Duterte’s Fil-Am backers, critics tussle over alleged ouster plot

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SAN FRANCISCO – Filipino American critics and supporters of President Rodrigo Duterte predictably gave different reactions to a Palace spokesman’s claim of “credible” reports of a Filipino American plot to oust the president by January next year.

Communications Secretary Martin Andanar recently alleged that “credible sources” in the United States reported a plot by some Filipino Americans to oust President Duterte by January 2017. Andanar publicly claimed that the plan was hatched in New York and that the administration already had names of people behind the conspiiracy.

But the organizations that recently held a memorial in Daly City for victims of extrajudicial killing and martial law victims doubted the existence of any US-based coup plot or attempts to destabilize the government.

San Francisco Kontra Libing coalition leader Rodel Rodis added that in a local radio station interview, Andanar failed to provide evidence on the alleged plot.

“There is absolutely no basis to the rumors. It is completely bogus. But from this questionable quadruple hearsay report, Andanar has launched a campaign of intimidation to quell anti-Duterte opposition from overseas Filipinos, even threatening to file criminal charges of incitement to rebellion against Filipino Americans involved in the ‘plot,’” charged Rodis.


‘Marcos playbook’

“Andanar announced that the government has compiled a list of Filipino Americans involved in the plot. Marcos also compiled a blacklist of Filipino Americans opposed to martial law. The Duterte administration is taking another page from the Marcos playbook.”

Martial Law and extrajudicial killings critic Edwin Batongbacal termed the allegation as “a disdainful effort by Andanar to cast aspersion on dissent, a crass rumor-mongering and an alarming display of the absolute inability of the Duterte presidency to tolerate legitimate opposition to Duterte policies.”

Batongbacal was also concerned that the warning of prosecution of opposition and casting them as subversives was meant to intimidate and silence critics, aside from being a sign of a dictatorship-in-the-making.

U.S. Pinoys for Real Change in the Philippines (USPRCP) Chair Arnedo Valera of Virginia thinks that ouster moves would fail considering the 91 percent approval rating of President Duterte. CONTRIBUTED

“There’s no plot that we know of by U.S.-based Filipinos to oust President Duterte, although I can imagine that many Filipinos might be wishing he wasn’t the President because of the extrajudicial killings his public statements have inflamed. Instead of a plot to oust President Duterte, what some Filipinos here in the U.S. are involved with is opposition to the extrajudicial killings he publicly encourages, the threat of authoritarian rule his administration bandies about, and the hero’s burial for dictator Marcos he intends to carry out,” Batongbacal added.


‘Plot a waste of time’

Anti-martial law activist and human rights lawyer Ted Laguatan has not heard of any destabilization moves, calling the plot, should it exists, a waste of time and effort.

“Duterte is doing a great job of doing it to himself. His present popularity among the Filipino masses will quickly erode as it is built on sand and blood - not on solid basic policies that improve people’s lives. They themselves will turn on him when their lives become more miserable over time.  The whole world will again cheer Filipinos when that happens,” Laguatan believes.

On the other hand, staunch Duterte supporter and leader of a coalition of pro-Duterte groups in Northern California Adnan Alonto viewed the report with grave concern, saying rumors about a plot have abounded since the start of the Duterte administration.

Filipino war veterans advocate Lou Tancinco strongly urged that human rights of suspected ouster plotters be observed should in there be an investigation and prosecution. INQUIRER FILE

“On the day President Duterte assumed office, I expressed cautious optimism because change is not easy and there will be those who will resist it, especially those who have benefited from the old rotten system. We are seeing drastic change unfold before us and because of this, plots and conspiracies are not far behind. I’ve spoken to many well-meaning friends who have whispered reports of personalities involved. I have reasons to believe in them because the president and the government are at war with very powerful and wealthy cabal of people. Some of them have benefited from drug money and official corruption,” Alonto charged.


‘Investigation needed’

Alonto thinks an investigation must be conducted since activities and actions that seek to thwart the will of the Filipino people are serious crimes and (perpetrators) should be sought, investigated and prosecuted, if warranted.

But pro-Duterte group U.S. Pinoys for Real Change in the Philippines (USPRCP) Chair Arnedo Valera of Virginia, also has not heard of any plot from the US to oust President Duterte by January 2017.

“If there is a plot, that would be next to impossible to execute such plan against a president whose popularity keeps soaring up to 91 percent favorable rating in terms of governance. USPRCP urges the Fil-Am community to unite and give their full support behind President Duterte.  We have to be patient.   Let us judge him on his programs and not on his forced habit of using “colorful language,” Valera said.

“Let us give constructive criticisms to help him succeed and not to create division and instability,” Valera exhorted. “I urge our kababayans around the globe to respect the mandate of the Filipino people, move forward beyond the last elections and support our president. But of course we will remain vigilant as we want him and country progress and advance under the rule of law and due process.”


‘Yellow plot’ 

Another Duterte supporter Larry Laurel of the Batangas said that the Laurel clan regards the development as a trend of panic amongst those in the “yellow” group that won’t stop at nothing to stop President Duterte from moving the nation forward to benefit national interest and strengthen the nation.”

Laurel said further, “I am reaching out to all Filipinos not be swayed into this political maneuver your time and your lives are more precious and a rebellion is not what God would want. Give President Duterte the chance to bring the great change that our people fought for, support President Duterte in his efforts and give him the chance to prove himself.”

Digong Duterte Supporters of Northern California chapter head Kelly Dayag said that he heard from the “grapevine” that the same people they defeated in the last elections were behind the plot. He also said that the Philippine government was correct in taking the threat seriously considering the crusade against drugs and criminality.

“Fil-Ams should be pro-active, we cannot just be spectators on what will happen to the president or to our home country. We should prove ourselves that we love our country. Let’s unite and rally behind the president all he wants is for drug free and crime free Philippines so Filipinos will live a quality of life,” Dayag added.


‘Due process necessary’

Filipino veterans advocate Lou Tancinco said that if the Duterte administration really has a list of names of “extremist Filipino Americans who wish to destabilize the present government” they must be provided with due process before any punitive action is taken against them.

 “I hear a lot of our clients favoring President Duterte and it is not fair that all Filipino Americans are perceived as being against his leadership of President Duterte. There is another group that speaks very strongly against the extrajudicial killings and advocates for respect for human rights but does not go to the extent of advocating for an overthrow of government,” Tancinco advised.

“Media should always be professional in reporting and maintain a balance story instead of just concentrating on the negative stories about our homeland and the Filipino American immigrants in general.

J.R. Luna, a Filipino teacher in California contended that many of those who want Duterte out of office would have nothing to do with any “illegal plots” or “illegal movement” and rather do things legally.

“This may be a result of an overreaction of the Duterte camp since he disdains any criticism. Like what is happening to Senator Leila de Lima. He would do anything to make her look like a criminal to get rid of her. This is what he wants to do with critics like us. File trumped up rebellion charges against us after making up stories to make us look like criminals. Or this may also be the administration’s strategy to win sympathy,” Luna suggested.

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