Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Monday, October 31, 2016

A "Dear Bel" Letter from the Expatriate Community

President Rodrigo Duterte doing the fist-bump with his foreign hosts.

Following is the letter to me dated Oct. 24, from a European former executive who had been doing business here and who has since chosen to settle in the Philippines. This gentleman has written to this blog a couple of times in the past in reaction to certain issues here, and I have published some of his commentary. It is clear that he has gotten to love this country of ours and is very sincere in wishing the Filipino people well. As far as this expat is concerned, however, the tough attacks leveled by the President against the traditional friends of the Philippines and the “flip-flopping” statements of some members of his Cabinet hurt the country in the eyes of the world. 

Interestingly, just today, Oct. 31, former Philippine Ambassador to the UN Larry Baja also lamented in the media the “lack of a coherent foreign policy” of the administration and its tendency to act “like a pendulum, swinging in one instance to the US and in another to China.”

It's really time for the President to tighten up his pronouncements and get into one act with his Cabinet. I maintain that Mr. Duterte needs less of the services of a "Department of Clarification" as proposed by fellow Mindanaoan, Fr. Eliseo Mercado of the OMI, and more of a true and meaningful consultation with his Cabinet and other sectors who could contribute to a real dialogue with him. 

A prayer for Mr. Duterte's success in governance is currently making the rounds of social media and we could all join in that prayer, as his success will redound to that of our country. 


Below is the European expat’s letter to me:

“ Dear Bel,

“Just to let you know that I can't agree more with your latest 'PoliticalTidbits' dated October 23. It's hard to describe the feelings of a former European business executive residing in your country since the late 1990s, when listening to your President. Disbelief, despair, confusion ... What to say, what to think? How can we respect a leader who demands respect from the world but doesn't show any respect himself for other world leaders or peoples when they express concern about alleged human rights abuses in the war against drugs. 

“The American and European people have been called idiots, blamed for terrorism, the American president an s.o.b. and we all can go to hell. No need for aid from western governments. No, the new promised land and friends are China and Russia and Asian countries. One can only wonder what other ASEAN countries are thinking of the radical change of policy of their chairman in 2017 (the Philippines assumes chairmanship of ASEAN next year---BOC).

“What can explain the often incoherent controversial statements of President Duterte? One thing is for sure. He has a very low tolerance for criticism---in particular from friends like the US and the European Union. For him it is a show of disrespect and hurting the dignity of the Filipino people.  However, what about the dignity of the victims of extra judiciary killings. The mistakes of the colonial powers of the past should not be used to silence those who aim at creating a better world today. Advise from old friends should not be treated as disrespect. And what about the history of Japan, China and Russia? No atrocities?

“It took more than three months for the local media to become more critical of the President. Not the extra judicial killings but the 'separation' (from the US) finally triggered the press and others to raise alarm about the foreign policy shift, looking for stronger alliances with China and Russia at the costs of old friends and the possible consequences.

“In particular now China:  contrary to what President Duterte has said about China never invading a piece of the Philippines, China has seized since 1995 the Mischief Reef and in 2012 Scarborough Shoal---thereby occupying Philippine territory, as confirmed by the Permanent Arbitration Court in The Hague. Moreover, it has been reported that the President has recognized the historical right of China about the South China Sea, which is a dangerous precedent and weakens the Filipino claims.

“The controversial words of the President and the flip-flopping statements of Cabinet members do leave an impression of anti-Western sentiment, as also shown in his way of treating some Western ambassadors. The image of the Philippines is at stake. The victims of lower development assistance from Europe will be the Filipino people as most aid goes through NGOs and not to the Philippine government. 

“One last word about the so-called strings attached. No strings in case of China and Russia? Secretary Yasay's statements picturing the Philippines as being captive of Western foreign interests in ‘disguised chains’ also give rise to concern and require explanation. It's about time the President accepts the need for consulting those with experience in matters of state concerning security, foreign policy and trade and foreign investment. 

The President can only be a good leader if he acts decisive in a responsible and respectful way. He needs support from all segments of society. Not top down as a dictator but in consultation. Only that way he can maintain the support required to become the ‘President of change.’ It is now or never.” 

