De Lima to Duterte: Stop ‘toying around’ with national security



MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte should stop “toying around” with the country’s national security by “ridiculously invoking” the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) opposition Senator Leila de Lima said Wednesday.

During a television interview last week, the President said he is invoking the country’s defense agreement with the United States amid the maritime row with China in the West Philippine Sea.

“Duterte’s reckless taunting of the United States by ridiculously invoking the PH-US MDT cannot be merely dismissed as a joke,” De Lima said in a statement.

“Duterte is obviously toying around with our national security and international alliances,” she added.

De Lima said the U.S. government might decide to treat Duterte as a regional nuisance on its Pacific side and eventually forego any diplomatic rejoinder to his challenge.

“It (U.S. government) might also take it as further indication of Duterte’s public contempt of his country’s alliance with the United States, with the long-term consequences to U.S. policy vis-a-vis its standing security arrangement with the Philippines,” the senator said.

De Lima added that Duterte could no longer be taken seriously and credibly in the world stage, especially after demonstrating his propensity for casual war-mongering.

“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),” the senator said.