Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said US Ambassador Philip Goldberg has denied that the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was planning to kill President Rodrigo Duterte.
At the forum sponsored by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP), Lorenzana said he mentioned the president's concern to the US.
"I talked with the Americans and they said, 'We don't do that. The Americans don't do that'," the Defense chief said.
"I even mentioned that to Ambassador Goldberg. 'We don't do that,' sabi pa niya," he added.
Duterte, in a speech before the Filipino community in Hanoi last month, said he had received reports that the CIA wanted him dead.
“Sabi nila pa-plano-plano raw ang CIA na patayin ako. Susmaryosep, ginoo," Duterte said with a straight face while discussing how he would not allow a war with China over disputed waters in the South China Sea.
Lorenzana said he does not know what prompted Duterte to state that the CIA, the US agency that gathers and evaluates foreign intelligence to assist the US president and policymakers.
"Maybe he [Duterte] has some information that I don't," Lorenzana said. "I don't actually know the origin of those comments nya. Maybe he hears some information from others."
The Defense secretary also said the president sometimes mentions his concerns about dying before he finishes his six-year term in 2022.
"He keeps saying that to us in private, 'I don't think I can solve this problem during my time,'" Lorenzana said.
The Defense chief said the president asked them to continue what he had started if he passed away before ending his term.
Lorenzana said Duterte was "very pragmatic not fatalistic" and that the president was aware that "a person's life is very fleeting"
Philippine-US relations have taken a turn after Duterte's recent strong statements against US President Barack Obama and Goldberg.
In August, Duterte made a gay slur against Goldberg after calling the ambassador bakla in a speech before Philippine troops in Cebu.
In September, Duterte made a "son of a whore" remark as he was commenting about Obama just before their scheduled talk at the ASEAN Summit in Laos. The issue prompted Obama to call off the meeting.
Then, this October, Duterte once again issued an inflammatory remark against the US president, saying "Mr. Obama, you can go to hell.
Bumps on the road
However, Lorenzana said Philippine-US relations remained steady despite recent developments.
"I think it's just going through these bumps on the road. Relationships sometimes go through this stage," the Defense chief said.
He said this is not the first time that relations between the Philippines and its former colonizer, the US, have soured.
"We've been through this before even during the time of [the late President Ferdinand] Marcos," Lorenzana said. "Sometimes ganyan eh, may misunderstanding."
"Personally I welcome this development. It's time maybe to reassess our relationship," the Defense chief said. "Maybe we should reassess what we should be getting from the alliance."
He said the Philippines should start considering other possible sources of military equipment. "Is it time for us to go to another source for our materials?"
"It's part of maybe growing up," he said. "We should not be too dependent on one country." —NB, GMA News