PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte’s rant on the possibility of being questioned on his anti-drug campaign by US President Obama drew immediate praises from his legions of faithful followers.
His comments that the Philippines is no longer a vassal state and it’s no longer a US colony showed a strong and independent-minded leader who couldn’t be cowed by the President of the strongest nation in the world. Many wrote on social media that Obama deserved the cuss words thrown at him for meddling in the internal affairs of a sovereign country.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello 3rd was the highest government official to justify what appeared to be the President’s intemperate language against the head of a tried and tested friendly country. Bello said that Duterte might have remembered that Obama was already a lame duck President and that Duterte wasn’t too concerned about establishing a strong relationship with an outgoing President.
Well, when President Duterte drew flak for his decidedly undiplomatic language, the same crowd that had defended his use of words are now the same ones excoriating media for alleged disinformation. They’re saying the President never cursed at Obama and that media men who reported that he did should be prosecuted.
They gave Duterte fulsome praise when they thought he really railed at Obama, and then vented their ire on reporters who misinformed the public on what he really said.
Indeed, it’s debatable if the President’s words were directed at Obama or at the reporters. Any debate, however, became moot and academic when he apologized for his use of words that were seen as a personal attack on Obama.
To Obama’s credit, he didn’t take the President’s colorful language personally “because it seems as if this is a phrase he’s used repeatedly, including directed at the Pope and others.”
This reminds me of a former congressman, the late Leonardo Guerrero of Cavite, whose conversations were laced with curses. In public, he frequently shouted “putang ina mo” to his driver. Once, Bert de Guzman of Balita asked the driver how he could stand Guerrero’s curses.
“Naku, ang bait-bait po niya sa akin at sa aking pamilya. Bulaklak lang ng dila ang kanyang pagmumura,” the long-time driver told Bert.
Perhaps, like Guerrero, President Duterte’s “putang ina” isn’t to be taken as a personal insult. Nevertheless, those aren’t words to be used on the international stage of leaders with different cultures.
Change we can do without
Millions of Filipinos are lapping up the President’s promise of “change.” One change we can do without is the loss of civility in social media.
We’ve never had this disconcerting “phenomenon” before. Now, it’s very common to read posts from Duterte diehards cursing and wishing to death opinion writers who give even the slightest hint of not favoring some of his statements or policies.
If these Duterte militants succeed in cowing media, the Philippines will soon have a press completely composed of boot lickers, and a President who’ll brook no criticism or opposition. They can’t ascribe all criticisms of the President as parts of a grand conspiracy to make him fail.
No man is perfect. Those who see nothing wrong with President Duterte are no better than those who see nothing good in him.