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What I learned from the President’s Jolo speech

What have we learned from….?” That is a question I usually pose to my class—I have been teaching for the most part of 50 years—at the end of a lecture, to summarize what took place during the class.

So I’m going to do it to myself. Using current lingo, what is my takeaway from President Duterte’s July 13 Jolo speech and its aftermath? Three things:

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1. That some of the highest government officials can lie to the Filipino people with absolute brazenness. And there is proof positive. There’s Sen. Bong Go, who was with the President; there is Harry Roque, his spokesperson. They told us, in essence, that no names were mentioned by the President when he made his “dismantle the oligarchy” remark. And showed us their proof: the video of his speech.

It turns out that the video they showed us was an edited version, cutting off about 10 minutes from the original. In the original version were his rants and raves against the Lopezes, Ayalas, Consunjis, and MV Pangilinan. And his mention of Rappler, plus his rant against Sen. Frank Drilon. And we learned about it only because of independent media.

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2. That the Armed Forces of the Philippines may be brighter, braver, and better than we think. Did you notice, Reader, that the President’s speech was marked with only one round of applause—when he conveyed birthday greetings to Gov. Sakur Tan of Sulu?

There was no applause when he bragged about giving them all their medical needs (P50 million a year to P50 million a month), plus equipment; no applause when he was saying that they had but to ask and it would be granted, or when he assured them of his backing in case they got themselves into trouble (like using an M-16 magazine on the face of an enemy).

There was no laughter (nervous or otherwise) when he gave out his expletives and crude remarks. Stony silence when he pooh-poohed human rights (observing human rights is part of the soldier’s Code of Conduct).

Now that is my kind of soldier.

3. That the President himself, in some parts, showed himself to be either lying, or living in a world of the past.

Take his “I dismantled the oligarchy without the use of martial law” statement, which he claimed to be his “battle cry.” Anybody who believes the first part of this statement, please raise their hands. No hands? Of course. Because he hasn’t dismantled the oligarchy. Ask Raul Fabella, former dean of the UPSE (the elites will always be with us). Ask Ron Mendoza, dean of the Ateneo School of Government, or Senator Drilon (political dynasties are the base of oligarchies, so tackle them first, which of course Congress will not do).

The idea that he is living in the past is that, ironically, that was Ferdinand Marcos’ battle cry also, for the same reason: It resonates with the people. But in order to achieve that goal, Marcos needed to declare martial law.

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Mr. Duterte doesn’t have to declare it, because it isn’t necessary. Marcos’ Congress was not a rubber-stamp, which was why he abolished it. Mr. Duterte, being presented with a rubber-stamp Congress, can get anything he wants without martial law—the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 and denying the ABS-CBN franchise are the current examples. They’ll pass any law he wants.

President Duterte also made a statement that only one family in this country (in one part) or a few (in the same part) determines who will win the elections. He did not say who this one or these few are. Logical question: Then why did he win the presidential election? The only one I know who openly supported him was the late Gina Lopez, sister of Gabby Lopez. He even appointed her to his Cabinet, but let her go when she went up against the oligarchs in the mining industry.

The last issue I will address is his mention of me, in connection with my membership in the Rappler board. That is a fact, of which I am very proud. He also mentioned another board member—an Ayala, no first name—which makes it sound like he is related to the “oligarchs.” Well, Manny Ayala is not related. Nor is he even a board member, having resigned early last year. So, false. And finally, he said Rappler was owned by Americans. That is untrue. Unless, of course, Maria Ressa is a dummy, which is not likely. Just ask any credible member of the national or international press.

Your turn, Reader. What did you learn?

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TAGS: Ayala, Consunji, Duterte, Jolo speech, Lopez, MVP, oligarchy, rant
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