Will somebody tell him campaign is over

>> Sunday, June 12, 2016

Val G. Abelgas

“Shut up!” Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte uttered these words at least three times during the presidential campaign and in his daily press conferences since it became obvious he would be the next president of the Philippines.
The tough-talking mayor told both the US and Australian ambassadors to shut up when the diplomats of the country’s two biggest allies criticized him for his remarks on the murder and rape of an Australian missionary. That was during a campaign in the Visayas. He said the diplomats were not Filipino citizens and should stay out of politics.
When told that women’s groups had filed a complaint before the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) over his rape joke, he said he was just exercising his constitutional rights and could not be sued over his remarks.
And yet, when some soldiers exercised their constitutional right to free speech when they expressed concern over his plan to forge a peace deal with communist rebels and free all political prisoners, Duterte told them to shut up and be good soldiers.
When the CHR passed a resolution condemning him for his rape remarks, he told CHR Chairman Chit Gascon to shut up, adding that Gascon was “too naïve” and was an “idiot.”
In January 2014, he had also told then CHR Chair Loretta Ann Rosales to shut up and not talk about what is ethical and unethical when it comes to fighting rice smuggling in the country. Rosales had criticized Duterte for saying he would kill anyone who smuggles rice in his city.
While Duterte loves to criticize and foul-mouth almost anybody that does not share his ideas of governance, he is quick to tell critics to shut up. And that’s what’s many people are worried about – a national leader who can’t take criticisms and rattles recklessly when a touchy issue is raised against him.
This came again to the fore last week when asked about media killings during a press conference in Davao city. Instead of denouncing these killings, Duterte blurted out expletives and justified the murder of some media men, blaming corruption in the media and irresponsible reporting for the slayings.
“It’s not because you’re a journalist you’re exempted from assassination if you’re a son of a bitch,” he added. Duterte said the freedom of expression enshrined in the 1987 Constitution would not protect reporters from assassination if they are corrupt or careless in reporting.
“The Constitution can no longer help you pag binaboy mo isang tao. Your freedom of expression can’t help you if you’ve done something wrong with the guy,” Duterte said. “… Most of those killed, to be frank, have done something. You won’t be killed if you don’t do anything wrong.”
At one point during the press conference, Duterte, apparently irritated by a barrage of questions from the media, said: “May sundalo ba rito? I-Armalite nga mga ito.”
It could have been a joke, but his statement justifying the killings of corrupt media members is an affront to freedom of expression and sends a chilling effect on journalists all over the country, corrupt or not. Who’s to decide who are corrupt and who are not? The government officials being criticized? What will stop an irate official from claiming the journalist he had ordered killed was corrupt and from planting evidence before killing him?
Many media members who expressed support for Duterte are now regretting doing so. He had promised to pass the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill, and yet sends a mixed signal with his recent tirade against media men.
The international outrage followed his statement that corrupt journalists were legitimate targets of assassination. Duterte cited the case of Jun Pala, a journalist and politician who was murdered in Davao in 2003. Gunmen on a motorcycle gunned down Pala, who was a vocal critic of Duterte. His murder has never been solved.
“The example here is Pala. I do not want to diminish his memory but he was a rotten son of a bitch. He deserved it.”
The justice department should reopen the case of Pala’s murder since based on Duterte’s statement, a possible motive has been established.
Now, it would appear that the murders of media members in the Philippines would remain unsolved for the next six years with the incoming president basically telling law enforcement authorities there is no need to investigate them as the victims most probably deserved being killed.
Duterte recklessly and insensitively tainted the memories of some 175 media members who have been killed since 1986, when democracy and freedom were supposedly restored with the ouster of President Marcos. This has outraged media groups all over the world.
Ryan Rosuaro, head of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, said, “It is appalling that President-elect Rodrigo Duterte should justify the murder of journalists in the country by playing the corruption card.”
The Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines said, “Duterte’s statement is a chilling reminder that journalists in the Philippines continue to live under threat, decades after (the association) was founded to fight for press freedom at the height of Ferdinand Marcos’s dictatorship.”
International media monitor the Committee to Protect Journalists joined the condemnation, saying the only way to address the “woefully” high number of unresolved murders was through the courts.
“President-Elect Rodrigo Duterte’s shocking remarks apparently excusing extrajudicial killings threaten to make the Philippines into a killing field for journalists,” it said in a statement. “We strongly urge him to retract his comments and to signal that he intends to protect, not target, the press.”
But will the incoming president even listen? Apparently not.
When told that the international media group Reporters Without Borders is calling for a boycott of his press conferences, Duterte blurted: “I was saying, you idiots, do not threaten me. I said I’m ready to lose the presidency, my honor or my life. Just do not fuck with me.”
Duterte laid down his classification of journalists: the “crusaders, who bare all to the public,” the “mouthpiece
of vested interests,” and “the low lives.”
Duterte’s apologists tried to come to his rescue.
Designated presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Duterte’s statement on the killings of journalists was “taken out of context, misinterpreted and misunderstood.”
How can the statement be taken out of context? It was televised live on TV, witnessed by millions.
Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, president of Duterte’s party PDP-Laban, on the other hand, appealed to the public not to “misinterpret” the statement of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte that corruption is the root cause of media killings in the country.
“Do not mistake or misinterpret the statement of the President. Ang sinabi lang naman ng Presidente, we have freedom of the press but we also have to be responsible in exercising it and given the nature of the Filipinos, sometimes they resort to violence and the Constitution can’t protect you from violence,” Pimentel said in an interview at the Senate.
If Duterte had said it that way, there would have been no outrage. But no, he had to call media men “sons of bitches,” “lowlives,” the mouthpiece of vested interests,” etc.
“We need a little understanding. He does not have any bad intention,” Vitaliano Aguirre II, Duterte’s designated justice secretary, said. “He uses hyperbole to attract attention to what he wants to say… He intentionally exaggerates, like during the campaign. You have to give him some leeway… so his statements can be interpreted so that it could be toned down.”
I have one advice to Duterte’s advisers. Tell him to “shut up” and just wait for his inauguration as the 16th president of this country. No more press conferences from Davao. No more expletives. Just be sincere in uniting the country and in fighting crime and corruption. After all, the campaign is over. He is already the president-elect.


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