Duterte’s odd ‘showbiz-style’ interview draws cheers, jeers, confusion

Photo: Robinson Niñal/ Malacañang Palace photo

Huh? What was that all about?

President Rodrigo Duterte’s “showbiz-type” talk show yesterday with his Chief Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo was certainly one of the most bizarre moments in his presidency.

Originally planned as a press conference, its format was changed at the last minute into a closed-door chat which was broadcast only through the government-owned PTV television station, government agency Radio Television Malacañang’s Facebook account, and mirrored by television channels.

Many were afraid that he would declare martial law but it turned out to be a long-winded, structureless discussion on various topics such as the high inflation rate, rice crisis, drug war, and the voiding of Senator Antonio Trillanes IV’s amnesty.

Duterte appeared to be completely fixated on Trillanes, insinuating that it was because of him that the Philippines lost Scarborough Shoal to the Chinese and that the senator had many secret houses.

Even Trillanes noticed that Duterte kept bringing him up.

Trillanes said in a press conference after the interview: “You saw in his speech earlier, how many hours was that, an hour and thirty minutes he [kept] mentioning my name … I think he’s obsessed with me. Maybe while he’s sleeping he dreams about me. That’s good, I hope he gets nightmares because of me. I will not go away.”

User @jpbpunzalan’s meme perfectly captured Duterte’s Trillanes-focused interview.

Of all the president’s accusations, perhaps the one which raised the most eyebrows was his statement that Trillanes’ parents were suppliers to the navy.

Duterte said in Filipino: “To soldiers who admire Trillanes, when his father was at the service, the transactions through the Navy, most of the supplies, came from his mother.”

This didn’t sit well with Trillanes, who said his mother Estelita Trillanes is suffering from Advanced Parkinson’s disease.

While his late father did serve in the Navy, Trillanes denies that his service was tainted with corruption.

He said during the press conference after the interview: “Our countrymen know how low that was. If he has a problem with me, stick with me because I can take this. But for you to drag my mother, that’s personal. Don’t go there, that’s not what a real man does.”

Duterte also said during the discussion that Trillanes’ amnesty was void because it was signed by then-secretary of the Department of National Defense Voltaire Gazmin, when it should have been signed by former President Benigno Aquino III.

But in an interview with Rappler, constitutional law professor Dante Gatmaytan said that Gazmin merely signed the amnesty on behalf of Aquino. Said Gatmaytan: “The Constitution did not say he [Aquino] has to sign everything personally.”

Even Aquino, through his spokesperson Abigail Valte, denied that Gazmin usurped his authority.

Valte said: “The task delegated was the determination of those who may be qualified among the applicants under the parameters of the amnesty given. It’s not the grant of the amnesty itself that was delegated.”

 

The interview was also an opportunity for meme-makers to poke fun at the president, who sounded incoherent because he sometimes slurred during his discussion with Panelo.

Malacañang Events and Catering Services posted this meme with the caption “I’m drunk,” referencing the times when Duterte seemed, well, drunk.

And there’s this cool meme from celebrity photographer Dix Perez, which pretty much sums up everyone’s confusion when the Palace, through spokesperson Harry Roque, said that the press conference was scrapped.

Blogger Tonyo Cruz likened the Duterte-Panelo chat to two alligators hanging out.

Journalist Raissa Robles made fun of Duterte’s accent, and wrote that he said “armed stragol.”

Columnist Manuel Quezon III called the chat a “therapy session” and pointed out that the president, who called on the military to support Trillanes if they want to, as the source of his paranoia.

User @txctwts ended up just feeling scared.

But of course, Duterte’s loyal fan base supported the president. A netizen by the name of  Pearly Cabrera pretty much said that Duterte is a dictator when she wrote this comment on the Facebook account of Radio Television Malacañang: “I rather want a dictator, than a thief.”

Cabrera conveniently forgot that those are not mutually exclusive — dictators can be corrupt too.

A certain Khar Loz called Duterte Tatay (father) Digong and spoke for all Filipinos (or so he believed) when he wrote: “Go, go, go Tatay Digong! We all Filipino (sic) supports (sic) your administration.”

But for Senator Risa Hontiveros, the confusing discussion was a complete waste of time.

What do you think about the Duterte-Panelo tête-à-tête? Was it worth the wait? Let us know by commenting below or tweeting to @CoconutsManila.

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