Sex with starlets
President Duterte returned to Marawi City late last week. By all accounts, it was a happy, triumphant visit with the troops. But, confronted with a microphone, he again indulged his public persona’s vulgar streak. He called his predecessor names (albeit reluctantly), he dressed down a senator who had the temerity to offer him advice — and to the soldiers on the frontline he offered sex with starlets as a consolation prize.
Just another joke, his supporters will say. Get used to the new normal. Why obsess over his use of language?
Because he is the President, and because he himself betrays some reservations about his own choice of words.
The following excerpts from his rambling remarks to the troops on Aug. 4 show that he is clearly aware of the language issue. (I’m using the official transcript.)
He had referenced ex-President Noynoy Aquino’s comment on the Duterte administration’s signature campaign. “Pero tinanong siya about the drug operation at ang sinabi niya, ‘wala namang nangyari, mag-iisang taon na.’ Alam mo ang retort ko sa kanya, I answered back, ‘Napakagunggong mo naman.’”
It is likely that in fact the troops he was addressing had already heard of the back and forth between the presidents, but I thought it was striking that President Duterte offered a strict accounting of their exchange. “But he was asked about the drug operation and he said, ‘Nothing really happened, though it’s been a year.’ You know my retort to him, I answered back: ‘You’re an idiot.’”
President Duterte is detailing the circumstances of what for him is a trading of insults, and he is careful to quote both Aquino and himself accurately.
He offered an explanation, mainly in Filipino: That is why I am insulted. Many of my people died but I also took [the lives of] many “but at the cost of the lives of my soldiers and police.” That is why my answer is somewhat confrontational (“medyo balabag”). I said, What an idiot you are.
Then he referred to the public reaction: “Hindi magandang ano yan — and ex-President siya. He can just say, ‘Well, the battle is a continuing one. It would never stop but we have to continue to be vigilant…’ Hindi ba ganun? (Isn’t that the way?)” In other words, he took Aquino to task for criticizing his so-called war on drugs, suggested an anodyne statement he could have used—but is sensitive not only about the deaths of “my” soldiers and policemen but also about an argument between presidents [“puro kami presidente”].
Later, he calls out Sen. Grace Poe. “At sabihin pa ni Grace na ‘watch your mouth.’ You take care of your … You take care of your mouth, and I will take care of mine because my mouth is not for your mouth.” And then, dismissively, in Filipino: Just keep quiet, you don’t understand.
And what, exactly, did Poe say? “As a public figure being heard by children, you might be emulated.”
The last part of the President’s remarks was a sustained tribute to the troops, and his attempt to express his gratitude to them. He offered to give his own guns to the future Medal of Valor awardees among them. “Sigurado, yang may mga valor dito. I’ll give one.” (For certain, those qualified for a Medal of Valor, I’ll give one.) Then he added: “Kung marami kayo, bunot-bunot na lang. Ang consolation prizes, yung mga artista dadalhin ko.” (If there are many of you, we’ll just pick lots. The consolation prizes will be the starlets I will bring.)
He then upped the ante. “At tsaka siguro may prize ako, yung ano — yung valor, yung mga tigas. Mga Hong Kong siguro.” (I may have a prize for those Medal of Valor soldiers, the tough ones, maybe a trip to Hong Kong.)
And: “Hong Kong — libre yan. Kung gusto mo magdala ng partner, asawa… Kung ayaw mo naman, sabihin mong ituro mo yung artista na gusto mo at pakiusapan natin.” (The trip to Hong Kong, that’s free. If you want to bring a partner or wife … If you don’t want, just point to the starlet you want and let’s talk to her.) To general laughter, he added a few more choice words, mixing expletives with a paean to the sexual prowess of Medal of Valor soldiers. The President as jokester-procurer: the new normal.
On Twitter: @jnery_newsstand
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