PH stirs talk of U.S. plot vs Duterte ahead of Trump inauguration
MANILA, Philippines (Updated) – President Rodrigo Duterte and his allies revived talks of a supposed US plot against him, accusing its envoys of being "spies" and demanding a statement from US President-elect Donald Trump ahead of his inauguration on January 20.
The US embassy in Manila denied the allegation anew, reiterating the statement of US State Secretary John Kerry in a meeting with Duterte in July that the country's longtime ally respects the Philippines' sovereignty.
But Duterte himself is not convinced. “In the sense that I may be looking at it as a possibility, yes," Duterte said in an interview on Thursday, December 29.
Duterte was reacting to a report published by Manila Times on former US ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg, previously the constant target of Duterte's tirades, supposedly submitting to the US State Department a "blueprint" on how to oust him. The report claimed Goldberg suggested economic and political moves against the Philippines to weaken his presidency.
“The ambassador of a country is the number one spy. But there are ambassadors of the US whose forte is really to undermine the government,” Duterte said, citing Goldberg's expulsion as ambassador to Bolivia in 2008 because of accusations that he orchestrated protests against then President Evo Morales.
Goldberg was recently replaced by Ambassador Sung Kim.
'Trump must deny it'
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez had called for a congresional probe to look into the supposed ouster plot.
"If true, this has serious consequences not only on our country’s political stability but also on the economic and social fabric of our nation. It would also have grave repercussions on our relationship with the United States,” Alvarez said in a statement posted on the web site of the House of Representatives.
"That is anathema to the gospel of democracy the US government, especially under the administration of Pres. Obama, has been preaching to the world,” Alvarez said.
Quezon City Rep. Wiston Castelo also wants categorical denials straight from the White House. He also called on Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay to send a note verbale to the embassy to demand formal explanation.
"Outgoing US President Barack Obama and President-elect Donald Trump should come with their hands clean and both make a categorical denial of any US government plot to unseat President Rodrigo Duterte," Castelo said in a statement on Thursday, December 29.
“While we respect the denial made by the US embassy in Manila as reported in the media, this matter involves decision at the highest level of the US government — and if such recommendation from former US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg does exist, the Philippines is entitled to know what the US President did or is going to do about it,” Castelo added.
Castelo also warned against possible moves to further strain the relations between the Philippines and the US.
“It could also be possible that some groups responsible for the leak are trying to undermine PH-US relations, capitalizing on President Duterte’s recent attacks against the US,” Castelo said.
US embassy: We respect PH sovereignty
The US embassy immediately denied the new allegations against Goldberg.
"In response to the Manila Times December 27 article titled “US ex-envoy plotting Duterte fall – source,” the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines categorically denies the allegations and the existence of a “blueprint,”" the embassy said in an e-mail to Rappler.
"As Secretary Kerry said in his meeting with President Duterte in July, the United States respects the sovereignty of the Philippines and the democratic choices made by the Philippine people in selecting their leaders," the embassy added.
Duterte and his allies had claimed various versions of a supposed ouster plot led by the US.
Duterte, in his speeches, has repeatedly dared the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to oust him.
Goldberg had dismissed as "absurd" claims that the US would plot against Duterte. He was reacting to an allegation from former President Joseph Estrada, who blamed the US for his ouster in 2001, that the superpower also want Duterte out of Malacañang.
Malacañang also made claims about a plot hatched by Filipino-Americans in the US, a scenario that was dismissed by government security officials because of their lack of capability. – Rappler.com