Do you hate President Duterte?

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Ricardo Saludo

Ricardo Saludo

First of two parts
In the past week or so, this writer was among family and friends expressing intense dislike, if not hatred for President Rodrigo Duterte. All were ordinary folk with no political affiliations, yet one in fuming against him.

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The reasons are well-known: Duterte’s rough language and sexist talk toward women; his confusing policy statements; the thousands of killings in his anti-drug war; the foreign policy shift away from the United States; and lately, the burial of dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan ng Mga Bayani, and the claimed plot to oust Vice-President Leni Robredo.

Let’s look closely at these reasons.

On his gutter talk and rough manners, one leisure club member remarked, “It’s like the squatters took over the government,” seeing in Duterte the assumed lack of breeding among the urban poor.

That comment says a lot about the unhappiness with Duterte’s uncouthness. It’s partly, if not largely elitist, widespread among those from exclusive schools and posh subdivisions, repelled by cussing and politically incorrect remarks.

By contrast, the masa cheer Duterte for talking and thinking like them. Even among poor people with strict morals and manners — and religiosity is common among the indigent — the President’s unpresidential ways are tolerated as part of being the tough protector and reformer the nation needs (more on this later).

Since the D and E income classes — the majority of the population — raise nil objections to Duterte’s language, it won’t lose color anytime soon, no matter how many times he jokes about in-flight divine admonitions against cussing.

So those who hate four-letter words should not only brace for 5 1/2 more years of them. After all, it’s never easy for a septuagenarian to change habits. And he won’t even try if those objecting are mostly the wealthy, well-connected and well-bred, not the hoi polloi, whom he means to protect from, well, the wealthy, well-connected and well-bred.

More crucially, people who cup their ears, switch channels, or turn the page every time they encounter presidential “gutterances” should keep listening and reading. Otherwise, they miss big and important stuff not just in between, but right inside the bad words. Like telling US President Barack Obama to “go to hell,” which signalled the foreign policy turnaround Duterte announced during his state visit to Beijing.

The messy art of reversing policy
That brings up Objection No. 2: presidential statements give confusing signals on government policies, positions, and plans. Indeed, Cabinet members often find themselves clarifying or even retracting their boss’s remarks amid consternation among media, foreign governments, and affected sectors.

Probably the most widely reported flip-flops involve Duterte’s orders to end military exercises with the US. Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay took it back the very next day. Weeks later, Duterte said he wanted American troops out in two years.

The Commander-in-Chief also mused about abrogating the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which would escalate rotations of American forces in the Philippines and let them use five bases.

Last month, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the EDCA and military exercises would continue, though the latter would be focused more on disaster response rather than war maneuvers.

Amid all this, local and foreign media, defense allies, and American businesses are unsettled, with the latter pondering how Duterte’s anti-US rants may affect their investments and commerce in the Philippines. It didn’t help that he told enterprises unhappy with his foreign policy shift to pack up and leave.

In the face of confusing pronouncements, what should concerned observers here and abroad do about all the things they hear from Duterte and his deputies?

Answer: Nothing.

Huh? We should just grin and bear every twist and turn of presidential and Cabinet talk?

Actually, that’s pretty much what outgoing US Secretary of State John Kerry told his counterpart Yasay back in October. Kerry said America and the Philippines would “work through” the period of confusion.

Plainly, when policies are being drastically changed, if not reversed, there would be much uncertainty and flip-flops.

And President Duterte is recasting, ripping apart, and otherwise radically revising major policies, from the decades-old US alliance, relations with China and Russia, labor contractualization system, mining policy implementation, and, of course, law and drug enforcement. And we haven’t even started charter change.

Those sweeping changes cannot but be messy, both in pronouncement and practice. Compounding the tug-of-war between avowed goals and actual implementation are powerful forces opposing change, from Western allies keen to keep the Philippines in their fold and apart from adversaries, to adversely affected industries and crime syndicates, plus their friends in the government.

Not to mention the camp of former President Benigno Aquino 3rd. It’s unhappy seeing policies and practices that flourished under it being or due to be taken down, including his mother’s 1987 Constitution.

Result: President Duterte would mouth off about what he wants, and both his people and concerned sectors and entities react, leading to follow-up talk scrambling to smooth ruffled feathers.

Watch the walk, not the talk
Eventually, however, the administration comes up with doable policies and decisions, compromising somewhat but still moving toward Duterte’s desired directions.

Thus, military activities with Washington would no longer threaten or provoke China, and there would be arms purchases and defense cooperation with Beijing and Moscow. Mining firms are being pushed to clean up their act, and a plan is being crafted to wind down contractualization without huge losses in investment and jobs.

In sum, the government is working through the confusion toward new policies. And the smart money keeps its eye on what actually gets done or promulgated, not the soundbites hogging the morning and evening headlines, but rarely leading to actual state initiatives on the ground.

