Did he admit or not?
President Duterte, speaking to newly appointed career officials in Malacañang on Sept. 27, made a statement in Tagalog which his critics gleefully interpreted as an admission of responsibility for the extrajudicial killings in the war on drugs. It was followed by frantic denials and clarifications by his top apologists.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the President was not serious, that his statement did not mean admitting responsibility.
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo considered the statement a “matter of language” that was misinterpreted—the President, being a Bisaya, was unable to express exactly in Tagalog what he meant to say, he said.
What did the President say in Tagalog? From various reports, we got this: “Ako, I will talk to — eh, political exercise now. What are your sins? Ako? Sabi ko nga sa military, anong kasalanan ko? Nagnakaw ba ako diyan ni piso? Sige daw. Did I prosecute somebody na ipinakulong ko? Ang kasalanan ko lang ’yung mga extrajudicial killing.”
Did the President state exactly what he meant? Was he misinterpreted by his critics and the press?
Had the President expressed himself in Bisaya, he would have said: “Ang kasalanan ko lang kanang mga extrajudicial killing”—“kanang” is “’yung” in Tagalog. If the texts in Tagalog and Bisaya are exactly the same except for one word, what was mistranslated or misinterpreted? In English, it would still
be “My only sin is the extrajudicial killing.”
Whether in Tagalog, Bisaya or English, the statement is plain and simple admission or confession. If there had really been a misstatement, it was the President’s fault — not because he is a Bisaya, but because of his style of extemporaneous speaking, rambling and disoriented rather than carefully thought out and focused.
Should we blame the court if his plea, on record, is “guilty” instead of “not guilty”?
PATRICIO P. DIAZ, General Santos City, firstname.lastname@example.org
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