“The President asked me to give his response to this columnist. He said, ‘Tell her I hate being patronized. F*ck you.”—Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo
Solita Collas-Monsod in her Inquirer column “Get Real” has written a lot more adverse stuff on President Rodrigo Duterte and his administration than most other opinion columnists in Manila-based newspapers. To which, Malacañang, especially the President, has chosen not to respond strongly.
Few will recall that her writings about Duterte have been “positive.” On the other hand, many readers will recall her anti-President columns. Pick one: Her May 4 piece titled “Shame on this President,” in which she put in, without directly owning up, such words as “bastos,” “sinungaling,” “mamamatay-tao,” “vindictive, misogynist, a blasphemer” and, topping the list, the President who “is practically handing over the Philippines to China.”
Others that are more recent:
Nov. 2, 2019: Monsod in “Weaponizing the law” said President Duterte with all his powers “has admitted he failed to solve the drug problem within the six months that he had promised the Filipino people during the election campaign. It has been three years, and there is no end in sight. So the six months he is giving Robredo may be construed as admission that she may be able to do in six months what he failed to do in more than three years.”
Nov. 16, 2019: In “Sen. De Lima: 1,000 days of incarceration,” Monsod wrote that the senator was publicly attacked by Duterte. “He did this 29 times (media interviews, press conferences, speeches, here and abroad) up to her incarceration six months later–-an average of more than one attack a week. He continued vilifying her 10 times more in 2017, six times in 2018, and four times in the first half of 2019. His message has been received, “Our message: Stop this nonsense.”
And from the column titles alone, one can tell the nature of the content:
Oct. 12, 2019: “What’s the truth about Duterte’s health?”
Aug. 21, 2019: “PSA’s assessment: A failing grade for PH” July 27, 2019: “What is China’s hold on the President?” June 15, 2019: “Why are we so craven?”
Columns that sting
What has made Monsod’s columns lash out and sting is that they are clearly written and well-thought-out with her position and arguments compellingly presented.
But she has not written “anything nice” about the President, which earned her the Malacañang tag of a Duterte hater and defender of the former administration’s regime.
She has been “consistent,” a writer who has stuck to her opinions, yet at the same time she is vulnerable to the charge of seeing everything with jaundiced eyes, blurred by her “apparent hatred” of the President.
The advantage and disadvantage are plain enough.
“Philippine Star” columnist Louie Beltran (1936-1994) was sued for libel by then President Cory Aquino in October 1987 for writing she hid under her bed when coup plotters’ gunshots rang out near Malacanang. Beltran’s defense: he had no malice against her as he even wrote a number of times praising the President. Beltran’s lawyer read parts of a number of columns that supported Cory and asked Aquino, “You know who wrote that?” No, Cory answered at the witness stand. “Louie Beltran, Ma’m, in his column of...” with the lawyer specifying the title and date.
Monsod may not be able to claim the same defense as Beltran’s--unless she actually did praise Duterte at one time or another. Only that the President and his staff–and most other people as well–don’t remember that she did.
Can Duterte’s lament be contradicted? “I hate being patronized,” he said. Panelo noted that “from the time the President assumed office, she has not said any good word and suddenly there she is, praising.”
The praise is in Monsod’s Dec. 14 column “What the latest poverty data tell us”: “Not since the Ramos administration has the war on poverty been so effectively pursued...” “Congratulations again, Mr. President.”
She could be sincere
But then Monsod may be sincere. Maybe she just found few things or none, before her praise about the economy, to sing alleluia about the administration. There’s also the refuge of many opinion columnists: “Journalists pick mostly on what’s wrong, rarely on what’s right. We were not hired as cheering squad.”
And writers like Monsod wouldn’t care if their praise is rejected. They’re used to having their criticisms spurned, or ignored, as well.
The presidential “f*ck you” that goes with the response is guaranteed though to disconcert anyone, even a hard-ass writer like Solita Collas-Monsod.