So next time President Duterte shocks with unprintable or upending soundbites, take a deep breath, say your piece, then wait and see what his regime actually does.

(The last part will run on Thursday.)

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25 Comments

  1. Alex.satumba1189519 on

    Kabayan, ayaw mo ba kay Pangulong Duterte o gusto mo siya? Galit ka ba sa kanya o hindi? Hindi ako pro-duterte o anti-duterte. Pro-philippines/filipino ako. Alam mo ba ang totoong problema ng pilipinas? PLEASE. Pakisagot dahil may gusto lng akong malaman. At kung pwede lng sana ay yung lingwahe natin ang gamitin mo dahil pilipino tayo.

  2. I’m sure other previous presidents swore in private as well, maybe even more than the present president. It’s just that they observe decorum when speaking in public or with the press. Duterte doesn’t mince his words privately and publicly, he just speaks what is in his mind. Most of his declarations seem like thinking out loud to me. Critics scramble to take down his latest unprintables and dissect them with enthusiasm and make money out of them.

  3. A governance of words vs action.

    If we just rely on talk, nothing happens, and we get hoodwinked and fooled, which is so far, the only thing almost all pinoy officials are good at.

    No matter how brilliant, inspiring or loftly the rhetoric (or bombastic and full lies ) our government officials speak, it won’t bring us to progress. We have drowned in lies and bombast from since we become a country, from justices and lawyers, politicians, lawyers, educators, you name it.

    It will take action, hard dirty action to change anything in our country. A boot in the ass will be more useful than begging the thieves (government staff and almost all businesses) to stop their plunder and ransacking of the country.

    So the elites can not handle the new admin, they can not understand what is being told to them – it means get lost, you don’ own this country anymore, your rigged game is over..

    This is change! whether towards good or bad, is up to us, how we adjust the sails, and help in the rowing.

  4. Duterte’s vulgarity is least worrisome thing about him, in my opinion. But can he take what he dishes out? I think citizens should fight fire with fire, and follow the advice by the philosopher in the following quotation, using the same kind of vulgarity against him. A president who disregards due process, the rule of law, and the constitution deserves to be cursed at the same way he curses others.

    “An obsession with polite or correct public language is a sign that communication is in decline. It means that the process and exercise of power have replaced debate as a public value. The citizen’s job is to be rude — to pierce the comfort of professional intercourse by boorish expressions of DOUBT. Politics, philosophy, writing, the arts — none of these, and certainly not science and economics, can serve the common weal if they are swathed in politeness. In everything which affects public affairs, breeding is for fools.”

    John Ralston Saul, The Doubters Companion, p. 237

  5. I am sure I am just one among the millions and millions who support PDU30.
    The elites may hate him for his rough language, his probinsyano demeanor – but he’s true.
    He loves this country and his people, that’s what we have been waiting for for so long.
    YELLOWS ARE OUT! Sorry, no offence intended to those who support them.
    Enough is enough. Hindi po kami aatras o hahayaan na alisin nyo itong presidente nato.

  6. To all Marcos Lovers, The topic is about Duterte not the Marcoses if you think the Marcos or Bong Bong will be back in power you are Dreaming…. Wake up this is Duterte’s Government not Marcos. Yes He cater for Marcoses for peace and prosperity of the country not to adore him.Please Stop connecting him to them. Duterte has his own vision toward healings not to plunder the country just like your God ( Marcos).

    • If the Jesuits can apparently see a link between the teachings of Jesus and their opposition to the burial of Marcos (why else would they want to dig him out of there) why can’t we make a connection between Duterte and the hero Marcos?

  7. Actually the very smart thinker recovers very quickly from Dutertes gutterances to hone in on his awe inspiring policies such as wealth redistribution. Like today when he was leaving for Cambodia. He was telling those drug addicted individuals that are beyond redemption to lock themselves or kill themselves as a joke but then he realised what he was saying was wrong so he abruptly cut that line of thought. Even I was saying oh man do not say that Rappler is gonna have that as their headline “Duterte says kill yourselves”. At the same time he announced a massive DSWD program currently implemented and his assessment of the impact of the TPP agreement on generic prescription medication availability which favours massive pharma multinationals is spot on.

  8. mr saludo, i am a law abiding citizen , i pay my taxes: would you rather have me killed? and canonize these addicts and criminals ? they never pay taxes. you people in high and safe places never understand our predicaments, who will protect us from these evil men? you never care and you are christians.

  9. “All were ordinary folk with no political affiliations” – Please, you know that isn’t true. Your family and friends seem to be those folks who look at the package and not at the content. Anyways lets reserve our comment until the full article is released :-)

  10. Love my President! Whoever I voted for and won will always support for as long as he is doing the will of GOD Asa. Public servant, to serve and care those who are law abiding and hardworking citizens of the Republic.

