Duterte accuses CIA of funding local news website

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Manila, Feb 22 (IANS) President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday accused the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of funding a local news website critical of the Philippines government, after the US intelligence agency said he posed a threat to democracy in Asia.

In a televised press conference from Iloilo — a city located 460 km south of Manila — Duterte said Philippines-based 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.

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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, Efe news reported.

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 (SEC) revoked Rappler’s license to operate, which international organisations, 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 organisations.

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–IANS

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