In 1966, just a year into the first term of the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos, a Hollywood movie shook Manila with the novelty of its concept. A scientist is nearly assassinated. In order to save him, a medical team is reduced to microscopic size and loaded into a submarine similarly shrunken by which they navigate the bloodstream of the patient and seek remedy for the scientist’s injury. Titled “Fantastic Voyage,” the movie was a smash hit and earned critical acclaim worldwide.
I recall the movie now as I wring my cranium in search for a way to understand Rodrigo Duterte.
Of the five protagonists in the current presidential contest, only this creature seems to defy comprehension by even his peers. His flip-flapping on issues is as many a boxer’s sidesteps, twists and turns, maneuvers so unpredictable that even Pacman would just have a hard time catching him with a punch. He announces his candidacy for President only to withdraw it soon after. And then just as his political foes begin to sit back, comfortable in the thought that that’s one opponent down, he springs back to the scene, substituting for the presidential candidacy of a partymate, who has withdrawn from the field.
He cusses the Pope but later claims it’s not the Pope he cussed but the traffic. He admits killing 1,700 then calls it a hyperbole. He declares rage at not having raped an Australian lady first but afterward says he was joking.
Bewilderment is an efficacy nobody beats Duterte in. Now he says one thing, next time he says the opposite. But in any case, his throngs of fanatics sway wherever he directs them. And it is for this reason that I shudder from his avowal about not caring at all if he wins or loses in the presidential fight.
“I won’t die if I don’t become President,” he declares quite arrogantly.
Does not this statement betray an innermost distaste, even aversion, to the huge responsibility intrinsic in the presidency? If, God forbid, he wins the post in the coming elections, what then will the nation be headed to?
No psychoanalyst has yet come up with even an attempt to explain the enigma that Duterte is. In a past article I wrote in this column, “Duterte or Idi Amin: What’s The Difference?” I dared touch on a little psychology by citing a psychoanalysis ascribing Idi Amin’s monstrous killer instinct to syphilis of the brain. Could be the same ailment Duterte is suffering from?
As a rephrase of a line of a song in the movie “Sound of Music,” I venture to ask: “How do you solve a problem like Duterte?”
Truly, I’m at a loss.
But maybe I could try some novelty of my own, like that scifi adventure in “Fantastic Voyage.” Words for sure are reflections of somebody’s inner thoughts. Surfing through Duterte’s utterances can be one method – and an impeccable one – for understanding his real character.
Didn’t he say, after all? “I’d rather lose the election than lose my identity. My identity is my character.”
So Duterte is that kind of person who makes no pretense with his perceivable motives. Those aspects of his life that he must keep very private early on he can take care not to make any betrayal of, like his role in the continuing rice and illegal drug smuggling in Davao City.
But those meant for putting forward a public image, his words out like the ratatat of his Uzi and damn if it gives his identity, his character away.
By browsing through his words, we are able to navigate into what’s going on in his mind.
So, here goes.
On running for President:
“If I could make this sacrifice if only to save this country from being fractured.”
On joking about the dead Australian rape victim:
“Yan eh, salitang kanto – nung binuksan ko, ‘O eto,’ galit ako nun
nagsasalita. ‘Ang ganda-ganda pa mukhang artistang galing America. Putang ina, naunahan pa ako, Patayin mo lahat,”
On running for President again:
“I am not interested in becoming the President, or the Vice President, or even a senator or a secretary of any department. I am not qualified for these positions. I will aspire only for what I can be. I will not dream for what I cannot be.”
On ending criminality:
1.”I say let’s kill five criminals every week so they will be eliminated.”
2. “The criminals have no place in this city except jails, detention centers and, God forbid, funeral parlors.”
3. “ Stop or leave. If you can’t or will not, you will not survive. You can either leave vertically or horizontally.”
4. “I tell you, criminals. Don’t come to this city.”
5. “Barilin kita. Bakit mo ako suntukin? Ako nga ang peace maker para walang bloodshed, tapos suntukin ako. I’ll shoot you.”
“She is not ready to apologize. She offers no excuses. No apologies. No nothing. So be it. The yakkings of the mouth… Millions of them. You want blood? We will give it to you.”
“ ‘Yang mga bleeding progressive minds, you know how to deal with the problem? You tell us.”
On defense of a child:
“Kung hindi naman kayo tarantado. Anak ko ‘yan eh. I only know one event, ‘yung tatay iniwan ang anak. God the Father allowed his only son to be crucified. The problem is I am not God the Father. But she is my daughter. Period.”
On dealing with notorious criminals
“Pag napatay niyo, doblado, 4 million ako. Ngayon, pag dinala niyo ang ulo ni Ryan Yu dito sa akin, lagyan mo lang ice para hindi mabaho, dadagdag ako ng 1 million. So that’s 5 million.”
On criticism for anarchy:
“Don’t fuck with my team. Hindi ako papayag ng ganyan. Anarchy? Paano tayo makakatulong kung lahat tayo puro aktor?”
“Anarchy eh! Kung pakialaman pa ang medisina eh ano ang silbi ng doktor ko? So they can choose, we can add more casualties by bullets. Nasa kanila ‘yan.”
On freedom of expression:
“What is wrong if I use my freedom of expression and invoke it now? What does it send you, ‘yang dirty finger? What does it connotate? Sige daw?… Rosales asks the DILG to teach me a lesson? Sila ang pumunta dito, and I will teach them a lesson of the freedom of expression. Lecture-an ko sila with the finer points of the Constitution.”
On God’s existence:
“God must have been somewhere else or forgot that there was planet Earth.”