  11. Ernesto Dela Cruz on

    Love him or hate him, it’s up to you. What’s important for me is the accomplishment of President Duterte. Past Philippine presidents are now yellow with envy for the things Duterte managed to do in a short time, while they, the past presidents, couldn’t do them in 6 years. Forget the trash talk, the brash attitude and lack of tact. Just watch his accomplishments lining up the horizon. His bashers will do all they can to unseat Digong, but they will not succeed. Majority of the Filipino people are backing him up and would die for him if and when circumstance calls.

  12. Change is indeed coming swiftly in 6 months DU30 have so far ruled. Major infra/ economic projects approved by NEDA, the Yolanda victims taken cared of, P1 billion worth of medicines for the poor, DENR pro environment projects, Peace negos with the CPP/NDF and Moros,SSS pension increase, mega rehab centers for durugistas, death penalty proposal for drug dealers et. al., tanim bala no more, corrupt govt. officials and employees,narco politicians, police being charged in court, salary increases for govt. employees, high revenues from BOC and BIR . These have not been done in 6 years of Pnoy and Yellow tenure. And DU30 is paid P100k plus a month for all the trouble of this country?. Give him a break .His blabber mouth, squatter stye to the Yellow elitistas, is among few of his no-expense to the govt. pleasure. Even his sales girls girlfriends still lives in dorms, and he may have seldom use for them. So what the hell is your problem with Digong?. He walks the talks. Period.

  13. If all the columnist & reporters will write or express their opinion like the way are MR. SALUDO, the people of the Philippine will not be stupid taking words from the new president literally like a small kids.

    That is why those Filipino who has low IQ being affected very much & they begun to hate or developed them selves to a negative funk every time they talk.

  14. Actions always speak louder than words. The genteel class cover their ears and cry how their senses are assaulted but the middle class and downtrodden know whats what. Duterte is doing his job.

  15. I personally do not watch him on TV because I cannot tolerate dirty talks. I guess that is his style. Poor people like the way he talks. So be it. This is a democratic country and we must respect the majority. He defines our present day Pilipinos . My opinion’ if I do not like the system, then I must leave this country ” a corrupt, drug infested, all out cussing nation.

  16. One thing that this admin is winning is the war on drugs. Although, drugs is not totally eradicated but it is on the downward trend. With regards to foreign policy, it is a little bit messy, the stand if the government varies to who is talking. And what will happenn to this country if we shift to federalism. Are we sure that it will succeed or failed. So in my own assesment dapat a feasibility study should be conducted,

    • if federalism will fail, mindanao will secede. we will side with china. the americans have failed us. tell me what products are we selling to the americans? the products we sell to china? the americans recently gave us a 50 year old boat and we spent 16 millions USD to repair it, ( a rusty junk): the japanese gave us brand new boats + civilian type patrol airplanes practically free.

      we are buying rifles from the US not begging yet the attached so many conditions, china sell us rifles on installments for 25 years.

      wake up, soon u will not be my paisano anymore.

      good luck to u flips, as the americans call the filipinos.

  17. Thank you, and that` that what I am reallly doingI listen first d wait for the good news and we are not disappointed.

    Yolanda housing Proj. in Tacloban was asked to finished it very soon while our lovely VP Roberdo not doing anything about it, but ah! yes visiting the states with unrelated job.

    • Robredo was already out of the Cabinet and was already replaced by Evasco, so you are barking on the ” wrong tree”.You better asked Evasco, he knows the status of the project.

  18. A 10 year old girl said to me “I like Duterte because he does the job even if he swears. I can’t vote yet but I like Duterte and I dont have to imitate what he says” … this coming from the mouth of babes. Another gathering in a group with young college graduates – they were all excited talking about what Duterte is doing to the country. They talked about his weaknesses and all excited about politics and laughing at De Lima, Trillanes, Ninoy Aquino, Mar Roxas and pasaway politicians. Now, these young voters are the ones who placed Duterte in that seat. Now,whose voices should be listened to? the old ones or the young ones. Come on – your friends are such snub – first Duterte comes from Mindanao and second he is friends with the poor. These political policies foreign or whatever does not mean anything to them. All these young ones wanted is to be safe when walking around.

  19. Marcos haters hate Duterte for being a Marcos coddler. If Duterte were a yellow like , say Fred Lim aka Dirty Harry, they would be raining accolades on him. So my advice is to stay away from Marcos-hating hypocrites.

    • many bad things happen in Marcos time, sa dami nun natabunan na ng magaganda nya nagawa. Minsan pairalin mo naman sense of thinking, hindi lang yun dahil IDOL mo mga Marcos.