Did Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte really plan to call US President Barrack Obama a “son of a bitch” when he meets with him in Laos this week for a regional summit? According to many “news” reports, he did — and Filipinos believed them. Unfortunately, the truth no longer resides in the work of corporate media — not even foreign corporate media.
The above video with English subtitles seemingly added by The Independent UK translates the supposedly offending line as (as seen in the video)…
(In Tagalog) Son of a bitch, I’ll swear at you in front of everybody.
For its part, CNN Philippines weighed in on the circus with its own bit of “world-class” journalism in a report issued this morning supposedly quoting Duterte in the following English translation of his words…
“Who does he think he is? I am no American puppet. I am the president of a sovereign country and I am not answerable to anyone except the Filipino people,” Duterte scoffed in a speech Monday. “Son of a b****, I will swear at you.”
This is sloppy, irresponsible reporting on the part of both news outlets and particularly disappointing in the case of CNN Philippines considering that it is a Philippine colonial outpost of the iconic multinational news organisation staffed by Tagalog-speaking Filipino “journalists”.
The actual Tagalog statement of Duterte taken verbatim does not at all come across the way it has been translated in English by the so-called reporters of CNN Philippines:
Putang ina mumurahin talaga kita diyan sa forum na yan!
The more appropriate translation for the above — one that real Filipinos will agree with is as follows:
“Son-of-a-bitch, I’d really swear at you [if I was in that forum and put in a position of implied subordination to any of my peers there]…”
Set aside what, by itself, is the already valid observation that “putang ina!” (which Duterte said) is a vastly different message to “putang ina mo!” (which Duterte did not say). This is not at all the threat to swear at Obama that The Independent and CNN Philippines reported as “news” but an off-the-cuff expression of indignation over the the suggestion that a sovereign leader such as himself be expected to justify himself before another. The unspoken context clearly evident in the video (enclosed in brackets above) was lost in its textual form in writing. Nonetheless, it was feasted upon by the media and turned into a virtual diplomatic row between the United States and the Philippines.
Was it simply a flawed translation by “reporters” not well-versed in the nuances of the Tagalog dialect spoken by a president whose first language is the Cebuano dialect of the Philippines’ southern parts? Or was it the result of a deliberate effort to misconstrue the words of no less than the President of the Philippines?
Stepping back even further, what these “news” organisations failed to provide was the broader context of Duterte’s statements. These statements followed a question fielded to him by a reporter during that conference basically asking him what he plans to report to Obama if asked about the so-called “extrajudicial killings” (EJKs) that have filled headline news since he came to power. To an irked Duterte, the question came across as a loaded one implying that he will need to answer to Obama on these EJKs. Those now-seminal words being feasted upon today by the media was his response to that reporter.
The Washington Post (in fairness to it, living up to its cut-above-the-rest journalism) at least provided that backgrounder in its report on this circus…
Duterte said before flying to Laos that he is a leader of a sovereign country and is answerable only to the Filipino people. He was answering a reporter’s question about how he intends to explain the extrajudicial killings to Obama. More than 2,000 suspected drug pushers and users have been killed since Duterte launched a war on drugs after taking office on June 30.
In his typical foul-mouthed style, Duterte responded: “I am a president of a sovereign state and we have long ceased to be a colony. I do not have any master except the Filipino people, nobody but nobody. You must be respectful. Do not just throw questions. Putang ina I will swear at you in that forum,” he said, using the Tagalog phrase for son of a bitch.
Note too in the above English translation (still flawed, nonetheless) that even if the text in the WP report provides broader context to the incident, it still cannot be fully ascertained, at face value, who Duterte was referring to in the quote “I will swear at you..”. Was Duterte referring to Obama? Or was he referring to the reporter who asked him the loaded question?
For that matter, notwithstanding the shrill relentless crying of Bloody EJK! by Duterte’s critics, it still remains to be seen whether the spate of homicides being reported in media are, in fact, EJKs. So far, no conclusive link between Malacanang and those so-called “killings” has been established via a qualified and systematic investigation or a ruling by a Philippine court. In that sense, the news media’s use of the notion of “EJK” in the Philippine setting is not grounded on fact nor sound analysis. Much of it, it seems, draws from second hand information and, many Filipinos think, the shadowy influence of the Philippine Liberal Party (LP) and its rabid supporters.
Much seems to be at stake. Waiting for “something to happen to Duterte” in the sidelines is Liberal Party stalwart and, now, supposedly “vice president” Leni Robredo. Robredo is now the only foothold the LP has to political power. Nonetheless, the media industry in the Philippines is practically monopolised by a small handful of conglomerates owned and operated by Filipino oligarchs loyal to the LP and the Aquino-Cojuangco clan that backs it. As such, a popular theory making the rounds in the Philippines’ social media political communities that there is an orchestrated effort to unseat Duterte — extrajudicially, if possible — may not be farfetched. As a Get Real Post commentor noted…
If Duterte makes it past the first half of 2019, the yellows will be in an even weaker position than they are in today. A number of yellow senators up for re-election in 2019 will have a hard time winning if the present anti-yellow climate continues and they have no more access to Smartmagic. Time is of the essence.
Indeed, time is of the essence. Duterte has only six years to fix a problem that previous Philippine governments allowed to fester for three decades. It is quite unfortunate that other people — even the supposed “vice president” herself — has other priorities in mind. It is high time Filipinos find more reliable sources of information to guide their actions and beliefs. They have been let down by their leaders for so long and, as evident today, are being let down by corporate organisations who, erstwhile, had sworn to be beacons of The Truth.
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