Speaking on behalf of a president is a tough job. Speaking for this president, immensely tougher.
Over the past 16 months, we have seen several individuals who tried to take on this role. It goes beyond the title—anybody in Mr. Duterte’s inner circle, being his alter ego, is presumed to speak for him. Or else they would have been made to step out of the circle.
The President does not appear to be an easy man to work with. He is hardly succinct, rational and level headed. He veers away from prepared speeches, the production of which he should have been involved in the first place. He is easy to provoke, given to outbursts, given to rambling, and maintains some dated ideas about men and women, leadership, and law and order. With his words he can burn bridges or strike terror in one’s heart.
His allies swear, however, that he has a heart of gold.
To speak for him, thus, takes a lot of firefighting and damage control. A spokesman is always in a bind—he has to stay faithful to the President’s words, at least their spirit, while also appeasing those he may have offended. Spokesmen have exhorted the people to use “creative imagination” to decipher the President’s words, told us he was joking or in a foul mood, and blamed the media for distorting the message.
Alas, spokesmen through their own lewd and crude remarks, independent of the President’s, have done their share of insulting and embarrassing the people. It makes us wonder—is the bench all that shallow?
And now the Palace has appointed a new spokesman, a law professor previously known for his work in human rights. Some groups believe the new spokesman should not have accepted the post because the administration is now facing accusations of deeds he would have gone up against. On the other hand, he might be able to lend a veneer of acceptability to these actuations. We’ll see.
To speak for somebody who likes to speak a lot, himself, is not a job for the fainthearted. The ideal spokesman, in this case, would be one with great luck and a strong stomach.