Second Opinion

Duterte’s double standards

/ 05:28 AM June 28, 2018

If our leaders are to be credible, they must live by their own standards. They must practice what they preach and abide by the principles they claim to espouse, especially when they use the same to condemn others.

Very few, if any, of our presidents can be said to have fulfilled this consistency, and, despite his promise of change, President Duterte has been no exception.


“I hate corruption,” he says. But despite the fact that the Marcoses have plundered so much from our country, Mr. Duterte has unashamedly boasted of his indebtedness to them and—lest we forget—even buried the late dictator in the Libingan ng mga Bayani. Despite his vow that he will not tolerate “even a whiff of corruption,” he has stayed silent on the foul stench emanating from his own appointees, many of whom he “recycles” once the issues around them have subsided.

Another thing Mr. Duterte has professed to hate is drugs. But does he, really? In his “drug war,” innocent children and suspected (not proven) drug users have been killed, but the drug smuggling case involving billions has not prospered; neither have cases involving his allies.


There is an undeniable need to act on drug issues, but the more the “drug war” drags on, the more it becomes clear that it is actually his populist government that uses drugs: as a weapon to spread fear, win popular support, and stifle dissent. Alas, as the recent Ateneo-La Salle study demonstrates, it is the poor who find themselves on the receiving end of this deadly double standard.

Then there is his profession of an “independent foreign policy.” How independent? He speaks against colonialism, but he has all but surrendered our islands in the West Philippine Sea to kowtow to Xi Jinping and allow Chinese companies to take over various projects. He tried to pull off a jetski stunt—in the opposite direction. Amid reports of the Chinese Coast Guard taking our fishermen’s catch, and despite indelible signs of Chinese island-building, the President’s patriotic pretensions are nowhere to be found.

Mr. Duterte’s double standards are also seen in the way he deals with people in government. He magnifies his opponents’ faults, and minimizes exactly those same faults when his allies commit them. For instance, he wields “excessive foreign travel” as a club against people he does not like—Commission on Higher Education’s Patricia Licuanan, for example (eight trips in one year)—but is silent on the travels of his supporters, including Mocha Uson (eight trips in 10 months). Uson’s very appointment, by the way, is another double standard from a president who promised to appoint the “best and the brightest” in government.

Finally, he condemns people’s behavior but is blind to his own. “That foul-mouthed nun,” he says of Sister Patricia Fox, impervious to the foulness of his speech. “She is screwing the nation,” he says, baselessly, of Sen. Leila de Lima, oblivious to his public display of lurid behavior.

He demands respect, but is unwilling to give any. He speaks of dignity, but is unwilling to act dignified. He insults people’s character and even their physical appearance, but sees no contradiction in not applying those same standards to himself.


Surely we will hear from him again: the man who, like Herod, mocks God, the man with seemingly so much hate burning in his heart. Who will he condemn tomorrow? The oligarchs save his allies? The imperialists save China? The crooks save his friends? The suspected drug personalities save his own son? The rude people of this world, save his own self?


Ah, President Duterte, for as long as people crave power, there will be people who will defend your every move. And for as long as you yourself remain in power, there will be people who will find profundity in your jokes, spirituality in your curses, truth in your lies, and hope in your promises.

But it does not make your double standards any less clear to the growing number of Filipinos who are not—or are no longer—impressed with your drama and your empty braggadocio. Before you take the bully pulpit anew, please spare some time to look at something that seems to have gathered dust somewhere in Malacañang: the mirror.

Follow @gideonlasco on Twitter. Send feedback to [email protected].

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TAGS: corruption, Foreign affairs, governance, Illegal drugs, Rodrigo Duterte
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