They say it takes a village to raise a child. In Davao City Mayor and Presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte’s case, it might take an entire nation to help him watch his tongue. Since announcing his candidacy, 70-year old Duterte has been experiencing a public berating, probably for the first time in his life, for his remarks that some consider offensive. It’s been entertaining, to say the least. While it is good to know that there are still Filipinos who value decency in Philippine society, we also need to remember not to overreact lest we get distracted from the more important issues plaguing the nation.
Thanks to social media, Filipinos from all walks of life are able to express their views about current issues. In the case of Duterte’s “foul” mouth, for example, not all who are offended by his swearing, “sexist” and “misogynist” remarks come from the country club set, and not all who defend him come from people who live in the gutter where Duterte proudly claims to have come from. This incident showcases our society’s many contradictions.
Indeed, a robust exchange of ideas is one of the keys to a healthy democracy. More Filipinos are now exposed to alternative views other than what they get from mainstream media and the Sunday homily. That is a good sign that there is a chance our society can reach maturity one day.
Even septuagenarians like Duterte can learn from Netizens. He could be the Philippines’ Eliza Doolittle – someone who can be taught civility and diplomacy. It’s not too late. It may be hard to teach old dogs new tricks but if Duterte wants to win the Presidency, he needs to listen to his critics and try to appeal to their emotion. His latest gaffe has certainly outraged a lot of Filipinos and the only way to win them back is to apologize without reservation.
Did Duterte trivialize rape? Was he promoting rape? Did he disrespect the victim? Here is the full text of his recent statements that got him in trouble, translated in English:
All the women were raped so during the first assault, because they retreated, the bodies they used as a cover, one of them was the corpse of the Australian woman layminister. Tsk, this is a problem. When the bodies were brought out, they were wrapped. I looked at her face, son of a bitch, she looks like a beautiful American actress. Son of a bitch, what a waste. What came to mind was, they raped her, they lined up. I was angry because she was raped, that’s one thing. But she was so beautiful, the mayor should have been first. What a waste.
The mayor should have been first. Did he mean something else with that line or should we take it at face value? Duterte said he uttered those statements in 1989 at the height of the hostage crisis in Davao’s jail. According to Duterte, he was angry after seeing the body of the victim and then proceeded to kill the rapists. What does that tell us? It should tell us that he was angry at the rapists, right? But how do we reconcile what he said about feeling sorry for not being the first in line to rape the victim? Perhaps he did mean something else but since he was talking in Tagalog, which is not his native language, it may have all been lost in translation.
During a press conference, Duterte did not offer any explanation for his statement though. He did clarify that his remarks weren’t meant as a joke. Frankly, I was more disgusted with the audience who laughed at a no-laughing matter subject. They have a sick sense of humor. The audience needs their own public berating. Their behavior says a lot about Philippine society in general — that women are still regarded as people of lower status.
After watching several videos of Duterte speak, I noticed that his tone is the same whether he is serious or joking. He has this permanent look on his face that reminds you of The Dude – a no worries kind of guy. He wasn’t even worried about losing voters. That attitude is a bit worrisome. It could mean that the public has to accept him for who he is — warts and all — and that winning could give him immunity from public backlash if he wins the Presidency.
The public needs to be clear to Duterte before the election that crassness will not be tolerated from the President. If Duterte wants the job, he needs to learn to compromise and act with a little bit of consideration for others’ feelings. After all, if he becomes President, he will have to deal with a lot of foreign dignitaries and cannot afford to keep offending them with rude remarks. The best way to avoid this is to just stick to business and stop attempting to be funny. The country is already in deep shit, we don’t have time for laughs.