MANILA, Sep 28, 2020, PhilStar. Malacañang on Monday thanked Vice President Leni Robredo for praising President Rodrigo Duterte’s speech before the United Nations General Assembly but maintained that it would be up to the chief executive to decide on how to handle the South China Sea row, The Philippine Star reported.
During his first participation in the assembly last week, Duterte said the Philippines would reject efforts to undermine the 2016 arbitral ruling that voided China’s claim in the South China Sea and affirmed the Philippines’ sovereign rights over its exclusive economic zone.
Allies and critics have lauded Duterte for the remark and urged him to gather international support for the enforcement of the ruling, which China has refused to recognize. Among those who welcomed Duterte’s statement was Robredo, who expressed hope that the president would stand by his commitment to the landmark decision.
“We thank her for the praise, but we leave it to the president on how to proceed, henceforth, because the president is the chief architect of foreign policy,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said at a press briefing.
Roque previously said the Philippines might lose if it brings the issue of the arbitral ruling on the South China Sea dispute before the UN General Assembly. He said while the decision is now part of international law, assembly members would still vote based on political and economic considerations.
Palace plays down Chinese propaganda
At the same briefing, Roque downplayed Robredo’s concern that Chinese propaganda in social media may influence the outcome of the 2022 polls. He said Filipinos are intelligent and can discern which social media posts are credible and which ones are propaganda.
“I have been a strong adherent for freedom of expression and the free marketplace of ideas. We Filipinos are intelligent. They do not believe everything they read on Facebook,” the Palace spokesman said.
In her radio program last Sunday, Robredo said Filipinos should be afraid of China’s possible interference in Philippine affairs.
“Anong ginagawa ng China sa domestic affairs natin? Ito, kailangan tayo dito matakot. Kasi bakit? Ano ang interes ninyo sa eleksyon (What is China doing with our domestic affairs? We have to be afraid. Why? What is your stake in our election?)” Robredo, the leader of the opposition said.
“Are you trying to protect your own interests?” she added.