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How can you tell if Duterte is joking?

If President Rodrigo Duterte’s statement is illogical but still makes his audience laugh, then he is joking, according to presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo.

The President told an audience on Monday that he used marijuana to stay awake, and then told reporters right after a second event that the assertion was a joke.

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Panelo said he had known the President for 30 years and not once did the chief executive say that he had smoked marijuana, although he supported its medical use.

The statement that marijuana could keep one awake also was illogical, Panelo said.

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“First, marijuana is not a stimulant to make you awake. It’s the opposite. So obviously there is no logic,” he said.

Panelo said the President usually cracked jokes when events were boring.

“The fact alone that people laughed, then that’s a joke,” he said.

The President spoke about using marijuana during a ceremony to recognize officials from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations National Organizing Council.

“Even presidents are entitled to a joke,” Panelo told reporters. “He has set a good example by being a good leader. One joke will not make him a bad leader.”

According to Sen. Panfilo Lacson, democracy sometimes give voters a jocular leader.

“That’s just the way he is,” he told reporters.

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Living with it

“There’s his crudeness, there’s his inappropriate jokes, but he got elected. So we will have to live with whatever he is for the next four years or so,” Lacson said.

Sen. Grace Poe told ANC television she was “not surprised” at the President’s latest remarks.

“The President has said many explosive things,” she said. “We’re not used to it, but maybe I have come to get used to it in a way,” she added.

But not everyone was amused

Opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros described the President’s joke as “callous” and “cruel.”

“I ask the President, can poor people crack the same joke without fear of being included in the government’s ‘tokhang’ list, harmed by state security personnel and becoming victims of extrajudicial killings?” she said.

“Like his so many sexist, misogynistic and violent statements that set into motion killings, human rights abuses and the rabid disrespect of women, President Duterte makes these pronouncements without any sense of responsibility and accountability. This cannot stand. We refuse to get used to it,” she added.

‘Downright insensitive’

Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano said joking about marijuana use was “downright insensitive” amid the killings linked to the President’s brutal drug war.

“Leaders of the country should be careful [about] giving out messages because our words influence our [government] policies,” he said.

Like Alejano, a group of mental health advocates also criticized the President for not helping solve the country’s substance abuse problem.

The Youth for Mental Health Coalition (Y4MH) said the President’s casual admission that he used marijuana might have “indirectly promoted” the use of the illegal drug at a time when thousands were being killed on mere suspicions that they were drug users or peddlers.

“If the President is serious in handling the drug issue, he should stop his tough talk, understand the science behind substance use and addiction, and give the issue the due gravity it deserves,” said the Y4MH chair, Dr. Raymond John Naguit.

“If you’re in a position of power, you have the luxury of joking about it or deflect all investigations. If you’re poor, you get killed or jailed,” Naguit said. —With reports from DJ Yap, Marlon Ramos and Jovic Yee

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TAGS: Rodrigo Duterte, Salvador Panelo
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