WHAT’S worse than when the President is not being listened to in public? When he’s heckled.

It’s rude, offensive to his high office, yet he can’t show anger. Police can haul away the heckler but they risk suppressing dissent.

He has to be removed without bodily harm, which could create tumult, and allowed to express himself without sharing the podium, which could set off a shouting match.

Last June 12, President Aquino was heckled by a student in Naga City who shouted “Walang pagbabago (no change)!” The young man was arrested and charged with public disturbance.

Last June 27, P-Noy was interrupted again while speaking in Iloilo City. Four hecklers were led away by police.

The heckling “lowered public discourse,” P-Noy’s spokesman said, as if snobbery could douse protest.

Are local protesters aping foreign counterparts?

US President Barack Obama on Nov. 25 last year was heckled during a San Francisco speech on immigration. Obama stopped police from taking away the hecklers, “These guys don’t need to go, let me finish.” He said he respected young people’s passion but he couldn’t stop all deportations without Congress. “It won’t be as easy as just shouting.”

If hecklings continue, P-Noy might go beyond ignoring it, as he did in Naga, or thanking the hecklers, as he did in Iloilo.

Spotlight

He could offer wit: “This is a democracy and the speechless should be given a chance to speak.” Or the cliche “I love you too!” Which might work, or draw more jeers.

But go easy on the arrests. That might only invite more attempts to grab presidential spotlight.

[paseares@gmail.com]