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Did President Digong raise query on why illegal drugs find their way to PH from China? Another: why isn't it respecting in public statements recent Hague arbitral decision vs.its incursions in West PH Sea? China rates -36 in recent SWS survey of 1,200 Filipinos, which the infatuated President Digong should pay heed to. But there's also "blooming romance" between him and Russia's Putin, according to Standard. Infatuation, be it in love or war, can be dangerous, while romance a-blooming bears watching too.

Listening to President Duterte over the past days as he "pivots" (to use a popular word these days) to China and attacks the US, I'm reminded of the man who dumps his aging, unattractive partner for a serious infatuation with a seductive, ultra-generous young thing. The guy appears to be insanely in love with this younger woman, but the question is, how long would the infatuation last? Would he ultimately return to his older partner when the momentary thrill wears off? 

In fact the Inquirer photo today (Saturday, Oct. 22), showing President Digong and Chinese President Xi Jinping and other officials gazing at basketball superstar Yao Ming, their eyes clearly leveled only up to the giant athlete's elbows, seems to say it all about our leader's infatuation with China. Would disillusion with our northern giant neighbor eventually set in, throwing him back to good old USA's embrace?


One wonders if, during Mr. Duterte's state visit to Beijing, hard questions were asked. For instance, everyone knows that China has been the major source of illegal drugs for PH. Interestingly, it has now pledged US$9 billion to help in our development and, most significantly and ironically, in our acute need to rehabilitate perhaps millions of Filipinos who have been involved in illegal drug use. 

But we have to go to the basic question: has Mr. Duterte raised with China the issue of illegal drug trade carried out by Chinese nationals to PH, as an opposition member of the House of Representatives has stressed? One has only to see that some of the most prominent drug-traffickers in the National Bilibid Prison are of Chinese descent to realize this. 

Some years back, I was in the southern city of Guangzhou in China and I learned from our consul there that over a hundred Filipino drug mules were languishing in prisons there, awaiting final sentence. Was this issue taken up during Mr. Duterte's visit and did he plead for clemency for those who were mere innocent tools (or unwitting fools), as is customary in state visits? 


What about the issue of Scarborough and other islets in the West Philippine Sea? Was this discussed during the visit? While Mr. Duterte was there, an announcement came from the Chinese ministry that the Chinese are going to allow Filipino fishermen to fish in these disputed areas.  

The popular reaction in our country is that those waters---only 260 km. from the Zambales shores--- are OUR WATERS, THE TRADITIONAL FISHING GROUNDS OF OUR PEOPLE SINCE THE DAWN OF TIME. This was clearly spelled out in the stunning victory of PH vs. China in the decision of the UNCLOS-backed  Permanent Committee on Arbitration in The Hague, declaring Chinese incursions there illegal. The query in many minds: why are we accepting "permission" from China for use of our own waters? 


When China committed to fund some $24 billion worth of mega- project loans and services---proposed investments up to $15 billion and $9 billion worth of credit facilities---during Mr. Duterte's state visit to Beijing, he became quite euphoric and announced to the world our country's military and economic "separation" from the US, its ally for the past 50 years. In fact Mr. Duterte's embrace expansively plans to include another US rival, Russia. 

Thus, while he appears truly infatuated with our powerful neighbor to the north, the Manila Standard (Sunday, Oct. 23) already bannered the "Blooming Romance" between Vladimir Putin and Digong. Thus, in his very words: "...There are three of us against the world---China, Philippines and Russia. It's the only way." 


The President's pro-China stance was not unexpected since President Obama and the State Department had been ticking him on human rights violations and extra-judicial killings in PH, but it rippled across the world---especially in the light of the increasing rivalry between the US and China for dominance of the crucial sea lanes in this part of the world. 

As the "Daily Tribune" headlined, "Rody causes RP foreign policy confusion." As expected, his "goodbye to my friend (the US)" remark in China sent nations traditionally allied with the US, such as Japan, into a nervous fit. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to seek urgent clarification on Mr. Duterte's sudden turn-about when he visits Japan next month. 

On the other hand, the US is sending Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian affairs Daniel Russel to Manila this weekend to seek clarification on the government position. 


