The late senator Miriam Santiago amusingly recalled her first meeting with the then Mayor Rodrigo Duterte in Davao who just put his pistol on the table and started off the conversation, “Here’s mine. What’s yours?”. She said she was taken aback for never in her political life she held one for her safety.
During those tumultuous times in Davao, it’s not unusual to see the mayor holding a gun to protect himself as he was probably thinking better dead fighting than getting exterminated by enemies and not able to defend himself. Amazingly, he survived to tell his stories and, for good or bad reason, now unleashes the habit that seemingly nurtured during that survival period.
It’s perfectly understandable that a lot of people were turned off but many were able to shrug it off. Whether how you view the president’s seeming propensity for expletives when provoked by anger either by recall or inquiry, we can’t ignore the fact that it added some flavors into his leadership:
1. People don’t realize that vulgarity is not confined to the mouth alone
There can be no debate that the president is too uncouth for his position but many of his critics don’t realize that vulgarity can also manifest in one’s intelligence – that is, the use of full stop punctuation in expressing an opinion.
Instead of deepening a conversation, they want to end the discussion totally convinced that their cursory analysis is the final word and doesn’t need to be challenged. In the educated world, such act of superficiality is also vulgar, for it tries to undercut what could have been a proper engagement of the intellect.
So it raises a very valid question, which one is worse, the vulgarity of the president’s mouth which is marinated by righteous indignations, or vulgarity of intellect which is the lack of ability to deepen a conversation?
2. His vulgarity seems to give others extra push to do the right thing
A few years ago, it’s hardly imaginable that a day would come the popular thoroughfares of Metro Manila and other places would look nice and clean. Enter President Digong and everything was turned upside down! The tough locals who couldn’t seem to care much about how to put their streets in order suddenly learned how to act like one. Why?
Well, the president’s outburst and curse by themselves demand obedience particularly those local executives who deemed too close to his main office. Who in his right mind would dare to challenge a volatile president for being the receiving end of his wrath?
The president’s curse is much like a call to a street fight, “Gusto mo, basagan tayo ng mukha?” To which the other would retort, “Ayoko! Basag na yong mukha mo!” President Duterte’s care-free attitude in handling his vocal imagery seems to add to the no-holds-barred and the aura of fear he already amassed as a strict disciplinarian of Davao city.
It’s very ironic that those who refuse to resist the president’s injunction have skewed morals on what is good and what is right but nonetheless, the president is able to get his messages across and get the job done. Government officials may think twice that they cannot afford to lose their identity in any form of resistance.
Another group who had been used to ask for political favors in exchange for their campaign contributions may think twice for fear they may experience tongue-lashing. It would be the remotest possibility to think of such person like Lucio Tan or somebody else who may call the president to ease up his policies so as not to affect his business interest e.g. shelving the no-smoking ban for time being for it would surely affect the sale of cigarettes.
3. His unrefined persona most probably the reason why he is impervious to graft and corruption
There so much written criticism about the president manner of speech but they failed to grapple the fact that history provides us some insights into the type of persona that seems to be left standing amidst the national hysteria. For instance, Pulitzer-prize winner Roger Ebert had the womanizer Oskar Schindler as the only one German who was not paralyzed by the Nazi cruelty.
We can safely argue that it was Duterte’s persona that made him impervious to the common practice of politicians embracing the systemic graft and corruption. Other prim and proper politicians are either dancing with the corrupt system or just being inept for a fight for its eradication.
4. The elite is to be blamed for his rise
Of all the nosiest people who protested against the president’s cursing, the elite topped the list unmindful that they are the ones to blame. If all the presidents before Duterte were able to change the political and economic landscape of the country, the chance of having an uncouth leader, no matter how successful he is in his city, seems to be virtually nil.
In short, having a president who gives them discomfort is their undoing. Worse, they blame his supporters who were just too sick and tired of their ineptitude. Better is for them to realize that the president is their own version of Scourge of God, who came down to punish their political sins accumulated over the years.
5. Ironically, his cursing and seeming volatility inspire interest in learning history, which would otherwise somewhat impossible to do
Filipinos are reeling for the utter lack of sense of nationhood and that all changed when Duterte came into the picture. We discuss at length how he inspired indifferent Filipinos to study and to show strong interest in nationalistic pride here.