Freedom of speech! Gibo speaks out on viral billboard criticizing China's incursion in WPS

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Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. (Courtesy of Teodoro / Instagram)

Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Gilberto "Gibo" Teodoro Jr. finally broke his silence over a billboard featuring his no holds barred criticism against China's activities in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

The billboard was spotted along EDSA and posted on social media which immediately garnered mixed reactions. Some were praising the Defense chief for his patriotism-evoking stance while others were alleging it was a mere political strategy to fan the flame for his senatorial bid in 2025.

The digital billboard showed a gigantic image of Teodoro and a quote pulled out from one of his media interviews stating: “If we don’t stop [them], China is going to creep and creep into what is within our sovereign jurisdiction, our sovereign rights and within our territory.” The quote was also posted on the social media accounts of Teodoro dated Oct. 4.

But in a Kapihan sa Manila Bay interview on Wednesday, Oct. 18, Teodoro said he has nothing to do with the publishing of the billboard.

“I have nothing to do with those billboards. I did that statement during a TV interview and one of our supporters who is a Filipino-Chinese by the way found it be resonant and started posting it on electronic billboards out of a sense of civic duty I suppose because I have had no conversations with him,” Teodoro explained.

Nonetheless, Teodoro said he sees nothing wrong with his remarks as he reiterated that it is part of his duty to defend the nation against China’s incursion, and the publishing of the billboard along with his own sentiments was part of his exercise of freedom of speech.

“Nevertheless, this a country that prides itself and cherishes freedom of speech and what I said was the truth and if the truth hurts, so be it,” he said. 

“If there will be consequences, I’m ready to face them but I just said the truth so that’s that for me. I do not owe any explanation to any foreign entity for that because there is freedom of speech in this country,” he added.

The DND has taken a firm stance against China’s aggressive actions in WPS including calling out attempts to block the resupply missions of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, swarming of Chinese vessels, the destruction of coral reefs, and water cannon attacks on Philippine vessels.

Teodoro pointed out the 2016 arbitral ruling which favored the Philippines claims in the South China Sea and invalidated China's assertion of its supposed historical rights over a majority of the water.

China, however, continued to disregard the ruling and strengthen its presence in the region.

Meanwhile, Teodoro denied that the billboard was a political strategy for his supposed senatorial bid next year.

“If it was supposed to be a political ad, number one the most telling thing, I wouldn’t have used complicated language. I would have said it in Tagalog, Ilocano or Bisaya,” he explained.

Teodoro lost in the 2022 senatorial election under the UniTeam alliance of now President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Vice President Sara Duterte.

After a year-long ban imposed on losing candidates from holding government posts, Marcos appointed Teodoro as the Defense chief last June 5.