The Palace's strong favorable positions on China and Russia---and its announced "separation" from its traditional ally, have, of course, sent rattling ripples across the world, prompting attempts at clarifications by the Palace---yet again---of his ideas and utterances that should first have been carefully processed as these are not child's play. These are major policy statements he is making on behalf of the Filipino people. 

Thus, Fr. Eliseo Mercado of the Oblates in Mindanao was prompted to quip about the need to create a new bureau in the administration, to be named the "Department of Clarification." This bureau would surely turn out to be the busiest in Mr. Duterte's regime. 

Former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario put the current dilemma for PH vis-a-vis the US succinctly: "The declared shift in foreign policy casting aside a longtime reliable ally to hastily embrace an aggressive neighbor that vehemently rejects international law is both unwise and incomprehensible." 

Infatuation with China, as I called it, but now also "a blooming romance" with Russia. 


Duterte's anti-US tirades have provoked those among our people who harbor anti-US sentiments, to come up with their own broadsides such as the US's longtime "bullying" as well as perennially sore issues such as the stiff visa requirements for Filipinos. Observation was made by resentful folks that while the US allows nationals of 38 COUNTRIES to enter the US WITHOUT VISAS, it has failed to grant such benefit to citizens of its long-time ally/friend, the Philippines. 

Getting a US visa can indeed be such a mortifying experience for ordinary Filipinos and there is a whole lot of  truth to accusations vs. the US. BUT MY WORRY IS THAT WE DON'T KNOW CHINA AT ALL and yet our President is opening our country to its full embrace. Recall that we have had running problems with China through the years as it asserted its hegemony over Asia. 

Interestingly, a recent SWS survey notes that Filipinos trust the US most and China least. The SWS survey conducted last Sept. 24-27 with 1,200 adult respondents on net trust rating of countries placed US at +66, Australia +55, Japan +34 and China at -36. The President should have reckoned with this failing grade of China before he even spoke up in Beijing and to the world about abandoning the US and embracing China asap.  


Moreover, he should realize that we have such a huge Fil-Am population that boosts up our economy from year to year, in remittances here said to be in the vicinity of $25 billion yearly. He should have reckoned with all these facts before making that sweeping "Goodbye, my friend (the US)." 

I am not a great lover of America---in fact I haven't been in the US in perhaps over two decades. But our ties with this longtime ally with whom we fought side by side in WWII cannot be severed just like that---because there are many huge implications and repercussions especially in the economic front. This is where Mr. Duterte needs so badly that SOUNDING BOARD OF IDEAS that this blog had earlier asked former President Ramos, who egged the then Davao mayor to run for President in the last elections, TO FORM ASAP.   

Infatuation, be it in love or in war, can be quite dizzying and dangerous. As for a "blooming romance," let's smell the flower first.  

Monday, October 17, 2016

"We have to listen twice as much as we speak" ---message of Davao Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla to old friend Digong Duterte, whose mother, Soledad, had once besought him: "Monsignor, help my son become a religious leader." Capalla pines for Digong who used to do "Bisita Obispo" every Holy Thursday. Current Archbishop Romulo Valles strong contender for CBCP prexy in July 2017, which may alter his current off-issues stance.

Davao Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla misses old friend Digong Duterte, whom his mother, Mrs. Soledad Duterte, had entrusted to his care soon after the Archbishop was installed on Nov. 28, 1996---20 years ago. In a recent conversation with this blogger, Capalla recalled the visit of Ms. Duterte where she told him, "Monsignor, can I ask you a favor? Can you help my son become a religious leader?" 

Apparently the then Mayor's mother had worried about the slew of killings in the southern city. 

Capalla stressed that Digong loved his mother very much and that "He would never contradict her." But now the old lady is gone and access to the President, once his good friend, has become very limited. 


Archbishop Capalla has reason to pine for old times. He recalled to me with a laugh how, every Holy Thursday, while the faithful would flock to the churches for the "Bisita Iglesia," Mayor Digong would instead come to see him at the Archbishop's Palace for a "Bisita Obispo," where they would chat about anything at all.

 At that time the Mayor would tell him, "When you speak as Bishop of Davao, I respect you." In fact, he would stress that "We should always remain as friends."

