Department of National Defense secretary Gen. Delfin Lorenzana denounced on 18 April as “irresponsible propaganda” several reports of a group of Armed Forces of the Philippines officers threatening to withdraw support from the Rodrigo Duterte government. “This is fake news,” he said, “I am not a part and will never be a part of any such group.”
On the same day, AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Carlito Sobejana made a similar statement, saying he “dismisses the alleged existence of a Viber group which claims membership from among senior and junior officers, both active and retired.”
The denials were prompted by the ‘Viber 300’, later ‘Viber 500’ group, said to be composed of active and retired high command AFP officers, demanding President Rodrigo Duterte to denounce China’s incursion in the West Philippine Sea and to assert the Philippines’ legal claims in the area. They demand that Duterte stop taking China’s side on the issue. “The demand of the Viber 500 to denouce China’s invasion in the strongest possible terms is now impossible to ignore. A withdrawal of support is very imminent,” said one of their social media posts.
Viber 500 counts retired generals in Duterte’s government, “except retired Gen. Carlito Galvez”, as group members.
Gen. Lorenzana said Viber 500 are “destabilizers” as he called on them to “cease from propagating malicious statements.” Gen. Sobejana also said, “It is obvious that the motive of these malicious posts is to create panic and confusion. We advise the public to remain calm and dismiss them as another disinformation.”
Reports of the group’s activities continue, however, even as Duterte’s Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teodoro Locsin, Jr. continues to send off dimplomatic protests against Chinese incurssions in the West Philippine Sea.