Duterte to side with Americans if Filipinos harmed in US-Iran conflict – Panelo

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Panelo: Duterte to side with Americans if Filipinos harmed in US-Iran conflict

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 7) — President Rodrigo Duterte will undoubtedly take sides if the conflict between the United States and Iran continues to escalate, his spokesperson said on Tuesday.

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Duterte will support US when Filipinos are affected in the ongoing tension in Middle East.

"Hindi tayo magiging neutral [We will not be neutral]. The President was very specific in saying last night that if the Filipinos are harmed, he will side with the Americans," Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a media briefing.

He said the thousands of Filipinos in the area might get involved in the crossfire between the two countries considering the Philippines is a known ally of the US. The two countries are also bound by the Mutual Defense Treaty, which states that both countries would assist each other when either is attacked by a foreign force.

"Kung papatayin ang Filipinos, gusto mong sabihin, hindi na tayo iimik? Eh ang kalaban nila Amerikano. Kaya nila gagawin 'yun, dahil kakampi tayo ng Amerikano," he added.

[Translation: If they kill Filipinos, do you want us to stay mum? They are fighting with America. They can do it to us because we are allied with the United States.]

The Philippine government is preparing the possible repatriation of hundreds of thousands of Filipinos in the Middle East in the event an armed or military warfare happens between US and Iran after US President Donald Trump on January 3 ordered an airstrike that killed Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad, Iraq.