Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to file cases against the Southeast Asian country’s former top diplomat, Alberto del Rosario, as he defended his victory in the 2016 presidential elections from allegations it was due to China’s intervention.
Del Rosario, citing information from a “most reliable international entity”, earlier said that Chinese officials had bragged they were able to influence the elections in favour of Duterte.
This angered the president, who threatened on July 19 legal action against the former foreign secretary whom he also claimed was liable for treason.
Responding to Duterte’s tirade against him, Del Rosario said in a statement: “For this coming election, our humble view is our people should vote for the candidate who is good for our country – and not one who is good for China.”
Duterte has blamed Del Rosario, who served during the term of former President Benigno S Aquino III, for the departure of Philippine ships from Scarborough Shoal during the 2012 standoff with China, which resulted in the country losing control of the area to Beijing.
In his regular public address, Duterte scoffed at the statement that China was responsible for his 2016 victory, where he got 16 million votes.
“You keep on talking and talking. China helped me? You jerk, where did you get that? Sixteen million, you would get that from the help of another country? Can you buy 16 million?” he said.
The president said an investigation was ongoing and should he see a reason to do so, he would file a lot of cases against Del Rosario.
At the same time, he questioned Del Rosario’s nationality and threatened to pour coffee on his face.
“Are you a Filipino? I have my doubts. I want to see you personally. Where can I meet you? Where do you have coffee? I will pour that coffee on your face, believe me,” he said.
Del Rosario, who led the Philippine effort under the Aquino administration to challenge Beijing’s claims over the South China Sea before the Permanent Court of Arbitration, has repeatedly called on the Duterte administration to assert the country’s rights in the “West Philippine Sea”.
Under Administrative Order No 29, signed by Aquino on September 5, 2012, the “West Philippine Sea” is the eastern portion of the South China Sea that is within the country’s 200-nautical-mile (370km) exclusive economic zone.
On July 20, Senator Risa Hontiveros alleged that Beijing might take steps to “heavily influence” the outcome of the 2022 polls through cyber-espionage operations aimed at ensuring that Duterte’s successor would still be under Chinese sway.
“I will not be surprised if China meddles in our elections. It is clear from their actions in taking ownership of our seas and territories in the West Philippine Sea and this extends to choosing a candidate who will not defy their orders,” she said in a statement.
“China’s cyberwarfare and disinformation campaigns will be one of the biggest threats to our national security and our democracy,” Hontiveros said.
She warned after cybersecurity firm Kaspersky bared a “wide-scale advanced persistent threat” by “Chinese actors” in Asia and Africa.
PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK