Duterte’s cursing losing its impact
WE USED to advise a colleague who was (still is) writing a mean column in another newspaper to drop his penchant for cursing people in his hard-hitting commentaries.
We would tell him that while cursing may add a bit of color to his style, it does not improve his arguments. In fact, when a man, especially one with macho pretensions, starts cursing, people around him are likely to suspect that he is running out of arguments.
We remembered this point about cursing in public when we heard President Rodrigo Duterte call former Colombia President César Gaviria (1990-1994) an idiot just because the latter noted that Duterte was making the same bloody mistakes he did in his drug war.
The Colombian campaign also killed tens of thousands, including Pablo Escobar, founder of the Medellin drug cartel – but Gaviria now rues his having used brute force to confront a non-military problem. He suggested it was a mistake that Duterte may want to avoid.
“The war cannot be won by armed forces and law enforcement agencies alone,” Gaviria said. “Throwing more soldiers and police at the drug users is not just a waste of money but also can actually make the problem worse.”
“Idiot!” Duterte shot back upon being told of Gaviria’s opinion piece published in the New York Times last Feb.7.
(We reprinted his column in our last Postscript, knowing from decades of communication work that many people also want to read the text of important statements to know exactly what was said.)
What did Duterte gain by calling the South American leader “idiot” even before reading his column? As the cliché goes, he could have disagreed with Gaviria without being disagreeable.
■ Cursing grabs news, not respect
NAME-CALLING got Duterte into the headlines, but did not help polish his image. Nor did it reverse the unfavorable perception of his Oplan Tokhang known more for the extrajudicial execution of more than 7,000 suspected drug dealers and users.
His raining profanities on world leaders raised his awareness (differentiated from approval) rating, but the novelty of seeing a rough rider of an emerging economy tilting with the world’s power windmills has started to wear off.
His dream of establishing what he called an “axis” of China, Russia and the Philippines “against the world” is still that – a pipe dream.
The shock effect of a president spewing profanities on the world stage can only go so far, because it has nothing positive going for it. It is all hot air misused.
Splattering world leaders with offensive language could be costly. For instance, what has Duterte earned for himself and the Philippines by calling then US President Barack Obama a “son of a whore” after the latter raised human rights concerns over Tokhang?
His “colorful” language resulted in the freezing of an expected aid of around $400 million from the US-led Millennium Challenge Corp. Telling Obama to go to hell or saying that Filipinos won’t lose sleep over the loss will not repair the damage inflicted.
Similar intemperate language he used in denouncing officials of the United Nations and the European Union has antagonized key people who might be able to help the Philippines solve some of its problems.
Indeed, why make enemies when one can make friends?
When then incoming US President Donald Trump committed a diplomatic breach by talking to the president of Taiwan, an act of implied recognition, he violated the basic One-China policy binding the two superpowers.
In the context of statements made earlier by Trump that China was a trade cheat and a currency manipulator, Beijing had reason to use harsh language and choice Duterte-like profanities.
Instead, China President Xi Jinping made properly nuanced remarks, and patiently explained Beijing’s side in polite one-on-one chats without conceding sovereign grounds.
Patient and polite diplomacy seems to be paying off. Recovering his senses, Trump has officially reaffirmed the US adherence to the One-China policy, and steered his country away from a mutually injurious trade war.
When a player is not holding all the aces, bluffing or lying will not work. And bluster is not the cure for inferiority complex.
■ Pineda agrees with Gaviria on drugs
WE WERE pleasantly surprised last Friday when Pampanga Gov. Lilia G. Pineda said in answer to our question that Gaviria had some valid points and possibly useful lessons for Duterte.
She was at our Bale Balita (House of News) in the Clark Freeport in Pampanga together with former President Gloria Arroyo, now 2nd district representative and deputy speaker of the House of Representatives for the induction of the officers of the Capampangan in Media Inc.
The governor echoed Gaviria’s message that a police approach to the drugs scourge, often resulting in the gunning down of drug suspects, will not work if not complemented by measures addressing other aspects of a holistic approach to rehabilitating drug users.
Deploring the holding of more than 2,200 drug suspects in the provincial jail designed to accommodate only 1,000, she pressed for a supplemental budget for bigger space, adequate facilities and staff for rehabilitating and making the detainees productive.
She said she was looking for suitable land for a spacious rehab center with surrounding land for food production and skills development for the drug dependents.
Mere detention and seminars are not enough, she said. Based on her experience, supervised food production will not only reduce subsistence costs but will also have salutary rehabilitative effects on drug users wanting to turn a new leaf.
Others present in the CAMI program with Rep. Arroyo and the governor were Provincial Board Member Olga Frances “Fritzie” David-Dizon and Mabalacat City Mayor Marino “Boking” Morales. More than 90 percent of Clark’s land area is in Mabalacat.
Sworn in by Pineda were CAMI officers and trustees: Cris Icban Jr., chairman; Ashley Jay B. Manabat, vice chairman; Federico Pascual Jr., president; Ernie Y. Tolentino, senior vice president (national operations); Ding C. Cervantes Jr., vice president (provincial operations); John S. Manalili, secretary general; Dionisio Pelayo, treasurer; Abel L. Cruz, auditor; and trustees Jake Espino, Jose P. Cortez, Noel Tulabut, Narciso Turla Jr., Vittorio “Vot” Vitug, Ner Dayrit, and Max Sangil.