Now there is a yawning gap between them. Capalla recalls that the Digong he knew “was a very, very humble and respectful person .. I know he would really respect his mother and the church pero karon what he says about the church, (it’s) as if he does not know what it is all about.”"


Reading the MindaNews write-up on his sentiments, I called up Archbishop Capalla at his Davao residence, where he admitted that "“I am worried about Digong as a friend.”  Capalla, who turns 82 next month, opined that “I think (Digong) has a problem and we need to help him." 

He has asserted that his old friend is "in the course of self-destruction, without even knowing that he is ruining himself. I don’t know that he knows that, but because he is already there, we need to help him." How? "That’s a big question." 


Capalla's successor, Archbishop Romulo Valles, and his prelates are quiet on the raging issues about the new President, and the only voice heard is that of the retired Archbishop who strongly feels that "the Church cannot be stopped from preaching about morals."

But Archbishop Valles might not be able to sustain his seemingly detached stance. Currently also the CBCP vice-president, he stands a big chance to be elected the next CBCP President for a two -year renewable term, after current President Socrates Villegas, Archbishop of Dagupan-Lingayen, bows out in July 2017. Should he be elected then, Archbishop Valles may be thrust into a position where his current silence about criticisms of Duterte may not be tenable. 


Capalla was Auxiliary Bishop of Davao from 1975 to 1977, returned to the city as Bishop co-adjutor from 1994 to 1996 and Archbishop from 1996 until his retirement in 2012. On the other hand, Duterte was mayor for 22 years — from 1988 to 1998, 2001 to 2010 and 2013 to 2016.

In 2001 the Church in Davao under Capalla's leadership issued a pastoral letter titled "Thou Shalt Not Kill," which criticized the dreaded Davao Death Squad associated in the popular thinking with Mayor Duterte (it resurfaced as the "Prayer for Healing" in 2009 in the Manila Times). All the churches in Davao at that time bannered huge streamers in their facades vs. the killings, but now it seems that every one in the church hierarchy is quiet---except the Archbishop Emeritus. 


Capalla acknowledges that Duterte “really loves the people,” especially the poor. He said the people he's helping “are also suffering but they don’t mind. What they want is for him to listen to them so they could be helped. Sayang imong gibuhat na di nato malahutay (It would be a pity if what you’re doing can’t be sustained)."

As quoted by MindaNews, Capalla wishes to tell the President, "Listen. Listen. Listen. Digong, ang Ginoo naghatag kanatog duha ka dalunggan, usa ra baba (Digong, God gave us two ears and only one mouth)." Which means that we have "to listen twice as much as we speak.”


He continues: “The ears are important. But we should listen not only with our two ears but with the third ear OR THE HEART. Mao na akong message sa iya pero (That is my message to him but) will he accept that? Will he listen to that?”

“Listening is very, very important, even in a dialogue,” Capalla asserts, even though he cites the counsel of former President Joseph Estrada that "few words, few mistakes; no word, no mistake.” I cannot agree more: the virtue of meditation combines ardent speaking and patient listening. 


Capalla laments, however, that “It’s the reverse now. That’s why we are in trouble,” referring to Mr. Duterte’s expletive-laden broadsides and “I will kill you” pronouncements. His old friend, asserts the prelate, is making "colossal blunders."

“If he can only listen… listen to other people,” and not talk too much, earn friends instead of enemies, Duterte can become the “greatest President of the Philippines,” Capalla told MindaNews. 


Archbishop Capalla said his sentiment is shared by other friends of Duterte, but access to him has become limited since he won the presidency. Capalla had hoped he could talk with him last September 19 at the Bishops-Ulama Conference general assembly at Mergrande Ocean Resort, but while he confirmed attendance he didn’t show up.  

Archbishop Capalla, though retired, remains much sought -after as speaker. On Oct. 26 he travels to Laos for the "Global Forum on Moderation (Peace) where he will speak on his experience 20 years ago as co-founder of the Bishop-Ulama Conference with Dr. Mahid Motilan, the only Filipino with a doctorate degree in Islamic Theology from Cairo University in Egypt. 

This Nov. 17-19, Capalla will travel to Colombo, Sri Lanka, with Presidential Peace Adviser Jess Dureza at the invitation of the Sri Lankan government for a conference among Asean countries on Islam---with the aim of reviving the values of Islam.

