Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has dared soldiers to "stage a mutiny" if they aren't happy with his leadership, saying they're free to join the side of his fiercest critic in Congress, Senator Antonio Trillanes.
"Stage a mutiny or revolution or whatever," Duterte said in an interview with Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo on Tuesday, as quoted by ABS-CBN TV. He added that if his critics believe they would be happier with his arch rival Trillanes, they can support him instead.
"You are free to do that. As a matter of fact, I’m encouraging you," Duterte said.
The president's comments came after he voided an amnesty granted to Trillanes, a former Navy officer who joined past mutinies, and ordered his arrest. He is asking the Department of Justice and the military to restart criminal proceedings against the senator, which Trillanes and some legal experts say would violate the country's constitution.
In his proclamation, Duterte stated that Trillanes's amnesty was void because the senator failed to file a formal amnesty proclamation and admit guilt for his involvement in previous failed coup attempts. However, Trillanes denies Duterte's claims and has used news reports and Defense Department documents to support his case. He has also asked the Supreme Court to declare Duterte's moves illegal.
The decision to revoke Trillanes's amnesty prompted the country's largest association of lawyers, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, to ask the courts to resist "creeping incursions" on their independence and to warn of judicial "chaos."
Trillanes has long been a foe of Duterte, accusing the president of large-scale corruption and involvement with illegal drugs. Duterte has denied all allegations. He is known to be sensitive to criticism, both domestically and internationally, particularly surrounding his controversial war on drugs which has left thousands dead since he took office in mid-2016.
The Philippine president's Tuesday remarks are the latest in a string of bold words delivered by the leader – including calling former President Obama a "son of a b*tch" and threatening to "burn down the United Nations." He also called former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon a "devil" and referred to the UN human rights chief as a "son of a whore" with an empty, big head.