IN a message to his Catholic flock, Most Reverend Socrates Villegas, archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan, has called for an end to the “Reign of Murder and Vulgarity” in the country.
Archbishop Soc didn’t specify but it was clear he referred to President Duterte’s rule. His message, released last Tuesday, was for today’s feast of Mary Help of Christians.
Regarding murder, Villegas mourned over the casualties in Duterte’s drug war. Their bodies, Villegas said, could fill the Lingayen gymnasium. An exaggeration perhaps and was based on unconfirmed figures that the government may question. The archbishop deplored that the killings are used “as solution to our problems.”
A lot have been said about the violence part of Villegas’s charge, with no meeting of minds ever reached.
Let’s focus for now on the “vulgarity” that Villegas said rules the country along with murder. How does the archbishop’s appeal sound in the wake of Duterte’s admission last Jan. 12?
The president said then that his mouth is “really foul, especially when he is pissed off.” And nothing could be done about it. Instead, he said, people “should accept me for what I am,” indicating it was too late for him to change.
Consider also Villegas’s appeal along with Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque’s spin about the things that come from Duterte’s mouth.
Last Feb. 7, Roque said feminists who decry the president’s “vulgar” and misogynistic” statements are “sometimes over-acting.” Followed by his caution last March 2 that people shouldn’t take Duterte’s words literally. He could be joking, Roque said, “come on, that’s funny, just laugh.”
Were they not funny?
But critics didn’t laugh when Duterte:
 Said he would’ve wanted, being mayor at the time, to lead the gang rape of an Australian missionary in Davao City;
 Lured tourists to the country by promising them “42 virgins” (though it was 30 virgins short of the 72 supposedly promised to each jihad terrorist);
 Ordered soldiers not to kill NPA women rebels and “shoot them in the vagina instead” as without their genitals, they’d be “useless.”
Funny and serious
On Roque’s pitch explaining the coarse language in Duterte’s public talk: First of all, most people in front of the president would laugh even if his joke is not funny or is gross. It’s our way of showing to an important guest that he’s welcome and we appreciate his being with us. Secondly, the joke would be funny in a pub, bar. locker room or even in a rally but not when seen or heard on TV, cable or YouTube or quoted in the papers.
And how does Roque reconcile his advice not to take the president literally and “just laugh,” with his plea to take him seriously?
Hitting on women
How about talking in public about women’s legs or fondness for a specific woman, something close to hitting on a girl? Would Villegas tuck it under vulgarity too?
In November 2016, Duterte talked about checking out Vice President Leni Robredo’s legs and knees, saying they distracted him during Cabinet meetings. Tourism chief Bernadette Romulo-Yap, a mestiza widow, was reputed to be Duterte’s “crush.” More than once, on TV and in a magazine interview, he publicly wished she’d be his first lady.
But there has been no big outcry against any of that, except for a married woman TV reporter who noisily complained about Duterte making a wolf whistle at her during a press-con.
Maybe our women aren’t too strict about display of appreciation from a man, especially if he happens to be the highest official of the country. Maybe they’re relieved that Duterte limits sexual machismo to talking about it, no scandal that once bedeviled at least two past presidents: Marcos and Estrada.
Not glorified yet
Contrary to what the good archbishop said, vulgarity is not yet “glorified” in this country. The rumble of dissent whenever anything vulgar is done on the national stage by the president attests to that.
Many parents though might want their children’s gadgets switched off when the president talks about a woman he loves or who pisses him off.