SARA “Inday” Duterte, the mayor of Davao City and the President’s daughter, is the latest government official to have called for the exhibition of Sen. Antonio Trillanes’ testicles: “Pakita mo bayag mo, huwag mo itago yan sa Senado (Show your balls, don’t hide them in the Senate),” she said just the other day. Along with lies, fabrications, contradictions and deceptions, an obsession with testicles, it seems, and specifically the pair belonging to Senator Trillanes, distinguishes the political discourse of this presidency and those of its supporters.
Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson also wants to know whether Trillanes has “balls.” In reaction to a lawsuit Trillanes was on the verge of filing against her for libel last September, Uson issued a taunting, mocking dare that nowadays passes off as official statement—if he wins his suit, she would resign; if he loses, he would step down, and if he had second thoughts and backed off, then it meant he lacked balls. She would also slap his face the next time they met. Trillanes filed his case and the next time they met, at the Senate investigation on fake news, she coyly flirted with him, spoke softly and asked to pose for a photo.
Mocha, a former pop singer, dancer and soft porn star, was being disingenuous. She knows what it is to be tough. She doesn’t think twice about swearing at and insulting the Vice President. She thinks little of her detractors who accuse her of spreading fake news, and, wittingly or not, incites hatred and violence among her millions of social media followers.
Similarly, no one has yet questioned Sara’s toughness. After publicly confessing that she was a rape victim, her father said: “Hindi ma rape ‘yan si Inday, nagdadala siya ng baril (Inday can’t be raped, she carries a gun).” That’s tough. And she is cheered for being able not only to “take it like a man” but also for her supposed manly toughness. She physically assaulted another government official in the street, a town sheriff, who found himself on the receiving end of her pummeling fists.
Like other members of her family, Sara has clearly had enough of Trillanes. The latter has accused her elder brother, Paolo, and her husband, Mans Carpio, of heading the Davao Group, a gang who might just turn out to be the country’s biggest drug smugglers. As if that were not enough, Trillanes wants to compel Paolo to show the tattoo on his back that could potentially prove his triad membership. He has relentlessly claimed that the Duterte family is corrupt, and, in particular, won’t stop nagging the President, who he says has stashed away billions of pesos, to sign a bank secrecy waiver. And, lest we forget, not only does Trillanes think Duterte is a thief, he has also called him a mass murderer and has personally endorsed the criminal complaint that was brought before the International Criminal Court in the Hague last year, by lawyer Jude Sabio. If being in possession of “balls” or male testicles, denotes manly courage, backbone, vigor and general all-round toughness, might Sara and Mocha be perhaps barking up the wrong tree?
Both women, without doubt, are ferociously sincere in the words they use, even as they, in effect, take their cue from the President and parrot his words. In response to Trillanes’ political attacks, Duterte has sworn at him, called him a tulisan, a robber, has challenged him to fistfights and gunfights, and, of course, claimed that the man has no balls.
Duterte perceives the senator to be a threat, if not one of the greatest threats, to the country and his presidency, which in his mind, are one and the same. In yet another of his inchoate speeches, this time delivered at the Malacañang press briefing room last week, during which he expelled all EU diplomats from the Philippines on erroneous information, he lumped Trillanes with other oppositionists and dissenters, the “yellows,” or members of the decimated Liberal Party, and the fractured communists, the “Reds.”
Bound up by the same “ideological whatever,” as he put it, these groups have clearly unnerved Duterte and left him paranoid. He reiterated the need to procure more arms for the police and the army, and touted again the idea of a revolutionary government. It’s a distinct feeling of being under siege that some have scoffed at, while acknowledging the dangers. As veteran journalist and author Marites Dañguilan Vitug has said: “Really, there is no huge threat to the survival of the country except the thoughts in his addled mind flamed by falsities.”
In this paranoid, hypersensitive, ultra-chauvinistic climate, political discourse has been reduced to whether or not one has balls—to jeering, sneering, tormenting, goading, and insulting—all those corrosive, contemptuous words that belong in the mouths of playground bullies from hell.