Filipinos in Vietnam were reported to have waited for four hours to see President Rodrigo Duterte, who was visiting Hanoi on Thursday.
When he finally made his appearance, requests for selfies swarmed him and babies were practically shoved at him for a presidential kiss.
Stunts, the skeptic would say of the kissing of young children because politicians think, and rightly so, that their grandfatherly acts will score them brownie points among ordinary people.
It is said that Duterte is looking forward to becoming a doting grandfather when he retires, even as he portrays himself as a ruthless punisher of drug criminals.
He is known to fly off the handle and shoot his mouth off almost every chance he gets and yet, at the same time, appears genuinely sympathetic with victims of crime, the elderly and just ordinary folk. A few days ago before he left for Vietnam, he comforted a centenarian in her wheelchair.
Not to forget the trash-talking Duterte sobbing before his parents’ tomb when he was about to be declared winner of the presidential elections in May.
To be sure, his predecessors have had their share of kissing cute little babies, but Duterte has his own way of endearing himself to the masses.
Website Upworthy explains the political value of the act: “If you’re running for elected office, or trying to keep your current post, kissing babies is the name of the game.
“Kissing tiny humans for political gain actually goes back quite a ways.
No one knows for sure who the first politician to do it was, but the act is believed to have originated with an incident involving Andrew Jackson. While touring the Eastern states in 1833, he was approached by a woman with a baby in her arm.”
Mothers will be the last to shove their little angels to the devil, but if Duterte is the evil that his most severe critics portray him to be, the photos of him kissing such squirming toddlers don’t agree. As they say, pictures don’t lie.
Perhaps Duterte is also good at shifting personas (this is more of a problem for social scientists) that he could have that disarming charm one moment and be the fearsome monster the next, especially when he speaks of de Lima and drugs.
Either that or he is a real probinsyano who has refused to be sosyal because, as he has said once or twice, he just wants to rid the Philippines of the illegal drug problem and make the country a safe place to live in for all Filipinos, young and old, but especially for our future generations.