Friendly reminders
A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) - Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star) - March 15, 2019 - 12:00am

It is really so sad that after three years as President, Duterte (PRRD) is not yet cautious and prudent enough in his speeches and remarks and even in his actions. He should realize that as the leader of this nation “under the rule of law and a regime of truth, freedom, love, equality and peace,” he must be more circumspect and careful in all his thoughts, words and deeds so as not to be misunderstood and/or to generate so much controversy and dissension. He should mean what he says and say what he means. Up to now however, he appears to be still so hasty and rash especially when he delivers his speeches in some formal gatherings. Hence his official spokesman is always busy explaining and defending his statements, always claiming that his boss is just misunderstood.

The sad part in this regard is that even his Spokesman Salvador Panelo who is likewise the chief legal counsel, also seems to be ambiguous, contradictory and incoherent in explaining PRRD’s statements and actions. In fact, he is, oftentimes, similarly misunderstood such that, invariably, he is likewise trying to explain his own explanations of PRRD’s statements and remarks. The most recent example in this connection is about Alexander Balutan, the erstwhile chairman of the PCSO. At first, Panelo said that he was fired and dismissed from his position because of corruption. Subsequently however, Panelo said that he actually resigned. Then with regards to the appointment of Benjamin Diokno as Central Bank Governor, Panelo said that his appointment needs the confirmation of the Commission on Appointments (CA). Later on however he completely somersaulted and claimed that Diokno’s appointment need not be confirmed by the CA.

Aside from ambiguity because of imprudence and haste, this administration also lacks transparency. This is shown by the alleged loans extended by China to our country. Said loan is made to appear as a form of assistance extended by China to the Philippines. But its terms and conditions were never made public or announced. As now discovered however, they appear to be so onerous and one-sided in favor of China. In fact many people are now even surmising that the illegal entry of so many Chinese to work in this country is one of the conditions imposed by said loans.

The other undesirable and alarming statements of PRRD are the threats and invectives hurled against bishops and priests as well as the attacks against the Catholic Church. Previously, he has even incited people to “shoot” the bishops and priests. Apparently, due to this dangerous and provocative statement, the Bishop of Caloocan and several priests have been receiving death threats from unknown but dangerous individuals. The threatened bishop and priests have plausible reasons to consider these threats seriously in the light of the numerous killings currently being carried out by unidentified assailants especially those riding in tandem. It is not likewise far-fetched to believe as some people now tend to believe, that PRRD’s previous statement to “shoot” them, is being used by some enemies of the State in order to sow fear, confusion and disturbance in our country in an effort to advance their seditious intentions. In this regard, Malacañang spokesman Panelo had to point out once more that PRRD “is not to blame for such death threats.” Such denial, however, is obviously futile especially because  PRRD had previously urged our countrymen to “shoot” them.

The beleaguered Presidential Spokesman even went to the extent of speculating that “there are so many probabilities on the threats that the priests allegedly received; it could be coming from anti Duterte trolls. It could be coming from the enemies of the priests.” More unfortunate in this connection is that Panelo even said that “it is unfair to be pointing to the President as behind it especially that he mentioned last month, not to harm any priest or bishop.” Apparently, by this statement made last month, PRRD already realizes and admits that his previous instigation to shoot the priest indeed has serious consequences. Besides, taken in the context of PRRD’s previous provocation to “shoot the bishops and priests,” people now doubt the credibility of the beleaguered spokesman and looks at him as another a joker or a comedian.

Also controversial and very damaging is PRRD’s derogatory remarks on women. One time he even urge people to “shoot their vagina.” Such remarks indeed led people to consider him as a misogynist or a woman hater. But PRRD again tried to justify these remarks as nothing but an exercise of his freedom of expression which is guaranteed by our Constitution (Section 4, Article III). As a lawyer, PRRD should know that such freedom is not absolute. There are certain forms of expression or speech which are not protected by the Constitution. These are libel and obscenity. “These utterances are no essential part of any exposition of ideas, and are of such a slight social value as a step to the truth such that any benefit that may be derived from them is clearly outweighed by social interests and morality” (Chaplinski v. New Hampshire, 343 U.S. 568). Apparently PRRD’s remarks derogatory to women, appeal to lustful, lascivious or prurient interest, describes in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct, and taken as a whole, lacks serious, artistic, political or scientific value (37 L.Ed 2nd, 419). So it is not guaranteed by or Charter as a right to free speech and expression.

And so, it may be prudent to state here that all the above write ups and criticisms should not be taken as attacks against this administration but as reminders to guide them in achieving what is right and just as well as what is beneficial to our country.

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