“Face of evil. Ang pangit talaga.”
-- President Duterte, referring to the senator, Dec. 6, 2017
PRESIDENT Duterte has thrown disparaging names at Sen. Antonio Trillanes before: more notably, “dangerous man” (April 2, 2016), “political ISIS” (last Sept. 2), and “scheming inventor of bank accounts” (last Sept. 23), along with unprintable epithets.
Last Wednesday (Dec. 6), speaking before new appointees to the government, Duterte called Trillanes Judas or, more precisely, “the model face of evil,” “daig si Hudas.”
To depict the senator as Judas, the president used an urban legend about the great artist Leonardo da Vinci who, according to the story, tapped live models for the 13 people in his “Last Supper” painting.
Da Vinci, the legend goes, already had found models for, and painted the figures of, Jesus Christ and the other disciples except one, Judas. Da Vinci scoured the prisons and finally found one whose face mirrored “despair, wickedness, and greed.” The inmate, after several sittings, finally told the painter, “Don’t you recognize me? Years ago, I sat for you as Jesus Christ.” That was when da Vinci saw “innocence, love, compassion” on the model’s face before the man turned away from God into a life of sin.
As most urban legends are, the story was false. In 2008, the reputable fact-checking site Snopes.com shot it down as bogus. The artist didn’t use models who sat for his “Last Supper.” Working on walls and ceilings, he used sketches. It took him only three years, not 10 to 25 years that the legend says the work on “Last Supper” required. And no record of any prisoner who sat as model for Judas.
Duterte made his own changes on the tale: substituting “scavenger” for “prisoner,” making Trillanes as the model and focusing on ugliness of the face (“pangit talaga”). Which must strain credibility: Didn’t Palace publicist Mocha Uson gush over Trillanes (“You’re good-looking”) when they met at the Senate hearing?
The president used something new: the urban legend was a religious allegory that, experts tell us, is about “spiritual decay” in the inner self as reflected by the “physical decay” in Judas’s face.
Duterte brought forth this message to the newly appointed public officials: Don’t turn into Judas after presenting yourselves or being seen now as Jesus.
A bit of a stretch for a metaphor, if not, to priests and bishops, irreverent or blasphemous: comparing the “goodness” of new public officials to Jesuss goodness.
Question on evil
Besides, the question of who is evil is officially still in dispute. While many people have long taken sides in the Duterte-Trillanes squabble, no independent authority has yet decided on who is evil. Between the two protagonists, each one is evil to the other.
But what can conclusively decide that -- documents, witnesses and other evidence -- have not been presented and neutrally assessed. The debate has not even come close to that. All the public heard are unsubstantiated accusations.
And until the issue is resolved, Duterte and Trillanes will keep on calling each other names.