Interestingly, retirement has not allowed this brilliant theologian and ex-primate of Davao City to retire, but his one big aim---to dialog and rekindle his friendship with his old friend Digong Duterte---seems still unattainable.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Spanish poet-dramatist Garcia Lorca’s immortal passage seems tailor-made for our topsy-turvy times to quote---as antidote to despair. FVR, now critical of his protégé Digong Duterte, should form a group respected by the latter, which could be his badly-needed sounding board for his volatile ideas and unprocessed sound-bytes.

Two years ago this time, I was having a marvelous time in Spain after I won free business-class round-trip tickets at a bazaar event, courtesy of Qatar Airways, and Facebook today reminded me of my post that time from Madrid.

I had posted a beautiful passage from the great Spanish poet and dramatist, Federico Garcia Lorca (1898-1936), which was scribbled on the wall of the stairway of a little pension in the Spanish capital, which I read as my son Conrad, daughter-in-law Myra and I huffed and puffed as we carried our luggage up to the third floor (no elevator, as with most European pensions).

Lorca had written: “Cuando la vida te presente razones para llorar, demuestrale que tienes mil y uno razones para reir” (trans: When life presents you reasons to cry, demonstrate to it that you have a thousand and one reasons to laugh). Can I add, to live and to love?


|Federico Garcia Lorca’s passage sat well with my FB readers, as attested by Fr. Chito Dimaranan, preacher and mentor of many writers, who commented as follows: “ I ripped this (passage) shamelessly from Belinda Olivares-Cunanan's wall (Muchas gracias!)."  Fr. Dimaranan then translated Lorca’s passage “roughly” into Filipino thus: "Sa pagkakataong ang buhay ay nagbibigay ng sanlaksang dahilan sa iyo para tumangis, ipamukha mo sa kanyang mayroon ka ring isang libo at isang dahilan upang hamalakhak at magalak.”

Fr. Dimaranan then dedicated those lines “to all those who have lost count of reasons for them to cry, but continue to find reasons to laugh, love, and live!”


Federico Garcia Lorca’s lines seem tailor-made for us to quote (muchas gracias, Fr. Chito Dimaranan, for the reminder) in these times when our world as Filipinos appears so topsy-turvy and we don’t know whether to laugh or cry or do both at what’s happening in our terribly shattered political world.

This afternoon, I was at the doctor’s office in St. Luke’s Hospital Global, when a guy walked in and asked the two receptionists, “Did you watch today’s hearings at the House of Representatives?” He was talking about the witnessing by Jaybee Sebastian, convicted drug lord-inmate at the National Bureau of Prisons, vs. former Justice Secretary and now Sen. Leila de Lima and her alleged intimacies with one  of the inmates, even as she allegedly was receiving generous amounts of LP campaign funds from drug lords. “What a country!” exclaimed this fellow, a mix of incredulity and despair ill-disguised in his voice.  

Indeed, what a country, and in the darkness we’re going through with all the exposes about the drug world and corruption in high places, there ought to be conscious effort to present a thousand and one reasons to laugh, love and live, as Federico Garcia Lorca had recommended. Such effort has to be heroic for even as it’s tough to appreciate what our nation is going through, WE CANNOT GIVE IN TO DESPAIR. 


Former President Fidel Ramos is one of those Filipinos who appear to be having a rough time reconciling themselves with the mouthful of excesses verbalized by President Duterte vs. prominent international personages and institutions---a predilection that’s now being attacked in various media outlets around the world. The worst attack so far has come from the French “Liberation” newspaper, which bannered the Philippine President as “a serial killer” and hit his attacks vs. President Obama, Pope Francis and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, among others.

In his column in a local broadsheet, FVR didn’t bother to hide his disappointment over the guy he had handpicked and encouraged to run for President, asserting that “we find our Team Philippines losing in the first 100 days of Du30”s administration---and losing badly.”  FVR lamented that Mr. Duterte got stuck in “unending controversies about extrajudicial killings of drug suspects” and his predilection “to resort to cuss-words and insults instead of civilized language.”

