Assessment of Duterte by US spooks irks Philippines

Intelligence community report labels president as a threat to democracy
Assessment of Duterte by US spooks irks Philippines

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. (Photo courtesy of the Presidential Communications Office)

The Philippines has expressed concern over a United States intelligence community report that branded President Rodrigo Duterte as a threat to democracy in Southeast Asia.

The Worldwide Threat Assessment report, places Duterte alongside Cambodian leader Hun Sen, the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, and Thailand's military-backed constitution as threats to democracy.

The report, released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence last week, cited the Philippine president's "autocratic tendencies" when he threatened to declare martial law and form a revolutionary government.

"In the Philippines, President Duterte will continue to wage his signature campaign against drugs, corruption and crime," the report read, adding that he had suggested he could suspend the constitution and declare a revolutionary government.

The U.S. intelligence community is a group of 17 agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency, that are engaged in intelligence activities necessary for the conduct of foreign relations and the protection of American interests.

"We view this declaration from no less than the intelligence department of the United States with some concern," said Duterte spokesman Harry Roque in a statement.

He dismissed the tag as "myopic and speculative at best." He said the president has a high regard for the rule of law.

"For one, President Duterte is no autocrat or has autocratic tendencies. He adheres to the rule of law and remains loyal to the constitution," said Roque, adding that "autocracy is not prevalent" in the country.

"There is no revolutionary government or nationwide martial law, which U.S. intelligence officials are saying that the president might declare or impose," he said.

Roque said the president continues to acknowledge the separation of the three branches of government and press freedom in the country.

"Our media are still able to broadcast and print what they want.... Our judiciary and the courts are functioning as usual. Our legislature remains independent and basic services are still being delivered," said the spokesman.

The U.S. intelligence report noted that democracy and human rights in many Southeast Asian countries would remain fragile in 2018 because of autocratic tendencies, rampant corruption and cronyism.

The U.S. assessment was released in the wake of an announcement that International Criminal Court investigators are looking into killings linked to the Duterte administration's anti-narcotics campaign.

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