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Opinion | National

EDITORIAL | Tangina this

InterAksyon.com
The online news portal of TV5

Rodrigo Duterte says he wasn't actually calling Pope Francis a sonofabitch. All circumstance and context considered, he says he was cursing the Aquino administration and its plain mismanagement of Metro Manila traffic. Too bad you all misheard "Putangina mo, Pope," in the same way that you misread that just now. Duterte could have - should have - said "APEC", and the sound byte would have still gone viral for all the correct reasons.

So that clears that up. This wasn't directed at the Pope. We believe it. We agree about the traffic. We share the sentiment and join in pointing the dirty finger.

*fist bump*

We move on.

From Pope Francis, at least.

But as for Duterte himself - when else would be a better time to discuss everything he stands for, everything he represents and all that he offers, than now when he invites us all to do just that, declaring  himself an open book and relishing the task and, indeed, responsibility to deliver the expletive-laden, narrative himself? We move on from this unfortunate opening salvo in Duterte’s presidential campaign but only to, well, Duterte’s presidential campaign.  

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte's reputation precedes him. Sit him down and that reputation is actually what you see in front of you, obscuring your view of his physical presence and distracting even from that young lady in a miniskirt sitting on his lap, kissing his face that is kissing back. For the record, we do not actually know how many people he's killed or had killed, if any, how many drug dealers he’s banished from Davao or "FROM THE FACE OF THIS EARTH !!!", or how many cigarette butts he's stuffed down how many tourists' throats. He says he has two wives and (at the moment) two girlfriends. But again, who knows?

All we know is what Duterte would say and what he would not actually deny.

Duterte says we might as well know everything about him, because, you know, he might just become our next leader. You better know what you're getting: experience, track-record, flaws, his humanity, foul mouth, warts and all. And no apologies. Certainly he will not apologize for anything he has brought to the great and really impressive city of Davao any more than he would care to explain his bangs. Walk Davao City at night, her proud and thankful residents will invite you, and imagine a Metro Manila, a Philippines, as peaceful and, ergo, as enticing to investors and tourists who know where to not smoke.

It would be hard to take away from what Duterte has done, nor from the things that, for all that have been said of him, have NOT been said of him. Nobody has called him corrupt and nobody will accuse him of ineptitude.

A shame that Duterte is not secure enough to stand on that. His platform is not results. In the parlance of business, the mayor who would be your president is not results-oriented. He is process-oriented. And that process is founded and completely defined by fear that only lawlessness can engender.

Sen. Koko Pimentel and the PDP-Laban say they are working with their candidate. They've long been urging him to curb the cussing and tone down the nonchalance about extrajudicial murder. Sen. Koko talks about Duterte as if he were a hired dancer at a Liberal Party sortie in Laguna. In truth, it is Koko Pimentel and his old man who are tailoring their performance to Duterte's spoiled bidding. The mayor has them by the instincts of the once-relevant and now anchorless PDP-Laban as just another political party desperate to be a player. At least Duterte is no hypocrite. The Pimentels - the elder a human rights victim, once a human rights champion - are not only hypocritic, they are deluded.

For the perplexing Pimentels, the only problem is packaging. They care not that ultimately they foist upon Filipinos a Faustian farce. Buy into, invest in, force and fear - for swift justice, quiet streets, and profit that cares not what we sold.

When Duterte curses on national television, and then curses again to apologize, and then again to emphasize his explanation, we laugh nervously, and inside we shudder. When he plays mall-Santa Claus to a bevy of female groupies to casually explain his "fascination" with women,  and when he declares: "Look, this is who I am," we see and hear the thing that we should fear greater than the man, and even greater than his myth: We hear and see the language – and the body language – of impunity.

When Duterte looks you in the eye, it is not to convince you of his sincerity. It is to ask you: "What are you going to do about it? About the murders I say I committed, the death squads I've unleashed, the bigamy I claim, my womanizing that you can only envy, the example I will set for your children by my words and by my actions – all the untold things I will do, the yet unimagined path I bulldoze on the way to a clean, safe, and prosperous future I will make for all of you, mga putanginang magpasalamat nalang kayo. What will you do? Why would you stop me? Why would you dare?"

Why indeed? Unless we subscribe to things as fundamental as rule of law, due process, human rights, and accountability.

Certainly, nobody has tried to check Duterte. Instead, over decades he has been enabled by the system, national leaders, and politicians that court Davao and Mindanao for its votes – courted by the same people that until recently held out hope that this iron-fisted man of dubious tactics would join them in their respective tickets as vice president - or by those who until now are lining up to have their hands raised by his endorsement. Impunity is a weed that feeds off people, networks, an ecosystem, on the same culture it poisons.

When criminals (both alleged and true) are piled high, with only a final one among them left alive, elected and standing proud at the top of the heap, what victory will have been won, and what progress can he claim in the name of people made complicit by silence or hashtags, who cheered him on with nervous laughter? 

To be sure, Duterte is popular because he has captured and taps into a collective frustration with our still messy democracy. He is, as some have opined, a creature of the malaise we all rail against and do indeed curse not only in silence. 

But to stand with victims, to be a victim yourself, is one thing. To perpetuate another layer of injustice is another, and it is antithetical to the principles and values of the very democratic and republican process to which Duterte ostensibly submits. 

Honest is not the same as brazen. It is one thing to never apologize, quite another to not know where to draw the line. Even Bongbong Marcos knows you do not win absolution with transparency nor with a thick hide. Even Marcos knows even things you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. Fear of the law is a good thing. What shall we make of any leader who has none of it? Leave any leader so unquestioned and it is a thin line that would separate Duterte's Davao from Ampatuan's Maguindanao. 

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