Press Release
July 24, 2019

De Lima warns Duterte of dire repercussions for 'recklessly invoking' defense pact with US

Senator Leila M. de Lima has warned Duterte against adverse repercussions to the country's national security and international alliances for his "reckless taunting" of the United States (US) to invoke its 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the Philippines.

De Lima said Mr. Duterte should stop clowning around with the country's security and diplomatic relations by invoking the country's defense pact with US amid growing tension with China over the disputed islands in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

"Duterte's reckless taunting of the United States by ridiculously invoking the PH-US Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) cannot be merely dismissed as a joke. Duterte is obviously toying around with our national security and international alliances," she said.

According to De Lima, the US government might just decide to treat Mr. Duterte as a regional nuisance on its Pacific side and eventually forego any diplomatic rejoinder to his challenge.

"But it might also take it as further indication of Duterte's public contempt of his country's alliance with the United States, with the corresponding long-term consequences to US policy vis-a-vis its standing security arrangement with the Philippines," she added.

Last July 6, Duterte, the country's chief architect of foreign policy, has dared the US to invoke its defense pact with the Philippine to stop the growing military installation in the disputed islands in the WPS, also known as the South China Sea.

De Lima expressed her views on this sensitive issue in her opinion piece entitled "Freud's Libido and Duterte's Jingoism" published by Rappler last July 21.

According to the lady Senator from Bicol, Mr. Duterte, in recklessly invoking the country's defense pact with the US, could not however be expected to side with US but with China where he has vowed to serve like "a slave would to a foreign master."

"There is no question about Duterte's personal allegiance. He would definitely not side with the US in a Pacific conflict, when he has not even sided with his own country against China on simple matters of China's violent incursions in the West Philippine Sea and bellicose posturing in its artificial islands in the Spratlys," she pointed out.

The former justice secretary noted that Duterte has repeatedly called the US as a worthless ally and could not be dependent upon in case hostilities sparked between China and the Philippines.

"He would like to make it appear that this is the basis for his mendicant policy towards China, and not the fact that he has already sold his soul to the Chinese in exchange for, among others, the China bloc's support in international forums," she said.

To prove her point, De Lima said China's bloc of Middle East and African countries voted with the Philippines against the United Nation Human Rights Council's Resolution calling for a comprehensive review of the human rights situation in the country.

When the time comes that sober and rationale proclamations will spell the difference between escalation and rapprochement, De Lima said Duterte could no longer be taken seriously and credibly on the world stage, especially after demonstrating his propensity for casual war-mongering.

De Lima said she is convinced that there will come a time that Duterte's two-dimensional portrayal of Philippine foreign policy will force major stakeholders to decide whether to continue tolerating a nuisance at the expense of stability in the region.

"The problem with Duterte's cavalier and dismissive handling of regional peace and security, a matter so delicately approached by the major powers in the tight-rope act of diplomacy, is that it makes him the region's walking casus belli, the bull in the china shop (pun intended)," she said.

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