IT has been said that the tongue is full of deadly poison. While spoken words could not instantly kill, it could definitely hurt and destroy relationships.
We often hear people say that the more you talk, the more blunders you commit. In other words, the less you talk, the fewer mistakes you commit.
President Duterte, in his speech at the relaunching of the Malacañang Press Briefing Room on Thursday, exhorted government workers, “especially those who form part of the Communications Office, to remain committed to your duty of upholding the truth at all times.”
“Never exaggerate, never misinterpret (and) never agitate as you communicate our platform of governance. In other words, do not be arrogant,” he continued.
He also called on the media “to remain committed to the truth at all times.”
“Never, never lie because we are not up to it anyway. Never confuse your search for answers with the need to engage the public through sensationalized news and overpublicized political propaganda,” the President said, reading from a prepared speech.
Good words. Clear message. Focused.
But when he digressed from the written speech and began to speak in incomplete sentences, as he often does during his speaking engagements, the President’s messages become cluttered and long-winded.
While the President called for the reporting of truth “at all times,” he himself committed the mistake of “reincarnating” Hashim Salamat, the reclusive leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), who died four years ago of complications from a heart ailment and an acute ulcer.
It was in the same speech that he talked about “those stupid European Union guys” and told them to “leave my country in 24 hours” as he threatened to cut off relations with EU countries over the alleged EU plan to have the Philippines expelled from the United Nations.
It was actually John Fisher, director of Human Rights Watch-Geneva who said the Philippine government, as a member of the UN Human Rights Council, has an obligation to uphold human rights and be open to independent investigation.
Then Fisher warned that the Philippines could be kicked out of the UNHRC if it continues to deny that human rights violations and extra-judicial killings happen in the Duterte administration’s aggressive war on drugs.
President Duterte has refused to acknowledge that he has a problem with his tongue, or the dirty words and expletives coming out of his mouth. He will not admit that his tongue often gets him into trouble.
While we need a leader who is assertive like Duterte, his tongue and convoluted messaging diminishes him as a leader worthy of respect and admiration.
Criticisms don’t take away his freedom to speak what’s in his mind. But freedom, even if he is President, should be exercised with responsibility.
While it is true that the Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, of expression, and of the press, its exercise is not limitless. You can say whatever you want to say for as long as it does not encroach on another person’s freedoms.
Eloquence in speaking is not the same as being verbose and ambiguous. There is wisdom in using fewer words than expected, for as long as what you say is clear and meaningful. Otherwise, you end up committing blunders and slips.
One’s credibility comes into question when you or someone else takes back your words or has to clarify or deny what you have said.
Being the government’s chief communicator of his administration’s policies and accomplishments, President Duterte should listen to his own voice. As he said in his speech, government communicators, especially from Malacañang, should not be arrogant, while members of the media should not lie.
He should always remind himself of his own words: “Never exaggerate, never misinterpret [and]never agitate as you communicate our platform of governance. In other words, do not be arrogant.”