Duterte Claims He Faces a Coup 'Because Tempers Are Rising in the Military,' Threatens to Declare Martial Law

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has "very reliable" information that there is a genuine risk of a military coup to oust him from power, according to his spokesperson, and that he could use martial law or the declaration of a revolutionary government to solve the country's problems.

Salvador Panelo, who is also Duterte's chief legal counsel, made the remarks in explaining a speech given by the president on Monday in which he called on Filipino politicians to revise the constitution to protect his leadership from the military, The Manila Times reported.

Duterte purportedly fears that the Filipino military will act on its constitutional role as protector of the people to forcibly remove him from office over the country's myriad problems, including official corruption, the brutal war on drugs, and terrorism.

According to CNN Philippines, Duterte said during his speech to new government officials taking an oath that if politicians "want to change the constitution, do it now. I'm still here…because tempers are rising in the military."

On Tuesday, Panelo told reporters that Duterte "can impose martial law, declare a revolutionary government, he can use other emergency powers," to tackle the country's problems, but that the military may soon grow frustrated if the situation worsens.

"I think it's a fair warning to all… If they get angry, they might stage a coup… He has very reliable information," Panelo said, The Manila Times reported. "Any coup attempt against President Duterte will certainly fail. It will not get the support of a critical mass of people who remain overwhelmingly supportive of PRRD [President Rodrigo Roa Duterte] and his administration."

Armed Forces of the Philippines Spokesperson Edgar Arevalo told CNN that the military "shall remain loyal to the flag, to the constitution, and to the Filipino people," playing down Duterte's talk of a coup.

Earlier this week, Duterte called on the U.S. to declare war on China over the territorial disputes in the South China Sea by deploying the U.S. 7th Fleet—some 70 to 80 ships and submarines—to the area, forcing Beijing from the waters.

"I have a proposal," Duterte said, according to Business Insider. "If America wants China to leave, and I can't make them… I want the whole 7th Fleet of the armed forces of the United States of America there.

"When they enter the South China Sea, I will enter," he said. "I will ride with the American who goes there first. Then I will tell the Americans, 'Okay, let's bomb everything.'"

Last week in another speech, Duterte accused the U.S. of "pushing us, egging us" towards war with Beijing, "making me the bait," according to the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

"What do you think Filipinos are, earthworms?" Duterte said. "Now, I say, you bring your planes, your boats to South China Sea. Fire the first shot, and we are just here behind you. Go ahead, let's fight."

Manila and Beijing have clashed recently over the sinking by a Chinese ship of a Filipino fishing vessel in the South China Sea, with its 22 crew needing to be rescued from the water by a passing Vietnamese ship.

Philippines Rodrigo Duterte military coup
Philippines' President Rodrigo Duterte attends the plenary session of the 34th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Bangkok on June 22, 2019. LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images