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View From The Palace

Know the President (6)

12:05 AM May 22, 2017

It is much easier to develop than to break a habit. However, high or exalted the position a public official holds, the dictum applies.

There are many among us who pillory President Duterte for being brusque in his manners and gruff in his language. But that is understandable. For indeed, it can be a shocking experience for one who is hearing for the first time the highest official of the land spewing “PI’s” with abandon regardless of the status of the person or the type of audience he addresses.

Without being apologetic, the President’s friends and associates can attest that it is by force of habit carried over from his youth in the company of the hoi polloi in Davao City that he curses and mouths PI’s either to spice his language, stress a point or give vent to his anger, irritation or frustration. It is the language in the streets. That is the reality on the ground.

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However, his PI’s should not be taken literally as they are really only expressions sans the malice or offense usually associated with expletives that lend color to his rhetorics and reveal the intensity of his reaction to given situations. Additionally, it lengthens the audience’s eagerness to hear the President’s unorthodox style of public speaking. Consequently, the audience is all ears, so to speak. That way, getting his message across becomes easier and better.

As a matter of fact, the joke in Davao City is that a Batangueño can say PI more colorfully than any other Filipino belonging to a different ethnic aggrupation. I pride myself in being the son of a Batangueño from the old and quaint town of Alitagtag, Batangas. And every once in a while, I do talk the Batangueño way.

Of late, the speeches and addresses of the President have been less laced with caustic terminologies than usual. The President appears to be metamorphosing into someone who is several notches away from the person that he was when he first burst into the national scene.

Could it be that the President is starting to mellow? Or could it be that he is moving on to the next stage of his calibrated method of governance in the light of developments in the international and local fronts? I will not venture any answer now. Developments in the next few months will answer that for us.

The President values friendships. He puts a premium to it. That is why the President is protective of his friends, especially those whom he appointed to public office. The appointee is his alter ego and that, to him, is not merely a legal theory that many love to mouth. It goes beyond that. The appointment is a sacred covenant between him and the appointee. His trust goes with every appointment he makes. It is valuable and should never be trivialized. Reciprocate that truth with good and honest work. He does not expect the appointee to be perfect, and errors of judgment can, at times be committed. But for as long as the error is not tainted with malice, corruption or criminal intent, the appointees can expect the understanding of the President and all the help that he can legally extend. The President will, within legal bounds, go out of his way.

Betray that trust and the appointee shall suffer the penalty commensurate to the gravity and nature of the offense. That has happened several times in the very recent past. It can happen again.

Friendship is not a license to betray a trust—not the President’s. Once lost, trust is seldom, if ever, regained.

Jesus Melchor V. Quitain is undersecretary, Office of the President.

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