MANILA – Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte accused on Thursday the Central Intelligence Agency of funding a news website that is critical of the government after the United States intelligence agency said he posed a threat to democracy in Asia.
In a televised press conference from Iloilo – a city located around 460 kilometers (285 miles) south of Manila – Duterte said Rappler was “sponsored” by the CIA as “it takes every chance to undermine” his administration in order to destabilize it.
“That is the history of America’s CIA. They take care of the political dissenters because eventually they will choose a candidate that they can manipulate like this,” the leader said.
Duterte’s remarks came days after an intelligence report by the US suggested Duterte was a threat to democracy in Asia and compared him to autocratic heads of state in the region, including Cambodia’s Hun Sen.
The document referred mainly to Duterte’s “war on drugs,” which has led to over 7,000 deaths in the Philippines, according to estimates, as well as other controversial proposals of the president.
According to the report, “Duterte has suggested that he could suspend the Constitution, declare a ‘revolutionary government,’ and impose nationwide martial law.”
Duterte did not offer further details or proof to back his accusations against the site.
In mid-January, the Securities and Exchange Commission revoked Rappler’s license to operate, which international organizations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, described as an attempt by the government to silence critical voices.
Although SEC’s decision is not final and Rappler continues to operate legally, Duterte this week banned Rappler reporters from the presidential palace, a move that has sparked fresh condemnation from local press unions and international organizations.