So did God speak to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte? Maybe he did, and maybe he didn’t. What is the point in being fixated on a personal matter between a man and his god? Filipinos, after all, like to think they maintain a “personal” relationship with one god or another. Is Duterte any different from the average Filipino?
Ask any random Filipino on the street about how often she communes with her God and chances are you will be told that she and the man upstairs talk everyday. When a Filipino says he talks with God everyday, how does one interpret that? Is it a figure of speech? Or should it be taken literally — that on most days said person sits at a table opposite The Almighty and exchanges views on life over pancit and a can of Coke?
It is, of course, easy to take a literal interpretation of a claim that one had been spoken to directly by God and turn it into an object of wry mockery. This, in fact, is the low-hanging fruit Duterte’s critics are now picking with glee…
“Philippine prez Duterte says god told him to stop swearing,” wrote Human Rights Watch’s Andrew Stroehlein on Twitter. “Did god mention the death squads?”
One can, for that matter, ask Filipinos such similarly-themed questions. Considering that churches in the Philippines are packed every Sunday and the queues to priests serving communion long, it is quite reasonable to wonder why corruption, thievery, fraud, debauchery, narcissism, sloth, idolatry, gossip, and adultery remain important parts of the Filipino way of life. Indeed, do Filipinos, Duterte critics and supporters alike, even hold an iota of moral ascendancy to set their tongues wagging about Duterte’s conversation with God about his swearing?
Every one of the Philippines’ presidents and most of its politicians, for that matter, build political collateral on the back of how they project themselves to the public as vassals of God. This is a “democracy” after all, where leaders and representatives are elected by popular vote. The medieval mindset ingrained in Philippine politics, as such, merely reflects the character of the society that grants its officers a mandate to govern.
If Duterte asserts he had been spoken to by God, a good Catholic is obliged to just say amen. So be it. Prayers and directives issued by the Almighty, after all, are matters of faith and are not, as such, subject to the quaint critical inquiry we are seeing today.