“DUTERTE just now said the communists are engaged in ‘armed stragol.’”

“You have ‘trabol’ with my president’s dictionarment?”

-- Raissa Robles’s comment and Edwin Lacierda’s reply on Twitter, Sept. 11, 2018

Clearly, blogger Raissa Robles and former presidential spokesman and probable senator-wannabe in 2019 Edwin Lacierda were poking fun at President Duterte’s Bisaya accent. Duterte was then having a one-on-one chat (stylishly called by Malacañang’s Harry Roque as a tete-a-tete) on national TV.

“Stragol” for “struggle” and “trabol” for “trouble,” using “o” for the neutral vowel sound. They were mocking Duterte’s accent.

Robles tried to get out of it by saying she was highlighting Duterte’s use of the Bisaya accent to tell his die-hard fans that he is “playing you.” Lacierda admitted it was “culturally insensitive” and apologized. Robles, after a number of defensive thrusts, finally conceded she “offended Visayan sensibilities over diction.”

Neutral vowel sound

There are plausible reasons Visayans shouldn’t get excessively angry over people ridiculing their accent:

[1] Visayans also joke over Tagalogs’ use of “e” instead of the neutral vowel sound in such words as “bicycle” or the naughty-sounding “tingle.” Cebuanos in the city kid about how people in Cebu’s far south speak. Pinoys mimic the Chinese-Filipinos’ way of speaking in English or Cebuano. And we ourselves make fun of our own accent in self-deprecation, or we raise eyebrows over others who diligently try to use the correct diction.

[2] Robles wrote it the way Duterte said it. She didn’t jeer. It was Lacierda who did in his reply. A reporter is supposed to clean up the quote of a news source but does that also apply to the way the source speaks? Besides, Robles and Lacierda were not reporting; they were tweeting comments. And mocking is one tool in the opinion-maker’s kit. Twitter too is prone to elicit not-well-thought-out comments, the tweeter encouraged to draw faster than an itchy gunslinger.

For entertainment

[3] The intent is often not to insult but to excite, to entertain. TV comedy shows include, though not as rampantly as before, domestic helpers and other lowly supporting characters that caricature Bisaya. Visayans in audience-participation segments of TV shows submit to extreme teasing about their accent. Ask Tito Sotto, now Senate president, who used to do that along with his co-hosts in “Eat Bulaga.”

[4] The president should be chided and chastised more for his rape jokes and insults to women than in the way he speaks. Content of what he says is often more abhorrent than the way he says it.

Matter of manners

This is not the first time the issue on Bisaya accent blew up, which happens usually when criticism is mounted on national stage.

And we are more stung when outsiders beam the spotlight on our defect, not when we do so on other people or among ourselves.

And we eventually use the argument that’s tough to refute: good manners. Robles and Lacierda blinked when the issue of right conduct was raised. They who criticize Duterte cannot be more ill-mannered than the person they slam. They cannot behave like mechanized or runaway trolls in the internet.