The Art Of Second-Guessing President Duterte

As a group of social bloggers — lawyers among them — was preparing to announce in a press conference in Quezon City that it was filing an impeachment complaint against Leni Robredo, President Rodrigo Duterte was asking reporters to “lay off” the Vice President, saying he will not allow any tinkering with the structure of government.

Duterte was not referring to the press conference in Quezon City.  The president was actually reacting to a reporter question upon his arrival from state visits to Mayanmar and Thailand, regarding another impeachment complaint earlier filed by two lawyers closely identified with the Marcos family.

Politikal Pinoy could only commiserate with members of the news media who I imagine are caught between what Duterte says one day and what he says on another.

Earlier, Duterte had cleared the Vice President of links in the alleged destabilization plot being brewed against him. But speaking before the Filipino community in Myanmar, the President said he would “not be surprised” if Robredo was involved in plots to oust him. The soundbite from that meeting was that Robredo “was in a hurry to become president.”

Second-guessing seems to be the order of the day when it comes to covering the president.

Many have accused him of “flip-flopping” on issues such as the country’s alliance with the U.S., or his position on the South China Sea territorial dispute, or even on same-sex marriage.

Is he really going back and forth on his pronouncements, or is he deliberately sending mixed messages especially to the news media which many Duterte supporters have accused of being biased against the president and his administration?

I have no proof of this, but it seems to me that by issuing conflicting statements or positions, he is strategically putting the news media on notice that they have to consider two sides in their reporting: his side and that of his opponents; but also maybe, just maybe, conflicting sides of Duterte himself. Is this a way for the president to cast doubt on the credibility of the news media? This, of course, is pure conjecture on our part.

But one thing is clear to me with the president’s latest “flip-flop” (if we can even call it that) on the Vice President:

He will not allow any attempts to destabilize the democratically-elected government. He recognizes everyone’s inherent right to speak his or her mind and will do all he can to defend that right.

In the final analysis, whether attempts to destabilize the Duterte government is factual or is without basis, there is one clear winner: Democracy. Everybody can do what they want so long as it is not against the law. That seems to be the president’s consistent message.

Which brings me back to a statement made today by Atty. Bruce Rivera at the press conference on the planned impeachment filing against Robredo: that if the group wins, it’s fine; if not, it’s fine.

But whatever the outcome, we can show to our people and to the world that Democracy is alive and well in our beloved Philippines. And that would be a sure winner for all of us Filipinos.

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