VERA FILES FACT CHECK: In defending Duterte’s decision to scrap the VFA, ex-Palace spox Harry Roque makes two false claims

Read this fact check in Filipino

Former Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque is wrong when he said the country does not benefit at all from its Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States, and that Filipino soldiers, “based” on the Guinness World Records, are fighting the world’s “longest-running insurgency.”

STATEMENT

In a Jan. 29 radio interview, Roque, an international law expert, said he agreed “100 percent” with the president’s decision to terminate the VFA with the U.S., saying:

Wala po ako talagang nakikita na pakinabang ang VFA sa ating bayan...Ano ba naman ang matutunan...ng mga sundalo natin sa mga Amerikano? Eh iyong mga sundalo natin iyong lumalaban, sang-ayon sa Guinness Book of World Records, sa pinakamatagal na insurgency sa buong mundo.

(I really can’t see any benefit from the VFA. What can our soldiers learn from the Americans? Our soldiers are the ones who are fighting, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, the longest insurgency in the world.)”

Source: Radyo Pilipinas 378, Si PRRD lang ang mga makagagawa ng desisyon para kanselahin ang VFA ayon kay Atty. Roque, Jan. 29, 2020, watch from 5:35 to 6:10

FACT

Roque is wrong on two counts; 1) his claim that Filipino soldiers have not gained anything from U.S. forces contradicts the accounts of defense and foreign affairs authorities; and 2) there is no Guinness world record for the "longest-running insurgency" in the world.

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In a Feb. 6 Senate hearing, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. enumerated a number of “direct and indirect” benefits the Philippines has gotten out of the VFA. This included “vital” support on counter-terrorism efforts, specifically on “intelligence and capability-building” of the armed forces, which he said was “crucial” in the battle of Marawi in 2017.

Locsin also said U.S. forces have been “instrumental” in assisting the country in combatting “non-traditional security threats,” among others, such as human trafficking, cyberattacks, terrorism, and illegal narcotics through “trainings, joint exercises, and exchange visits.”

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in the same hearing that the U.S. was “always there” during calamities. It was a U.S. aircraft carrier that first offered assistance to the victims of Typhoon Yolanda, which struck in 2013, “because we do not have any assets then to bring there,” he added.

On Roque’s other claim, a search through the Guinness World Records’ “full list” of titles in its official website yielded no results for a “longest-running insurgency” nor of a country which has been battling an insurgency the longest.

The Guinness World Records states in its policy that it would disqualify records that involve “illegal activities” and could “cause potential harm or danger to spectators.”

An insurgency is defined as a “violent attempt” or “struggle” of a group of people against their government. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary:

“Since insurgencies are rarely strong enough to face a national army head-on, insurgents (often called guerrillas) tend to use such tactics as bombing, kidnapping, hostage taking, and hijacking.”

While Roque did not specify which Philippine rebel group he was referring to, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), established in December 1968, is the oldest such group.

Other insurgent groups in the Philippines include the Moro National Liberation Front, founded in 1969, and its splinter group Moro Islamic Liberation Front, formed in 1977, according to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.

At least two insurgency groups in other countries surpass the CPP-NPA’s existence: the Karen National Liberation Army, the armed wing of the Karen National Union, in Myanmar, established in 1947, and the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN) in Colombia, established in 1964. (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Dong Mangudadatu WRONG on world's 'longest-running' armed group)

The CPP-NPA, however, has waged the “longest communist insurgency” in the world, according to a profile by Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Concern, and a 2019 study from the Journal of Genocide Research.


Sources

Radyo Pilipinas 378, Si PRRD lang ang mga makagagawa ng desisyon para kanselahin ang VFA ayon kay Atty. Roque, Jan. 29, 2020

Presidential Communications Operations Office, Media Interview - Quezon City, Jan. 29, 2020

Senate of the Philippines, Committee on Foreign Relations (February 6, 2020), Feb. 6, 2020

Guinness World Records, Record policies

Guinness World Records, What makes a Guinness World Records title

Collins Dictionary, Insurgency

Cambridge Dictionary, Insurgency

Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Insurgency

Guinness World Records, Record Application Search

Office of the Presidential Adviser for Peace Process, Peace Process with the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army/National Democratic Front (CPP/NPA/NDF)

Office of the Presidential Adviser for Peace Process, Peace Process with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF)

Karen National Liberation Army

Ejército de Liberación Nacional

Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army



(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)

FOR FURTHER READING

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