The man thinks he’s cool. He gets named to a high post and is aided and abetted by lawmakers who, impressed by his facility of language (magaling daw mag-Ingles), trip all over themselves in confirming his appointment.
As is the way of many a novato, the post immediately gets to his head. He flexes muscle when he should be initially feeling his way, checking out the lay of the land — if he were wise. Mere months into his post, he makes a major mess, accusing a contractor of data theft and threatening chaos in the processing of passports. And then, when he discovers that he had shoved his foot into his mouth and in the process alarmed countless Filipinos who depend on the competent operations of his department for their livelihood, indeed their very life, swiftly turns around and makes noises about a smear campaign on his person.
Yes, that sort. Still he thinks he’s cool, conducting his business on Twitter like the Donald down to the bewildering misspellings and grammar slips. Maybe he’s channeling the Potus? He can’t even be bothered to clean up his text, perhaps or actually contemptuous of his audience, yet — all the signs point to it — delirious for its attention, sucking it up like a user panting for his shot.
Consider his knee-jerk reactions to reactions to his, uh, twittering, which appear to be punched out and sent in a rage and then, as though he had come to his senses, fastidiously deleted, maybe with lips primly pursed like RuPaul unhappy with his makeup. For one livid example: Fuck you, he shrills in a tweet to a reporter who issued a reminder on the law requiring government officials to hew to the requirements of proper behavior at all times. Then he quickly takes the tweet down as though attempting to erase evidence of a momentary derangement.
He has appropriated his boss’ language in more ways than one, not only mouthing stuff like “my embassies” but also throwing snark at the general public and threatening bloody murder. He lectures journalists on his idea of correct coverage, crying slander and slant when there is none, and invoking the wisdom of killing stories. And he sings paeans to imperialist China.
So crass, yet he takes on the airs of an aristocrat wrinkling his nose at peasants littering the terrain. Thus, he rants at “low-class bitches” who refuse to concede his friend and ally Salvador Panelo’s supposed victory in accepting the challenge of taking public transport to Malacañang. (President Duterte’s spokesperson took all of four hours to travel from his son’s house in Quezon City to get to the Palace — a one-time ordeal that other Filipinos suffer daily. The challenge was intended, not for the novelty of it — for which this man had wanted the “honor” of accompanying Panelo — but so that a government official would begin to understand the transport crisis and, if the public would be so lucky, initiate steps toward resolving it. To no one’s surprise, nothing came of it.)
Thus he rants at “the idiot native media” that supposedly want to make much of the President’s absences at certain Asean activities in Thailand, the same President, he pronounces, who has the “breeding” to listen to speeches that other heads of state missed.
Now he has ranged himself against young people, making him a moving target of the dismissive “Ok, boomer” with which he is constantly being pelted. “The young lady turns out to be a girl,” he snorts of the Inquirer reporter Jhesset Enano, who drew his ire for her comprehensive coverage of Mr. Duterte at the Asean conference, for which, astoundingly, he swore at her. “Remarkable she works for Inquirer,” he sneers. “Still waiting for the apology to her President & mine for maligning a hardworking man. Then I’ll say sorry for upsetting her. But maybe it’s too much to expect of youth.”
How has the old fart come to this, squandering time assaulting perceived critics and consequently putting them in clear and present danger? Once upon a time he was the nemesis of jerks and slackers in the government, skillfully putting them in their place with a biting line or two. Now he is the object of derision and regret, reduced to spewing profanities and promising “more scurrilities” where once there were only elegance and high irony.
To think he occupies a chronicler’s place with the best advantage in an administration known for brute force. What was it Chinua Achebe said about history? Until the lions have their own historian, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.