Defense Chief: No destabilization plot vs. Duterte

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Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana (L) and President Rodrigo Duterte (R)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) The country's defense chief again dismissed speculations of a destabilization plot against the Duterte administration.

"Destabilization... we do not have that information in the Armed Forces. There's zero, actually," Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a forum on national security on Thursday.

He said this in response to reporters' questions on whether critics of the government are plotting Duterte's ouster.

Duterte's aides have claimed that critics are spreading rumors of destabilization plots against the President.

But Lorenzana said, "Criticism of the President is not destabilization."

He added public officials like himself must learn to live with criticism - and use it as a gauge of how well they are doing.

Speculations

Communications Secretary Martin Andanar had said there are destabilization efforts against the President, even as Lorenzana and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon downplayed these claims.

Also read: Andanar: Alleged $1000 media bribe part of plot to oust Duterte

In an interview with CNN Philippines' The Source in January, Interior Secretary Ismael "Mike" Sueno said they have received information that the real mastermind in the abduction and killing of South Korean businessman Jee Ick-joo was "influenced by a certain group against the present administration."

Duterte has also accused "yellows" of wanting to unseat him. The color is associated with the Liberal Party.

When asked if he thought that "yellows" were behind the killing of the Korean, Sueno said it is a possibility.

Criticism of police abuse in the war on drugs escalated with the murder of Jee inside the police headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City. The Korean was accused of selling illegal drugs. This resulted in the President's temporary suspension of the police's "Oplan Tokhang," which was recently relaunched with Philippine National Police Chief Ronald Dela Rosa's promise of a "less bloody" anti-drug campaign.

Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, Duterte's running mate in the 2016 elections, claimed that drug lords are bankrolling efforts to destabilize the administration, although he did not give details.

CNN Philippines' JC Gotinga, Eimor Santos, and Regine Cabato contributed to this report.