President Ramos must feel worse than most of us, as he had a direct hand in convincing the longtime Davao mayor to run for president last May. Moreover, in his long public life, FVR many times was on the verge of losing his temper, but somehow he always managed to just grit his teeth instead of exploding openly. Steady Eddie, they termed him---always measured in his speech. Which is probably why he's shocked at his protege's language.


There is indeed such a dichotomy between the way supporters of Duterte (who, by and large, is said to still enjoy a net satisfaction rating of +64%, which the Palace is cheering) continue to regard their guy with a great degree of idolatry I've not seen in my long years of covering politics, vs. the way much of the world by now view him with ill-concealed disgust. This is because both sides come from opposite ends of the human spectrum.

The Dutertards are happy that for the first time there’s a leader who has the guts to tackle head-on the problem of drugs which has affected some 90 % of our barangays, so that now they feel safer in the streets.

One evening, after attending a function at Tesoro’s Handicrafts in Makati, I couldn’t communicate to my driver who had parked somewhere---and probably fell asleep with a silent cellphone.  No one at home could come and pick me up---and all the other guests had gone. In my desperation I had to get into a taxi at nearly 10 pm. Mercifully the cabbie turned out to be an ex-Navy guy who was familiar with my late brother-in-law, former Navy Chief Admiral Carlito Cunanan. We chatted all the way to my place and he asserted that cabbies like him now feel a lot safer than before, when durugistas would just poke a pocket-knife in their side to demand money.


Problem is that abroad, especially in the more politically-developed countries, certain standards such as human rights are carved in stone, and the fact that over 3,000 people have been killed in the Duterte administration’s ferocious anti-drug war in his first 100 days, and his line about Hitler have spawned the perception of “serial killing.” One can imagine how accusation of his being a "psychopath," as Agot Isidro had the guts to assert, has gone viral around the world. As the head of the European Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines, Guenter Taus, put it, investors are asking if the anti-drug war "REDUCES THE RULE OF LAW" (emphasis BOC's).

Several things could be done to avert more catastrophe. FVR should get a group that President Digong respects, but who could tell him a thing or two about  how he can’t afford to further lose the respect of the world---as it’s going to gravely affect even our economic well-being.  This group could be Mr. Duterte's regular---and imperative---sounding board.

Then too, the Duterte fanatics should stop being too fanatic and get down to reality---and also tell him a thing or two, if they love their country. They should tell Mr. Duterte to, as Davao Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla put it, 'LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN."

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Retired lady jurist takes deep breath when queried about extra-judicial killings, realistically fearing clogging of courts if all rights cases are filed. Rabid Dutertista frantic to coax President Digong to shut up for a while and ponder instead on his remarks that continue to rile up international community. Problem: would media be mature enough to relegate his colorful quotable quotes to inside pages?

Last week I was at the wake for veteran newsman Vet Vitug, husband of my journalist-friend Marites Danguilan-Vitug and who had succumbed after being in coma for five months. I spotted a retired lady jurist in the crowd and pulling her to sit down with me, I posited to her the query on everyone’s mind: can the President’s all-out war vs. drugs be conducted without violating human rights of victims or resorting to what critics term “extra-judicial killings?”

The retired jurist took a deep breath, obviously encountering this question many times over. She admitted that “It’s really very difficult” as cases filed in court would pile up, owing to the astounding number of people involved with drugs.  But aside from the clogging of court dockets, there’s the poverty angle, the sense of alienation from society of drug users, both among the very poor and the very rich, etc.

“A tough balancing act,” was all she could say. I felt somewhat relieved at her admission, as it shows the human side of this mind-boggling problem facing our country---no easy way out at all.  


A lady friend, a rabid Dutertista, sent the following text message two days ago: “Friends, this is getting worrisome, to say the least. What a scare looking at the morning news today. What is President Duterte trying to do with his careless remarks that are creating more enemies instead of allies?” My friend seems to have thrown up her hands as she texted further, “How do we reach him? How do we tell him to be more careful?  As much as we want to help him succeed, he is embarrassing us all---our country is in peril. The international community is up in arms with his careless rhetoric. Please let us help him shut up with his careless machismo tirades. ASAP pls---his men cannot continue defending him every time.”

