Philippine President Duterte’s statements make people discuss ideas and question traditional beliefs

Members of the Opposition found yet another reason to feel outraged over President Rodrigo Duterte’s latest statements. I don’t know why until now the Opposition still reacts with indignation because Duterte is quite predictable. Yes, he often says things that our mothers wouldn’t approve of, but we should all be used to it by now considering he never held his tongue even when he was still campaigning – a time when candidates should be sweet-talking the voters. He said what was in his mind then, he’s still saying what’s in his mind now.

Duterte’s remarks, which are often misconstrued by members of the media, become outrage fads for days or even weeks especially on social media. International media also pick up on what he says and these are considered worthy news for an international audience. It seems both locals and foreigners alike think what he says is worth analysing.  That says a lot about the command he is getting not just from Filipinos, but from people all over the world. Like him or not, people are paying attention to him.

Whether people think he is right or wrong, Duterte has a right to express his opinion just like everybody else. No one has a monopoly on being right. As long as he has not turned his statements into policy, people need to take his words with a grain of salt.

The good thing about Duterte’s outspokenness is that Filipinos are now forced to question long-held beliefs that have contributed to the country’s backwardness. Take his remarks about the story of Creation from the Old Testament. Some in mainstream media made it look like he called God “stupid” but, in fact, he called the story about God supposedly creating man because he was bored and them tempting man to sin “stupid”. Of course the religious zealots and even those who aren’t even religious but don’t like Duterte weren’t happy. A Christian church leader is demanding the President apologise. Recent announcement from the Palace says Duterte will not oblige.

Let’s face it, a lot of us swallowed Sunday bible stories hook, line and sinker when we were kids, but secretly questioned it as adults. Duterte just vocalised what was in our minds. His statement wasn’t a sign that he is suffering from dementia like some of his critics were saying. It’s actually a sign he is using his reasoning. And there are people who appreciate him for this. It’s about time we apply logic and reason to the conversation. People shouldn’t believe everything preachers say during mass. They are humans too and can be prone to using exaggeration to make a point.

Some of Duterte’s supporters also agree with his critics and said they wish he wouldn’t be too disrespectful of other people’s beliefs. However, there are members of the public who appreciate a leader who speaks his mind rather than hides his real agenda. We all remember the pious image former President BS Aquino tried to project and his slogan “straight path”. The voters ended up hating him after realising he was hiding something sinister behind the Good Guy veneer he projected to the public. Duterte won’t have that problem. He is not worried about his image at all.

Duterte’s opponents aren’t very smart because they still can’t figure him out. The President still keeps them guessing. Frankly, the Opposition has become predictable and boring. It’s become obvious that sometimes, they just want to make a big deal of things even when there’s nothing to be offended about. They have to change their tactics if they want to win the public relations war. While Duterte is just being himself, his opponents try so hard to be the exact opposite, which makes them look like hypocrites. The public doesn’t buy the fact that they show anger over Duterte’s silly remarks but are quiet about corruption involving billions of tax funds during BS Aquino’s term with some details only getting exposed now.

Inquirer columnist John Nery said that Duterte is attacking the Church to undermine it because it is a threat to him. I think his statement is an admission that the Church in the Philippines is too powerful and there are politicians who are afraid of the institution. It’s a good thing Duterte is not. It’s time to put the people who run the Church in their place. For decades, the clergymen had sitting Presidents by the balls. It all started in 1986 when the then Archbishop of Manila successfully rallied the people to support a coup d’état initiated by former Senator Juan Ponce Enrile and former President Fidel Ramos who decided to turn their backs on the late former President Ferdinand Marcos. But due to people power fatigue, any calls for people power by the members of the Catholic Church will now probably fail. Only a handful of people would likely turn up.

Indeed, the clergymen particularly from the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) have abused their privilege and kept meddling in politics when they shouldn’t be. While they still exert influence on their flock, a lot of members of the public are now calling them out on their continued interference in government policies. The time has come for the Church and all other religious groups to end their influence on politicians. Duterte is the first President to challenge them and hopefully, his actions will result in a society free from the clutches of religious dogma. That is a legacy worth advocating for.