done by Chinese forces to Filipino soldiers in the Ayungin Shoal.
In a speech on Wednesday, Duterte seemed clueless when asked for his reaction about the issue, as he claimed that that was the first time he heard of the report.
“What kind of harassment in the first place before — before I commit myself to answer the question, what kind of harassment was this?” Duterte said Wednesday predawn.
Duterte said he would prefer to have more information on the matter first before commenting as he feared that it may cause a problem later on.
“I have to have a more… Not even… This is the first time I’ve heard of it,” he said.
“It would be dangerous for me to answer questions without really having the slightest idea of what it is all about,” he added.
Duterte has been reiterating that he cannot wage war against China over the West Philippine Sea as it would result to the obvious “massacre” of Filipino soldiers and policeman.
He also said that the Philippine forces would rather oust him than go into a war against China.