Duterte’s brand of freedom of expression

Second installment of Tapat New’s Independence Day series!

There is a stinging irony in President-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s rhetoric.

President-elect Rodrigo Duterte (Source: CBCP News)

President-elect Rodrigo Duterte (Source: CBCP News)


With several controversies involving the foul-mouthed incoming president of the country, Duterte has been consistent in invoking his freedom of expression, the same right he seemingly denies others of.

Duterte has recently drawn flak for wolf-whistling at a female reporter in a press conference in Davao City.

During the nationally televised conference, the tough-talking Duterte whistled at GMA reporter Mariz Umali when the latter raised a question regarding his Cabinet appointees.

Duterte quipped that Umali was trying to get his attention, then whistled, while the other journalists broke out in laughter.

Amid the public outrage, Duterte insisted his freedom of expression, saying there was nothing sexual with his catcalling.

Duterte did not mean to offend Umali, his spokesperson said, adding that the female reporter should take it as a “compliment,” a sign that the President-elect “loves” her.


Rape joke

Prior to that, the feisty Davao mayor had come up with the same defense when he was under fire for his controversial rape joke during a campaign rally on April 12.

He claimed that the remark in connection with the rape and murder of an Australian missionary during a 1989 hostage crisis in Davao City was simply an “exercise of freedom of expression.”

Despite the widespread condemnation, Duterte had refused to issue an apology. He even defended his statements, saying it was just a part of retelling the hostage-taking incident.

When the Commission on Human Rights ruled that the President-elect violated the Magna Carta of Women for such remark, Duterte said the CHR was “naive” and “too simplistic” when it made a big deal about his comments.

“(CHR) wasting the money of the Filipino people. Tell them ‘Shut up,’’ he said.

Then added, “you cannot prevent me from talking. I am exercising my right to free speech.”

As expected, critics were quick to remind the next highest leader of the country that such freedom he was fond of taking advantage is a basic right that comes with responsibilities.

Ironically, Duterte underscored that freedom of expression provisions in the Constitution do not necessarily protect a person from violent repercussions for defamation.

“That can’t be just freedom of speech. The Constitution can no longer help you if you disrespect a person,” he said.

Duterte’s seemingly contradicting pronouncements has an undeniable impact to the nation and reflects the country’s reputation. He, being a lawyer, is expected to be man of law and should be a representation of moral ethics, and he, as the future leader of a country, is expected to be courteous, respectful, and show a good example to his fellowmen and the rest of the world. (RA Gonzales)

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