Palace says "enemies of government" behind banners welcoming visitors to "Philippines, province of China"
Malacanang accused on Thursday the "enemies of government" to be behind banners hung in some parts of Metro Manila on the day the country marked the second anniversary of the United Nations Arbitral Tribunal award on its case against China in the South China Sea.
"Welcome to the Philippines, province of China," read from the tarpaulins placed on some major thoroughfares in Metro Manila.
"It's absurd and I'm sure it’s the enemies of our government behind it. So to them: try again, you need a better gimmick than that," Roque said.
He refused to name those enemies of the government.
Roque said what was stated on the tarpaulins was not true.
Despite the favorable ruling of the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration on the Philippines against China's historic claim in almost the entire South China Sea, President Rodrigo Duterte's administration has decided to put the award on the back burner and instead take a "softer and friendly" stance with China despite the latter's reclamation and militarization in the disputed waters.
In a forum in Makati City, Jay Batongbacal, a professor at the University of the Philippines College of Law and expert on the Law of the Sea, expressed belief the tarpaulins with such statement could be construed as a "sign of protest" over the Duterte administration's action as far as the South China Sea issue is concerned.
Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio said whoever put the tarpaulins was just expressing freedom of expression. Celerina Monte/DMS