TO SAY that some of the things that have come out of President Rodrigo Duterte's mouth have received flak, here and abroad, is an understatement.
Not that it should surprise the country. After all, everybody, and I mean “everybody,” even even those who didn't vote for him in last May's elections, knew that the former Davao City mayor had a penchant for cussing.
But the fact that he was elected to the country's highest position meant that his profanity-laden vocabulary did not deter 16 million voters from choosing him over a strait-laced speaker.
Again, it shouldn't come as a surprise that since Duterte took over Malacañang in July, he has made some enemies because of his “insignificant” mouth.
On his war against illegal drugs, he made an analogy to the Holocaust, or the massacre of six million Jews in Europe during World War 2 by Nazi Germany. “I'd be happy to slaughter them,” he said of the estimated three million drug addicts in the country.
When the world's Jewry reacted in disgust and condemned his remarks, the President quickly apologized. It was a good thing they found his apology to be sincere, and graciously accepted it.
Even outgoing American President Barack Obama and the European Union (EU) were not immune to Duterte's colorful language. When the US and the EU criticized the alleged illegal killings in the wake of the Philippines' campaign to wipe out the illegal drug trade, Duterte told both of them to “go to hell.”
In most cases, the objects of his rants, especially those abroad, chose not to engage him in a repartee.
According to some US officials, Washington was doing its best “to ignore Duterte's rhetoric and not provide him with a pretext for more outbursts.”
In October, Duterte dared both the US and the EU to withdraw their assistance to the country. “I do not expect the human rights [groups], I do not expect Obama, I do not expect the EU to understand me. Do not understand me. And if you think it's high time for you guys to withdraw your assistance, go ahead. We will not beg for it.”
So why then would Presidential Communications Office Secretary Martin Andanar be bothered when the London-based newspaper The Guardian called for economic sanctions on the Philippines after it described Duterte's anti-illegal drugs campaign as “out of control”?
And why would he say that the allegations of Robert Muggah, who wrote the article and who also suggested that foreign governments withdraw their assistance to the country “if no change of direction materializes,” were unfounded?
If the President doesn't care, why should he?
“We hope that other countries will treat the Philippines as a sovereign nation and with mutual respect,” Andanar added.
If foreign governments do decide to withdraw their assistance to the Philippines, they'll be doing so as sovereign nations and there's really nothing Andanar or the whole country can do about it. We can't well tell other countries to mind their own business and then butt in when that business affects us.
As for mutual respect, who has been doing the disrespecting? I have yet to hear Angela Merkel or Francois Hollande or Theresa May hurl invective at Duterte in response to the latter's insults.
Anyway, this doesn't mean I don't support the government's battle against all forms of criminality, particularly those borne out of the illegal drug trade, because I do. 110 percent.
But I'm also well aware of the possible repercussions, given Duterte's brand of diplomacy, and I'm ready to accept them.
Because, at the end of the day, we can't have our cake and then expect to eat it too.