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Generals Deny Viber Plot vs Duterte Over China Row

The supposed unrest is linked to the West Philippine Sea
Apr 18, 2021
Chinese ships are seen off Philippine reefs in this Philippine Coast Guard handout photo on April 14, 2021.
Photo/s: Philippine Coast Guard

The defense leadership on Sunday dismissed as "fake news" reports that active and retired military officials were plotting via Viber to withdraw support from President Rodrigo Durterte over his handling of the West Philippine Sea standoff with China.

Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana and Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, the Armed Forces chief of staff, issued separate statements denying posts on social media that they are part of a supposed Viber group that was being organized against Duterte.

Chinese ships have remained off Julian Felipe Reef and other outcrops in the West Philippine Sea as of April 14, according to the Philippine Coast Guard. China claims the reef as part of its Nansha islands despite it being within the Philippines' Exclusive Economic Zone or EEZ.


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Beijing has also largely ignored a UN Arbitral Tribunal's 2016 ruling in favor of Manila, that invalidated its vast claims in the strategic waters. Duterte refused to flout the ruling and instead sought greater economic and political cooperation with China.

"Such disinformation is an act of reckless agitation emanating from detractors, who have a limited and myopic appreciation of issues," said Lorenzana, a retired Army general.

"We call on these destabilizers to cease from propagating malicious statements especially at a time when our people should all be coming together in the face of the challenges that we are all currently facing. You are not helping our country and people at all," he said.

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Sobejana said the military "trusts the government’s management of the situation in the disputed area and its diplomatic thrust in protecting the sovereignty and sovereign rights of our country."

"We therefore advise the public to remain calm and dismiss this as propaganda. The AFP commits to the nation its unflinching loyalty to the Constitution and the duly constituted authorities. We assure our people that the soldiers, airmen, sailors and marines of the AFP are firmly behind the chain-of-command," he said.


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