Ex-DFA chief rebuts Duterte: Military pact with US not for starting war

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Former Philippine top diplomat Albert del Rosario on Wednesday countered President Rodrigo Duterte's invoking of the defense pact between Manila and Washington, saying the treaty cannot be used to wage war.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 17) — Former Philippine top diplomat Albert del Rosario on Wednesday countered President Rodrigo Duterte's invoking of the defense pact between Manila and Washington, saying the treaty cannot be used to wage war.

"With due respect, we all know that, as its name implies, the Mutual Defense Treaty is a defensive treaty, not a means to initiate a war," del Rosario said in a statement.

Duterte in an interview over Pastor Apollo Quiboloy's television show "Give Us This Day" earlier said he is "invoking" the treaty to gather the Seventh Fleet of the U.S. stationed in Japan.

"I am invoking the RP-US pact, and I would like America to gather all their seventh fleet in front of China. I'm asking them now and I will join them, and I will ride on the boat where the admiral of the US (is)," the President said.

Del Rosario insisted the treaty could only be cited if there is armed attack against the territories of the signed parties, or its armed forces in the Pacific. Earlier in the year, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo assured the Philippines of US assistance should Manila be attacked in the South China Sea. China has continued to reclaim and militarize maritime features in the global waterway.

"However, we all know that none of these have happened. Thus, the President cannot invoke the Mutual Defense Treaty to start a war because the (MDT) is about the right of countries to defend themselves," Del Rosario said.

The former foreign affairs chief added starting a war violates the constitution -- and is a crime punishable by imprisonment.

The President had invoked the military pact after critics, including Del Rosario, had repeatedly denounced his cordial -- some say subservient -- approach to China. Duterte has maintained a friendly stance despite Beijing's refusal to observe a ruling invalidating its claim over virtually the entire the South China Sea, including areas within the Philippines' Exclusive Economic Zone.

Del Rosario and former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales had filed before the International Criminal Court a complaint against Chinese President Xi Jinping and other Beijing officials due to their "crimes against humanity." They said by implementing their plan to take over the South China Sea, Xi and other Chinese officials have caused devasting environmental damage in the maritime region that have adversely affected vulnerable fishermen as well as future generations of people across nations.