“Journalist, presidential speechwriter, newspaper & political magazine publisher, TV anchor & commentator, lawyer, lawmaker, diplomat and cabinet secretary.” Thus reads the grandiose bio of Foreign Secretary Teodoro “Teddyboy” Locsin Jr. on his personal Twitter account @teddyboylocsin.
The more accurate intro, however, should be: “Warning: profanities ahead.”
Already a shocking rarity in the world of diplomacy for practically conducting his office on Twitter, often blabbering on matters that require restraint, carefully-crafted language and sensitivity as the country’s chief envoy, and, worse, for employing abusive language at anyone he fancies as deserving of his bile (“Fuck you” is his favorite comeback), Locsin outdid himself one more time this week.
In response to a tweet by Inquirer reporter Jhesset Enano on Nov. 5—a photo showing Locsin seated with other Asean leaders in Mr. Duterte’s chair, and the caption: “LOOK: Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. @teddyboylocsin sits with other world leaders at the closing ceremony of the 35th Asean Summit in Thailand. President Duterte appears to have skipped this event, too”—Locsin tweeted back with some jaw-dropping words: “Uh, did you get the putangina I sent you? That’s the last event, purely ceremonial and short. Jokowi had left, Mahathir too.”
The collective shock and disbelief was not only felt in this paper’s newsroom; social media, already used to Locsin’s online meltdowns, erupted in outrage at the new low breached by the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) head—particularly because there was absolutely no basis for his vituperation. In a follow-up tweet, Locsin dug in by saying: “I will apologize to the lady she apologizes (sic) to Duterte for her slanders and that idiot newspaper vows never to slant stories about him again.”
But there was no slant, and there was no slander. Enano dutifully reported what actually happened— that Mr. Duterte skipped the Asean closing ceremonies and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership summit. The photos and videos of the Asean summit speak for these facts. And Enano is no slouch as a journalist and writer—a magna cum laude graduate of the University of the Philippines and a PDI scholar, a recipient of a US State Department Exchange Program scholarship, the lone Filipino recipient of a reporting fellowship by international group Climate Tracker last year, and a Palanca awardee. If at all, the slander and slant were all in Locsin’s hypersensitive, defensive mind, ready to pounce on any perceived slight at his boss—damn careful language befitting a “Journalist, presidential speechwriter…,” yadda yadda.
When reporter Marc Jayson Cayabyab of the Philippine Star reminded Locsin of the propriety of his actions by posting an excerpt of RA 6713, the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees—“Public officials, employees shall perform, discharge their duties with the highest degree of excellence, professionalism, intelligence, skill… [They] shall extend prompt, courteous, adequate service to the public”—Locsin responded with, what else, “Fuck you.”
The DFA, by the way, also mandates the “projection of a good image of the country abroad” as one of four core priorities of Philippine foreign policy. One guesses that standard likewise merits a “fuck you” from the country’s top diplomat.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines were among those that promptly deplored Locsin’s behavior, joining this paper’s denunciation of the “profane and insulting tweet,” and calling on Locsin to “speak with civility and within the bounds of basic human decency.” But Locsin was typically unmoved, darkly threatening that he has “an inexhaustible supply of scurrilities” to continue on his warpath.
Since one is not privy to what’s eating him, or the marbles presumably being lost inside his mind, something that the writer Jessica Zafra wrote in 2016 comes to mind instead. In “Obituary for the Formerly Brilliant,” Zafra publicly cut her ties with a long-time mentor and friend who went unnamed, but was obvious to everyone as Locsin, her former boss in the defunct newspaper Today and a work colleague in many projects thereafter. “For a long time I have felt like a child whose beloved parent has dementia,” Zafra wrote. “I have watched as the sharp, shining intellect I had admired and respected was corrupted, dulled, and reduced to smearing excrement on the walls.”
“Did you get the putangina I sent you?” The country got it loud and clear. That might as well have been President Duterte speaking, smug about the biggest middle finger he could manage to sic on his own citizens—namely choosing, from among 108 million souls, this man, this walking scurrility of a public official, to represent the Filipino people and their country to the world.
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