This lady cites, for instance, among Mr. Duterte’s most avid “explainers” especially to foreign governments Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay, who, she feared, might just get fed up and give up!  She followed this up with a frantic appeal: “Please, please, let us senior citizens gather together and speak to the President.  For the first time we have a strong decisive President, but he needs to be guided; please let us seek an audience with our President. This cannot go on! Let's seek a dialog with him.”


I think the sentiment my friend, who’s normally calm and un-rattled, aired is a growing feeling: Let’s call on the President to just be quiet for a while to gather his wits and assess the situation all around.  Sen. Dick Gordon echoed this same sentiment when he advised Mr. Duterte, as headlined in Manila Standard yesterday, “To Shut Up Already” on his claim that he will kill drug dealers and pushers.  In fact, Gordon, who was once in the Mayors' League with Davao Mayor Duterte, was quoted as saying he’ll suggest that “we change our tourism slogan from ‘Wow Philippines’ to ‘Wow PI (for Wow Pu---ina!),” the President's favorite expletive.

Gordon added that Mr. Duterte’s “repeated endorsement of the killing of drug suspects if they resist arrest leads to the misconception that he sanctions the use of unnecessary violence.” He continued, “He stumbled on his own sword because he was talking and talking, so that now the whole country is being accused of allowing such things to happen.”


The cause celebre of the “mouth that roared too much” came to its height when the President was quoted in Davao as saying that he'd be “happy to slaughter three-million drug users,” just like Hitler who exterminated six million Jews. That ghastly remark went viral internationally as the pits and understandably aroused the livid ire of Jewish organizations the world over--- especially in America which has a very large Zionist movement that controls the lion's share of US wealth. The uproar forced Mr. Duterte to apologize to the local Jewish community and the world.

A US defense department official, in fact, was quoted as likening Mr. Duterte’s propensity to put his foot in his mouth to that of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump who likes to invoke notoriety to get the attention of the American public in the campaign hustings. The US official opined that just as the best way for the American media to treat Trump’s outrageous remarks is to ignore them, it would also be good for local media to ignore Mr. Duterte’s outbursts especially against the US, for after all, this official reasoned, the affinity of the Filipino people to their former colonizer remains solid.


There’s sensible basis to insist that Mr. Duterte’s fiery outbursts ---such as his most recent tirade advising President Obama to go to hell and officials of the European Union’s Parliament to try purgatory---be ignored rather than treated as screaming front-page headlines to be feasted upon by foreign media. There is obviously something in the psyche of the President that relishes his enormous preference for shock-and-awe remarks as he observes his first 100 days in office. 

Perhaps as he gets used to the pomp and circumstance of his exalted office, he’ll be more sober and circumspect about his pronouncements and begin to sound PRESIDENTIAL. That's a big iffy, however, for as Mr. Duterte argues, 16 million Filipinos voted for him, coarse tongue and all. The problem, however, is, would media by and large be MATURE ENOUGH to relegate his fiery outbursts to the back burner where they could just simmer quietly, and put more sober analytical stories on the front burner instead?

These times are trying for both Mr. Duterte, the media and the Filipino public.


The same is true for both chambers of Congress. After the circus hearings in the Senate and the House---where female senators and representatives of various political persuasions had to band together in order to prevent the slut-shaming of Sen. Leila de Lima in alleged sex videos, and the latter had to stage a walk-out in the Senate in protest of what she claims to be mangled evidence in the Senate---it's time to gather all the documents and turn them over to the public prosecutor, preparatory to the filing of cases against her in court.

To be sure, court proceedings won't be as colorful as the hearings in both chambers; but it’s time we terminate those scandalous hearings which are in reality just continuing politically-motivated jousts between the old LP and the current administration’s allies. 

Moreover, there are so many problems that persist despite all the fireworks in both chambers of Congress and in the presidency---the hideous traffic in Metro Manila that’s demanding kuno emergency powers from some quarters before it could be solved (thank God Sen. Grace Poe is rightly skeptical of this plea); cutting the drug problem at its very source, the horrible state of our prisons, deepening poverty (26 million Filipinos go to bed hungry at night), etc. All these are not being given enough attention by Congress. 

Let’s stay focused on those problems that truly affect our people.