JUST WHEN we thought Malacañang’s media office has controlled the spread of its “Norwegia” fake-news virus, President Duterte stood Tuesday in a Cebu City conference showing signs he may have been infected too.
Addressing a convention of mayors from the Visayas, Duterte let loose a barrage, hitting among other targets, exiled communist rebel leader Jose Ma. Sison. He berated him:
“You’re a refugee in that country, availing of the funds of the Norwegian people. You’re staying for free, you’re sick of cancer.” (text condensed from transcript)
The President either did not know or he forgot that Sison was enjoying asylum status in the Netherlands, not in Norway — which is another country whose capital (Oslo) is some 1,250 kilometers (driving) north of the Dutch capital of Amsterdam.
As Mark Villa @makeapoint690 said in reaction to my Norwegia tweet that day: “Way way wayyyyy south and across the North Sea. We know why Du30 can’t let go of Ms. Mayon in PCOO. They’re both geographically challenged. So when he says that Naga is a hotbed of shabu, he meant that city way way south… Davao.”
I assume that “Ms. Mayon” refers to PCOO Asst. Secretary Mocha Uson who once inadvertently wrote of Mount Mayon’s being in Naga City (she has since corrected the mistake, majestic Mayon is still in Albay province to the south).
The reference to Naga as a “hotbed of shabu” recalls Duterte’s derogatory description of that city in Camarines Sur, the home base of Vice President Leni Robredo.
Complicating further the tangled references, PNP Chief Director General Oscar Albayalde corrected the Commander-in-Chief’s remarks, saying that Naga was only No. 5 in criminality nationwide. It turned out the general also erred as he misread from a report that merely listed Naga as belonging to Region 5 (Bicol)!
• Some errors too glaring to ignore
THE USUAL kibitzers have butted in: Assuming Naga is a beehive of narcotics activity, its being so is the responsibility of the police and/or local officials, not of the Vice President who just happens to hail from there.
Robredo herself, quoting PNP figures, finally set straight Naga’s crime record: Murder, 34th place; homicide, 24th-26th; rape, 29th; robbery, 11th; and theft, 6th.
Duterte’s Norwegian slip added to the mis/disinformation emanating from his PCOO (Presidential Communications and Operations Office). While some of the errors were just typos, critics have pounced on the glaring ones as a disgrace to the office and an insult to the public.
The “Norwegia” flub happened when Norwegian ambassador Erik Forner called on the President on June 13 to bid farewell after his four-year Manila stint. In the PCOO photo showing him being conferred the Order of Sikatuna, rank of datu, he was identified as the envoy from Norwegia.
The Palace has not explained Duterte’s mistaking Sison’s Dutch asylum hosts for Norwegian taxpayers. Our guess is that Norway’s being a third-party facilitator in the peace talks in the Netherlands may have confused the President.
In his rambling speech in Cebu, Duterte also mentioned Canadian helicopters, Russian submarines, a CIA plot to kill him, his love of country, his wanting multiple choices for conjugal visits in prison, his drive against illegal drugs to protect the youth, his eyeing plunder raps versus Inquirer owners, and his state of health (in perpetual pain, but not about to die yet).
More colorful excerpts from what he said about Sison: “His mind is abused, by himself…. I don’t know what he means by comatose ako, kama na lang sana ako, pero comatose? Matagal pa ako…. Mr. Sison, you’re a refugee in that country, you’re availing of the funds of the Norwegian people. You don’t pay anything, you’re staying for free and you’re sick of cancer…. You’re a rebel that is a freeloader. Nagfi-freeload ka lang dyan so stop it mahiya ka naman…. Kapag nakita kita sa impyerno, p***ng ina mo, sampalin kita. Really…. Comatose comatose ka dyan.”
• KL cancels major China-funded projects
MANY Filipinos noticed how Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, concluding a visit this week to Beijing, cancelled some multibillion-dollar projects with Chinese financing contracted by his predecessor Najib Razak now facing graft charges.
Mahathir told the media that China President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang understood and accepted the reasons for the dropping of the projects that included a $20-billion East Coast Rail Link and two energy pipelines worth $2.3 billion.
He explained: “It’s all about pouring in too much money which we cannot afford, we cannot repay, and also because we don’t need these projects for Malaysia at this moment.”
Filipinos cannot help contrasting Mahathir’s stance and Duterte’s insistence on contracting massive loans from China despite the high interest rates and short repayment periods. Some analysts have warned of the Philippines possibly being led to a debt trap.
Some of the loans promised to Duterte, like those contracted by Najib, are for development infrastructure – including sea ports, bridges and railway systems under the administration’s ambitious “Build, Build, Build!” program.
Mahathir said his focus is on reducing the national debt first, warning that “if we are not careful we can become bankrupt.” He deplored that his government has to pay substantial penalties for cancelling unwise commitments made by his predecessor.
Before he left for Beijing, Mahathir was already saying that Malaysia did not need all those infrastructure projects lined up by Najib to be built by Chinese contractors and financed with Chinese state bank loans.
Duterte, 73, may learn a few things by watching how Mahathir, 93, handles his relations with Beijing.