Lent as a season of abstinence from cursing

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus Jimenez - The Freeman

It has been said by his apologists that when the president curses, he is not being vulgar, but merely being spontaneous, just being true and genuinely authentic, unadorned by the niceties of diplomatic hyperbole. The president does not like to read prepared speeches and seems to frown upon canned and structured expressions that rob him of his branded down-to-earth spontaneity. When he blows out some unprintables and utters the "f" word over and over again, he seems to feel that he says it as a term of endearment, no malice intended and no offense meant. He does not mean anything but some friendly, folksy bantering among close friends and trusted associates.

These are all understandable and even forgivable when done in the confines of private domains and when the speaker is just one of the crowds of ''hoi polloi''. But when this seemingly-harmless demeanor is done by the head of state in a foreign setting, then we should feel worried and even disturbed. With due respect,  even when the president is addressing the Filipino community, in the presence of embassy officials and consular staff, and some dignitaries, such kind of casual lingo may vex some and cause serious concern to others, especially those who have expected heads of states to be presidential, and if you like, to be prim and proper.

Of course, this is a different president, and we can easily understand where he is coming from. We cannot expect from President Digong the style of President PNoy who was trained by the Cojuangcos and the Aquinos in cloistered exclusive schools and taught in Boston and later by his mom in Malacañan on how protocols are followed and how diplomats should behave, what to say and what not to say, how to act and how to pretend to act. But President Duterte is a very brutally honest man. He does not want to be restricted by the pretensions of veiled language and rehearsed expressions. He wants to be spontaneously, if brutally, honest. He wants to say precisely what is in his mind.

But then again, in the season of Lent, I hope and pray that somehow the president may find it fit to hold his tongue and try some measure of restraint, if only for a change. And if only in keeping with the solemnity of the season. It is fervently hoped that it shall dawn on him that whatever comes out of his mouth shall be understood as the official policy and decision of the government. And if he says them in between some expletives and unprintables, he should be gently reminded, with due respect, that the CNN is reporting every word, and the whole world is watching. What matters most, of course, is that he is an authentic and true human being who speaks his mind without fear or favor. But he is also the president, and that carries some responsibility for restraint, without diluting his human authenticity, of course.

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