In the name of freedom
TO THE QUICK - Jerry S. Tundag (The Freeman) - August 7, 2019 - 12:00am

Does President Duterte hate criticism? Of course he does. Nobody likes being criticized. Anybody who says he does is a big fat liar. Constructive criticism was invented as an excuse to criticize and to save face by pretending to take criticism in stride. But in truth and in fact, a punch in the nose is better appreciated and more easily forgiven than criticism.

To bristle from criticism is a most normal thing. It is a common cause for lost appetite and sleepless nights. It intrudes into everyone's most regular routines and makes even drinking water seem like taking medicine. Among older people like Duterte, it is an affront to seniority, an insult to age and a challenge to the wisdom that is supposed to come with it.

But is Duterte picking up critics and throwing them in jail? Of course not. The old fart knows enough law, despite criticisms of his law school grades and his score in the Bar, to mess with anyone over individual rights and freedoms. Leila de Lima and Maria Ressa are not in jail or are having their day in court for criticizing Duterte but for very valid allegations for which they are not denied the opportunity to debunk in a free and working justice system.

De Lima is in jail awaiting trial for alleged links to illegal drugs. Ressa faces charges over questionable foreign ownership of the online media company Rappler. Nowhere in their rap sheets is there anything remotely resembling criticism of the president. But of course we all know that their troubles are just one way for the president to get back at them. As they say, there are many ways to skin a cat.

What cannot be said of Duterte, though, is picking up critics in the dead of night and throwing them into prison. For all the scuttlebutt and humbug about extrajudicial killing and sowing mayhem, Duterte is doing everything by the book. If there is a moral lesson, therefore, to be learned from this, it is to never throw stones if you live in a glass house.

And that is because Duterte is not the caveman with the big stick that you think he is. His grades and examination scores notwithstanding, Duterte is still a lawyer with a degree from one of the best schools in the country. And that is more than can ever be said of many of his critics. If you think he does not know what he is doing, better think again.

Even the spur-of-the-moment verbiage he is notorious for in nastiness is neither as spur nor as of the moment as you have been made to believe. Duterte fully understands the mentality of those who elected him to office. They are those who, tired of hypocrisy and leg-pulling, would rather bear with his lack of decorum and niceties. In the real world, they strike much closer to home. And that is why he remains hugely popular. They love him.

And so it boils down to this: If you are a harsh Duterte critic, you can be assured that under his watch your individual rights and freedoms will be protected. But make sure you have no skeletons in your closet or dirt underneath your fingernails. As earlier said, the old fart, just like you and me, hates being criticized. If he can get you in some other way, he will. Just like you and me.

jerrytundag@yahoo.com

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