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Duterte, Jet Ski, and Pacquiao

TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag (The Freeman) - May 7, 2021 - 12:00am

Manny Pacquiao, born 1978, was not yet around when the Kawasaki company of Japan first introduced in 1972 the personal water craft that would later come under the brand name Jet Ski. He also was not yet a senator (he was then campaigning to become one) when President Duterte made the controversial promise during the presidential campaign of 2016 to "jet ski to the Spratlys and plant the Philippine flag there."

With the 2022 elections just around the corner, those with an eye toward running for elective positions have found in that 2016 promise a perfect springboard from which to launch their campaigns. It is controversial. It is unfulfilled. Played right, it can paint those who take it up as patriots willing to die for what they have been told was their Exclusive Economic Zone.

The problem is, Duterte made that promise as a campaign promise. Those who know him and those who understand the ways of the world never bought that promise. They knew it was all hyperbole. Duterte is a motorcycle enthusiast. To say he will jet ski and not sail a Moro vinta to the Spratlys makes perfect sense. As to whether he was serious, the fact that he never did should have put the matter to rest.

Those who are now taking that campaign promise against Duterte to shore up their own campaigns need to be reminded of one thing, as a sort of reality check before they make the mistake of jumping headlong into the precipice. And it is the unassailable fact that even if Duterte really meant that promise and would have wanted to jump on the nearest jet ski, there was no way he would be allowed to.

Presidential security would have stopped him from going. His national security advisers would have put their feet down. Pagasa would have advised against it. There probably would not even be enough fuel to take him all the way. The Duterte promise in 2016 was merely to whip up passions into votes. While it may have represented his own feelings and those of so many of us, they were never meant to be taken literally.

This is no longer the time of a King Richard the Lionheart charging into battle at the head of a column. Even US President Joe Biden would not go to war on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier. Presidents are voted upon to lead entire countries, not make room for vice presidents. If it was wrong to make that promise, it is even more wrong to actually fall for it.

And yet here comes Senator Pacquiao joining the chorus. He claims to have waited all these years for Duterte to make good on that promise. What a big bwa ha ha. It would have been so tragic if it had not been so very funny. It is one thing not to have what it takes, it is another to actually prove it yourself.

As I have said in a previous column, President Duterte is no longer in the running. Whatever his faults are, pointing them out will not translate into votes for his critics. His critics will have to learn to earn votes for their own selves. Duterte did that in 2016, including making that jet ski promise. Even today, still unfulfilled after six years, the jet ski promise still sounds good as the day it was made. I wonder if the critics can do better.

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