By Hannah Torregoza
Opposition Senator Leila de Lima on Wednesday warned President Rodrigo Duterte of the possible adverse repercussions to the country’s national security and international alliances after he recklessly taunted the United States (US) to invoke its Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the Philippines.
The former justice secretary said Duterte should “stop clowning around” with the country’s security and diplomatic relations, especially when he ridiculously invoked the US-Philippines’ defense pact amid the growing tension with China over the disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
De Lima was referring to Duterte’s pronouncement last July 6, where he dared the US to invoke the defense pact with the Philippines to stop China’s growing military buildup in the disputed islands in the WPS.
She said Duterte’s reckless taunting, “cannot be merely dismissed as a joke” with the US government possibly regarding him as a regional nuisance on its Pacific side.
She also warned the US government might eventually forego any diplomatic rejoinder to Duterte’s challenge.
“Duterte’s reckless taunting of the United States by ridiculously invoking the PH-US MDT cannot be merely dismissed as a joke. Duterte is obviously toying around with our national security and international alliances,” she said.
“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.
De Lima noted that there is no question about Duterte’s personal allegiance saying the Chief Executive cannot be expected to side with the 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 senator further noted that Duterte has repeatedly called the US as a worthless and undependable ally 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.
“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.