Senator: Gov’t response to China to blame for ‘restive’ military

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 11) — If the military is restive, it is a result of the Duterte administration's response to China's incursions in the West Philippine Sea, a senator said Thursday.

“Mr. President, kung mainit ang AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) at PNP (Philippine National Police), hindi ‘yan dahil walang Cha-cha (Charter change) ... Kung may restiveness man sa kanya, I would say dahil sa pala-talo, palasukong ugali niya towards China in the West Philippine Sea,” Senator Risa Hontiveros told CNN Philippines’ The Source.

[Translation: Mr. President, if tempers are rising in the AFP and PNP, it’s not because there are no moves to change the Constitution... If there is restiveness among them, I would say it’s because of his defeatist and subservient behavior towards China in the West Philippine Sea.]

READ: Duterte: 'Let America declare the war' on China

On Monday, Duterte said his renewed push to amend the Constitution has been prompted by the military's agitation over corruption in “high levels” of the government. He said lawmakers should amend the Charter now to avoid a possible coup d'état.

But Hontiveros said these are mere scare tactics.

Tigilin na niya sanang gamiting panakot, mumu ang ating mga sundalo at pulis [He should stop using our soldiers and policemen as bogeymen.] These are professionals. The institutions are institutions of our state to protect the people and not to scare them,” she said.

Both the military and police have denied rumors of a brewing coup.

Duterte has been repeatedly hit for his pivot towards China which, for decades, has been encroaching into Philippine waters and has been accused of destroying natural resources there.

Last week, Duterte likened the Constitution to a piece of toilet paper after legal experts warned he could be impeached for entering into a verbal deal with Chinese President Xi Jinping to allow Chinese fishermen into Recto Bank in exchange for Filipinos regaining access to Scarborough Shoal. The area is within the country's exclusive economic zone.

READ: Duterte: If you try to impeach me, I will jail you

On the campaign trail in 2016, Duterte pushed for a shift to a federal form of government.

His allies in the House of Representatives heeded his call, passing a joint resolution for Congress to convene into a constituent assembly which would propose and vote on amendments and revisions to the Constitution. However, this lost steam at the Senate, whose 23 members were wary of being outnumbered by more than 300 congressmen should they vote jointly.

Duterte is biggest danger to PH

In another speech on Tuesday, Duterte warned of “dangerous times ahead” as he hoped to leave a stronger military and police when he steps down in 2022.

He did not give details about the threats he sees ahead, but he appeared to worry about attacks in areas even outside known strongholds of extremist groups.

But for Hontiveros, the biggest threat to the country is Duterte himself.

Ang pinakamalaking danger sa atin ay ‘yung pagatake niya sa demokrasya [The biggest danger to us is his attacks on democracy.] His swing of the country towards authoritarianism thorough his style of populist governance,” she said.