IT’S no surprise that we are at this point when our candidates for president are talking like the macho men that they are, unfiltered, out of control, using lines straight out of 1980’s showbiz tabloid culture, where pukpukan ng mic sa ulo was a normal occurrence. After all, this is what gets candidates some good ol’ media mileage.
What does surprise is that we have let someone like Rodrigo Duterte bring it to this point, and that another candidate in the person of Mar Roxas would stoop down to his level. I had thought we were all on the same page about the kind of shoot-from-the-hip, Pinoy gangstah, living-in-an-FPJ-movie Duterte is. Which is to say I thought we all agreed that the only way to deal with Duterte’s potty mouth was to ignore it completely.
Apparently, Roxas did not get the memo.
Sampalan ng myths
What seems to have kicked off this showdown was Roxas’s declaration that Davao City’s peace and order claims are but a myth, if one is to base it on reports from the Philippine National Police (PNP) Camp Crame that reveal how Davao City had a crime volume of 18,119 in 2014, making it the fourth city with the highest crime volume that year (SunStar Davao, 13 Dec).
Mar was, of course, making a point about how much better he is than Duterte, because Roxas asserts that as Interior secretary he had successfully worked with the PNP in solving crime through systematic means and without resorting to violence (Inquirer.net, 11 Dec).
In classic sanggano fashion, Duterte responded with the threat of slapping Roxas if they ever run into each other: “… pag-magkita kami sa isang kanto dito sa kampanya, sampalin ko ‘yang gagong yan” (Philippine Star, 13 Dec). Duterte also talked about his first-hand experience of Roxas during the relief and rescue operations after Typhoon Haiyan (Philippine Star, 13 Dec), calling Roxas a “political myth” (Inquirer.net, 12 Dec). He then threw this into the fray: “You claim to have graduated from Wharton School of Economics. That is a myth – you did not graduate sa Wharton School Of Economics, Mr. Roxas. Wala doon sa listahan na naka-kumpleto ka ng 4 years o 5 years for a degree” (ABS-CBN News, 13 Dec).
Roxas, in what is called a “chance interview,” responded: “Ganito, magsampalan kami. Kung hindi totoo ang Wharton degree ko, sampalin mo ako. Hindi ako iiwas o iilag. Pero kung totoo ‘yung Wharton degree ko, sasampalin kita” (Manila Bulletin, 14 Dec)
Suntukan ng facts
One can go beyond the rhetoric and start looking at the factual basis of this exchange.
Fact: According to the Davao City Police, the number that Roxas dropped in terms of the city’s crime rate might be correct, but it needs to be broken down. Fact: only 36% of the Roxas number makes up crimes against person and properties; 64% are “police-initiated operations that yielded positive results especially on anti-drugs and other special laws” (SunStarDavao, 13 Dec).
Fact: Roxas would have been better off criticizing Duterte on the basis of human rights, instead of comparing his work as Interior secretary with Duterte’s work as Mayor. The latter just opened Roxas up to the more vicious – because truthful – criticism that is almost common knowledge about him at this point: how he handled the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in Leyte and Eastern Samar.
Fact: Duterte is from Maasin Southern Leyte and he encountered Roxas in Tacloban after the typhoon. He found then that Roxas could not “handle stress,” and was making questionable decisions that were not grounded in the state of the province, i.e., calling on local government personnel to clear the streets of dead bodies and asking residents to join in clearing operations instead of calling the army, and distributing uncooked rice to victims who had no way to cook food at that time (Philippine Star, 13 Dec).
Fact: As the Roxas campaign (from Intramuros tour guide to mainstream online media site) has been quick to point out, Roxas DID graduate from the Wharton School of Economics in the University of Pennsylvania with an Economics degree.
Barilan ng rhetoric
Duterte insists: Roxas is NOT a Wharton graduate.
Roxas says: “Lahat itong mga sinasabi mong sampalan, ganoon-ganoon—anong kinalaman niyan sa buhay ng 100 milyong Pilipino…? Sa dami ng problema na hinaharap ng ating bansa, ikaw nauuwi ka sa kung ano-anong mga kalokohan.
Gawin mo na lang kung anong gusto mong gawin. At sampalan? Bakit pa sampalan, pambabae ‘yan, suntukan na lang? Di ba? Simpleng-simple lang ito” (GMANetwork.com, 15 Dec)
But this might be even simpler: deliberately or not, the Roxas camp (even back when he was running for Senator) has always given the impression that he is “a Wharton graduate,” and has never corrected the public perception that he holds a Masters Degree from the same school.
Why would we presume that? Well, other than the fact that this is what being “a Wharton graduate” connotes, if you look at Roxas’ official profiles from the Senate to his own website, Roxas in fact states that he is “a graduate of the Ateneo de Manila University and of the Wharton School of Economics at the University of Pennsylvania.” Anyone would think this means graduating college from AdMU.
Fact: He graduated from the Ateneo de Manila High School in 1974, and the UPenn in 1979.
I say the UPenn because on the Wharton website itself, it is said that the degree an undergraduate student of Wharton will receive is a “Bachelor of Science Economics Degree from the University of Pennsylvania” (Wharton Website), NOT Wharton School.
This kind of spin, of course, is nothing new for anyone who has followed how the Liberal Party deals with information and how it is released to the public. But in the case of this sampalan with Duterte, it’s clear who was working with fact, and who was spinning things out of control. It’s also clear who’s on a downward spiral here, revealing yabang and arrogance that is oh so familiar given the haciendero politicians among us.
Duterte, for all his crassness, knows how to play this game better than Roxas, declaring: “Barilan na lang. Takot mamatay ang mga mayayaman. Anong kinatatakutan ko?” (CNNPhilippines, 15 Dec)
And just like that it has become a class war, the rich versus poor, the elite versus the masa. That’s a pretty thick line between Roxas supporters like Carlos Celdran and Jim Paredes, and Duterte supporters who accept the tag Dutertards like it’s a badge of honor.
In this war between two machos, one knows we have got to be the losers.