It looks like Davao Mayor and Presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte is going to be another public relations nightmare similar to President Benigno Simeon Aquino and another Presidential aspirant Mar Roxas. Just like BS Aquino and Roxas, Duterte is acting like a loose cannon – speaking and acting like he does not care about what people think.
If Duterte ever wins the Presidency, his communication team might spend a lot of time during his six-year term trying to “clarify” his statements that have been “misconstrued” by the public. That would be a waste, indeed since Duterte is considered by many to be more competent and has proven to have accomplished more as a public servant in his own province.
To be sure, a Duterte Presidency will be a test of how good or bad Filipinos are at communicating with each other. This early we can already see that there will be a lot of miscommunication problems throughout his Presidential term, if he does win the election in 2016. We can partly blame this to the fact that Duterte normally speaks using a different dialect and has a different accent to Filipinos living outside Mindanao region when he speaks the Filipino language. Because of that, Filipinos from other regions are not used to his mannerism and the way he speaks.
To a lot of people, he comes across as too crass especially when he brags about having two young girlfriends and his sex life. His jokes fall flat with some people because it comes out like he is being rude particularly when he peppers his statements with swear words. This was evident when he jokingly made a statement about wanting to call Pope Francis after he found out his visit was going to cause traffic chaos in the Philippines. His statement wouldn’t have attracted condemnation had he not inserted the swear word “putang ina” before the Pope’s name.
In his defense, his supporters are saying he was just misconstrued because he didn’t mean to swear at the Pope and in fact, Duterte apologized for it. His supporters are even calling those who were offended as too sensitive. There lies the problem. It seems Duterte and his supporters want the voters to accept him for who he is — warts and all — because they can guarantee that he will turn the entire Philippine archipelago into a progressive nation the way he did with Davao. But can he really do it? Davao is smaller in relation to the entire archipelago a president needs to govern and he needs the cooperation of different local government units and Congress to accomplish his goals.
But before that, the first thing Duterte needs to do is to win the election. Unfortunately, Duterte is not going to win the election if he doesn’t know how to please the voters. He may have loyal supporters who don’t care how rude he is or how many people he has allegedly killed in the name of “peace” and “order”, but there are plenty more who don’t care for his unusual style.
His supporters think that his “honesty” is a breath of fresh air compared to a lot of public servants who try to look like saints but live in “sin” behind closed doors. In other words, they think Duterte is not a hypocrite. They are okay with his womanizing and unconventional lifestyle. That is a good point. I don’t like men who act so holy in public while secretly having mistresses left and right myself.
While honesty is great, crassness is not, especially when one is running for the Presidency. I personally did not want to see Duterte parading his girlfriends, having them sit on his lap, and discussing his sex life on national television. It is apparent that a lot of people agree with me on this. I do not care how many girlfriends he has as long as he keeps all that to himself. I did not need to know it. I care more about his policies than his personal life.
When I saw Duterte discussing his girlfriends and sex life in front of the press, I saw a man who was acting like a misogynist who treated women like sex objects. I just hope those women know what they are doing because they are wasting their youth on an old man who won’t be able to give them a good future.
His supporters say his critics should stop focusing on his personal life. Well, his critics wouldn’t be discussing his personal life had he not brought it up in the first place. Maybe it is a Filipino thing to brag about their conquests because you don’t hear of other world leaders doing the same. The late former Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew refused to discuss his personal life in front of the public eye. He even rebuffed a question from a Filipino student during a conference who asked how much influence his wife had on his political career.
If Duterte wants to win more votes, he should consider using a different approach. I am not totally against him. I’ve been to Davao and I know what some of his supporters are talking about. But he needs to work on his diplomatic skills to win votes. The Presidency is a different ball game. He will be talking to a lot more people including people from the international community who are accustomed to diplomacy.
Duterte’s cursing and crassness is dividing instead of uniting the Filipino people’s sentiments. All these arguments about him cursing the Pope were a waste of time. The Pope didn’t even have anything to do with the roadblocks that were imposed by BS Aquino government during his visit. It’s not like he requested it.
Duterte’s cursing distracts people from the point he is trying to make and it is arrogant of him and his rabid supporters to insist that people shouldn’t focus on his cursing. A rational person would at least try to eliminate the cause of miscommunication, which in this instance is his cursing, so he can get on with discussing the important issues.
One way to prevent leaders from acting like gods is to call their attention every time they commit something foul. I am afraid that if people turn a blind eye to Duterte’s shenanigans now, he will get worse once he is in Malacanang. His supporters can clamor for him to act a bit more diplomatic this early in exchange for their votes. The problem is, Duterte is making it look like he doesn’t really want the job and is just being compelled to apply for it. So his attitude is “take me, or leave me”. That will be a problem in the long run. We all know what happened after the reluctant son of heroes was forced to run for the Presidency. He acted like he was doing everyone a favor once he was in office.
I could take Duterte more seriously once he starts cursing BS Aquino and his incompetent cabinet members for the misery they caused to millions of Filipinos during his term.
[Photo courtesy The Star Online.]