Duterte’s jokes take away public attention from big issues — Hilbay
MANILA, Philippines — An opposition senatorial candidate on Wednesday lamented how President Rodrigo Duterte’s jokes and banters diverted discussions on issues of national interest.
Former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, who is running under the banner of Opposition Koalisyon, said Duterte’s statements on his supposed use of marijuana has shifted the nation’s attention from the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law’s second tranche on oil excise tax hike, proposed constitutional amendments, and martial law extension in Mindanao.
“Imbis na isang ilog lang tayo na tumitingin sa napaka-importanteng isyu ng ekonomiya, pagpapahirap sa mamamayan dulot ng TRAIN, pagdating sa budget, pagpapalit ng Saligang Batas, napaka-raming atensyon ang nada-divert dahil nga napaka-liliit na bagay pero nakakagulat, kaya kailangan mo pa ring sagutin,” Hilbay said during a press conference in Quezon City.
“Katulad na lang no’ng paggamit ng marijuana, pagpugot sa ulo ng isang bishop, at kung ano-ano pang kabalbalan. Kasi parang ‘yong kabalbalan, nada-dampen niya ‘yong impact no’ng real issues na kailangang harapin ng mga mamamayan,” he added.
In a speech at a formal event in Malacañang early this week, Duterte said he uses marijuana to stay awake amid hectic schedule during the 33rd Asean Summit in Singapore last month. Duterte has skipped several key meetings during the regional conference to take “power naps” and catch up on sleep.
A couple of hours later, however, Duterte told reporters he was just joking about marijuana use. He said he throws in jokes to his boring speeches to make things entertaining.
But some observers think that “marijuana joke” was a calculated move by the administration to shift discussions from important national issues on economy and governance.
On Tuesday — a day after Duterte’s marijuana remarks — the House of Representatives approved on second reading its version of a draft fedaral charter, which would remove term limits for lawmakers as well as forego provisions that would prevent political dynasty.
House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has recently denied railroading the proposal, even if there are only three session days left for Congress before it goes on a Christmas break.
Also on Tuesday, Mr. Duterte gave the go signal for the implementation of the second round of increase in fuel excise tax starting January 2019, as mandated under the TRAIN law.
This decision came even after Mr. Duterte has just approved suspension of its implementation amid rising inflation. The Duterte administration’s economic managers recalled its earlier recommendation for the suspension of additional fuel excise tax next year following the drop in global oil prices in the recent weeks.
Hilbay noted the signs of the times with technology, particularly the Internet and social media, aiding in the rapid spread of anything and everything the President or his deputies would say, which could effectively divert the public’s focus from more pressing concerns of the country.
“That’s the unique feature of the internet society. Dati kasi ‘yong press, sila ‘yong nagfi-filter ng impormasyon na pwedeng pakinggan ng mamamayan,” he said.
“But given the prevalence of social media, kahit anong sabihin ng Presidente, kahit anong sabihin ng pamahalaan, pwedeng dumeretso do’n sa ordinaryong mamamayan. Dahil ‘don, nahahati ‘yong atensyon ng mga mamamayan doon sa mga importanteng isyu,” he added. /kga
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.