By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos
MANILA – Malacañang on Tuesday described as a “pipe dream” the claim of communist founder Jose Maria Sison that some Philippine military officials who are pro-Americans are planning to stage a coup d’etat against President Rodrigo Duterte.
Speaking to Palace reporters, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo is confident that soldiers would never overthrow Duterte because they are “100 percent” supportive of their Commander-in-Chief.
“That’s a wishful thinking. It’s a pipe dream. It will never come to fruition. Filipinos – the majority or overwhelming of (them) – they are supportive of the President,” he said.
Duterte’s termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) has “aroused” some pro-United States (US) officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to launch a coup d’etat against him, Sison claimed on Saturday.
In a statement, Sison said coup plotters are “quite a number” of AFP officials who were “assets” of the US Defense Intelligence Agency and Central Intelligence Agency and are “loyal to their pocketbooks rather than to the Filipino people.”
“Just by giving the US a notice of terminating VFA, he has aroused quite a number of pro-US military officers to talk against him and curse him for prejudicing hundreds of projects under the VFA,” Sison claimed.
Panelo merely brushed aside Sison’s claim, saying the abrogation of VFA would not prompt military officials to unseat Duterte.
“Wala ‘yun (That’s not an issue). Military is 100 percent in support of the President. The AFP has already expressed its support to the President,” he said.
Duterte was forced to terminate the 22-year-old VFA after the US had canceled the visa of his ally, former national police chief and now Senator Ronald dela Rosa.
The Philippines on Feb. 11 sent a formal notice to the US, signifying its intent to revoke VFA that apparently gives preferential treatment to US troops who are visiting the Philippines.
Under the VFA, American forces can go to the Philippines without visa and passport and can use their licenses and permits in the host country.
The military pact will be revoked 180 days after the receipt of the formal termination notice.
There was no need for Duterte to meet with high-ranking AFP officials to thwart the supposed coup plot against him, Panelo said.
Last week, AFP chief Gen. Felimon Santos Jr. denied rumors that some military officials had expressed objection to Duterte’s move to scrap the VFA.
Santos said the military supports the President’s latest act because it will survive even without the VFA. (iam/sovereignph.com/PNA)