For those unfamiliar with the style of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, he may come across as not only “unpresidential” but a madman with expletives spicing his bluster as when he boasts of having no qualms eating human body parts with just a pinch of salt.
Could it be sheer insanity, or, to borrow a line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet in trying to gain insights into the psyche of the man, is there a “method to his madness?”
Are all the tough talks, profanity, vulgarity, and bizarreness simply part of a plan to keep him in the public radar? Are all these meant to make political rivals wary of pouncing on him? What could be the underlying reasons for all the bravado and seeming craziness?
Duterte diehards certainly do not think he was out of his mind when he cursed Pope Francis on Nov. 30. And I can believe him when Duterte said it was just a “slip of the tongue” and that he did not really intend to badmouth the Vicar of Christ.
After all, no serious presidential contender could be so horribly idiotic as to deliberately risk losing support of the reported six million Filipinos who waited since the wee morning hours, suffered the humidity or rains as they lined Metro Manila streets and gathered at Luneta in January, just to get a fleeting glimpse of Christ’s living symbol on earth.
Could it be that Duterte is simply unaccustomed to the kind of hardships—presumably rare in Davao City—that people in Metro Manila experience to profess their faith? Surely, his being stuck in traffic for five hours that he needs to pee inside his vehicle is no joke. And many, especially senior citizens, can relate to that.
But with all the warnings of road closures and detour plans repeatedly publicized weeks before the Pope’s visit, Duterte had ample time to make travel adjustments. It was not like Pope Francis arrived unannounced and people were all caught by surprise.
If Duterte got so irritated by traffic grinding to a halt—though it’s really understandable that five hours can be so terrible if one was not prepared for it—many wonder what his reaction would be if ever he got caught in the midst of a Nazareno procession that can last four times longer or about 21 hours. Duterte said he’s concerned about the hardships people have to endure. But Catholics know that suffering is precisely what also defines the Christian faith as devout followers of Christ have to “bear their cross.”
Can the faithful in this predominantly Catholic nation, who gladly endured lots of sacrifices while Pope Francis was in Metro Manila and Tacloban, easily forgive Duterte’s faux pas even without a sincere public apology or genuine expression of contriteness?
Many believe Duterte is lucky Filipino Catholics are generally meek and mild, just as Pope Francis is the epitome of kindness and humility. Had Duterte offended the sensibilities of extremists in other religions, retaliation could be swift, brutal, relentless, and even more ruthless than he can ever be.
That his ire was actually directed at government’s handling of the Papal visit, and not intended to besmirch or ridicule the Pontiff, might be acceptable. But to deny that Duterte cursed the Pope or that he was taken out of context as his apologists want people to believe—despite YouTube videos on him uttering the uncensored profanity and with published articles containing a transcript of his actual words and expletive—is to add insult to injury.
Such reminds me of Don Michael Corleone in The Godfather telling Carlo Rizzi, his brother-in-law whom he ordered liquidated, that he has to answer for a wrongdoing: “Just don’t tell me you’re innocent… because it insults my intelligence… it makes me very angry.”
(Angel Tugado is a veteran journalist having written for Manila-based national newspapers since the 80s after finishing his studies at San Sebastian College. He has also served as adviser to several senators, provincial governors, and two DILG heads.)