Weapon of mass distraction

CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - May 7, 2021 - 12:00am

The Cursing President” is at it again.

People have gotten so used to President Rodrigo Duterte hurling curses, using the “F” word and saying “P.I” during his address to the nation that most people are no longer surprised, startled or shocked. Dismayed, disgusted or disappointed maybe, but “The Cursing President” no longer scares people. He has effectively turned off people to the point that many viewers have learned to turn off their TVs or simply change channels or avoid his public addresses altogether. It is already an impolite imposition on the public to make public addresses late in the evening when most working people go to sleep for the next day, but when one makes a habit of distorting the purpose and value of a presidential address to the public, don’t expect an audience to stand around especially when oftentimes, nothing new or unexpected is ever mentioned.

The fact of the matter is that if you wish to be honored with the presence of the viewers then honor them by respecting their sensitivities, their values and address their needs or at the very least their expectations. Such “programs” should remain within the boundaries of concern and not be turned or weaponized as a tool to lash out at critics, grandstand over minor actions or accomplishments against corruption in government, especially when it is in contrast to glaring shortcomings such as not having the needed supplies of vaccines you used to talk about buying compared to daily reports of high COVID cases and low numbers of available facilities and contact tracers. What makes matters worse is to claim for yourself the monopoly to curse or cuss opponents while censuring others who simply stand in defense of the country. “Don’t do as I do” – “Do as I say” is it?  “That” has never been a good policy, whether for parents or for presidents. What makes it even more distasteful is the idea that it’s OK to curse or cuss Filipinos but not arrogant and defiant Chinese diplomats.

If by chance the strategy is to stir the pot to draw the flies, then all the cursing and cussing is clearly intended to be a “Weapon of Mass Distraction,” something to distract the public or the masses from a more serious shortcoming of government: The absence of COVID vaccines. Judging from the frustration and annoyance etched on the President’s face while berating people for complaining we have no vaccines, it is evident that the absence or severe shortage of COVID vaccines is a sensitive topic for PRRD. The controversy over the WPS or West Philippine Sea still flies past the heads and appreciation of most Filipinos but a President hurling invectives and crispy PI’s at a respected Supreme Court Justice (Ret.) is the stuff for gossip columns and tele-seryes. The question is, do the curses and accusations stick on Carpio et. al., or do they backfire on President Duterte?

Biblically speaking, there is a side to cursing that can be self-fulfilling, can backfire or fall upon the one doing the cursing and cussing. The “prayer” or “curse” laid out for people who habitually or intently curse others goes like this: “For the sin of their mouths, the words of their lips, let them be trapped in their pride. For the cursing and lies that they utter... (Psalms 59:12). After reading this verse, it would seem that “The Cursing President” has been trapped by his own words when in the middle of his tirades he recently declared “I never said I would reclaim our territories taken by China.” Netizens quickly checked the internet and it turned out that “The Cursing President” did claim he would place the Philippine flag on one of those shoals during the second presidential debate in 2016. Now his minion wants to make it appear as a figure of speech and not a categorical statement. My father the late Louie Beltran almost went to jail for libel for simply using a figure of speech about someone “having to hide under the bed.” He was eventually acquitted but his situation is nothing compared to what President Duterte has said and effectively done.

Using a figure of speech is one thing but when the President of the Philippines makes a public statement that the arbitral ruling won by the Philippines against China is nothing but a piece of paper that he can or will throw into the garbage can, he has, according to Justice Antonio Carpio, given China the option to “accept,” “claim” or “call” Duterte on his statement, whether he meant it as hyperbole or truth. It is an official declaration made in public and for the whole world to see. The only way we can save the day is if Secretary Teddyboy Locsin immediately issued a clarification and retraction of the President’s statement before the Chinese picks up the statement and opportunity. If not, and if the Chinese acknowledges and thanks Duterte, then there is no longer any so-called West Philippine Sea, only West Philippine shores.

Because the President never liked the Americans and probably never associated with the troops that made it to our shores, he probably never learned by heart the warning among sailors and marines: “Loose Lips Sink Ships.” As George Michael sang: “Time can never mend the careless whisper of a good friend.” As for the rest of us who might idolize the President and think it’s cool to throw in a few F words or P.I’s now and then, here’s another stern warning from the Bible:

“He loved to curse; let curses come upon him! He did not delight in blessing; may it be far from him!” (Psalm 109:17)

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E-mail: utalk2ctalk@gmail.com

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