By now, most Filipinos and SOME news media outlets have become accustomed to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s hyperbole and ‘double speak.’
From statements ranging from dumping dead bodies of drug addicts into Manila Bay to threatening to burn the United Nations headquarters in New York, Duterte has earned the reputation of saying things he does not mean or which are subject to next-day interpretation and clarification by his spokespersons.
But there should be limits on what issues Duterte should be ‘double-speaking’ about. Like the highly sensitive territorial disputes in the South China China which involves China, the Philippines and other neighboring Asian countries.
When Duterte says that the military should occupy islands and shoals in the South China Sea that he believes are owned by the Philippines, its repercussions are critical and is contradictory to his known stance of a more diplomatic solution to the crisis. It presumes a more aggressive approach towards China as well as a cause for antagonism in as far as other Asian claimants to the islands are concerned.
Duterte cannot project a friendly strategy while making public statements that are contrary to that strategy. He and his advisers must realize that such statements could just be a breath away from a military confrontation and other consequences with China and the rest of our Asian neighbors.
Sometimes, we must not take Duterte’s statements seriously. But on serious mattters, he must refrain from statements he does not mean.