Sula: The Lion Dick


SENATOR Richard "Dick" Gordon was an exemplar in nobility recently, in the essence of noblesse oblige, the way he reacted to an unpresidential statement last week.

His was the epitome of humility, always a tough act to follow.

And Gordon surprises many, especially those who have perceived the senator to carry an outsized ego.

At one time, Gordon reported for work in the Senate in full naval uniform as a reserve navy officer, I'm not sure of the rank. Tongues and typewriters went off the charts.

In a public speech before men in uniform last week, firemen, I think, President Duterte wantonly taunted Gordon. The senator's brain, he smirked, was melting and it was going into his stomach.

Gordon earned the unpresidential ire for expressing his disfavor to Duterte's penchant to appoint former military officers in civilian positions in government.

Pressed for comment the morning after, Gordon, lo and behold, even thanked the source of his cutting criticism for his concern for his health. He was not offended at all, he said, almost quoting the famous rhyme, "sticks and stones can break my bones, but words cannot harm me".

It is who he is, he said. This reminds me of an American pastor who said that when a mule kicks you, just consider the source. Gordon might as well meant it that way.

The reaction, however, seemed asymmetrical. It inevitably triggers nostalgia, the times when Gordon would be less tolerant of intransigent, even politically incorrect, resource persons during his committee hearing.

I was expecting a different repartee, like saying "the President's stomach is melting and it's going into his brain", a kind of osmosis which, as far as I can remember, is the movement of a substance to an area with less of it. Gotcha.

I think he struggled to resist that, repaying what is unkind with another unkind answer.

Maybe, they teach that at Ateneo.

In an advertisement currently on the run, the wag in the video ad asked what animal is it that easily forgives. He answers his own question with a play on words: Lion, wala yon. It sells.

When Duterte made fun of Gordon, the audience was visibly having a good time. It's human to laugh at a joke, whoever is the source, as much as it is to err, no matter what your station in life is.

Over half of his term, the President, being a former local official for a long, long time, has learned that jokes, in good taste and in bad, can make you popular. That is probably the reason his approval rating remains high. Filipinos are a sucker for good jokes, regardless of the color obviously.

The well-read New York Times columnist David Brooks recently essayed that there are two types of leaders in the world today, cultural revolutionary or policy revolutionary. The former attempts radical changes in people's values, the latter upsetting time-honored policies.

In my book, Duterte is both. People may laugh at his joke but the surveys say they do not approve some of his policies, like kowtowing to China on the West Philippine Sea.

Time will tell when Filipinos will no longer laugh at his jokes. Given the Filipinos' patience and tolerance, maybe in a million years. Grin and bear it, folks.


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