Duterte: If it’s preposterous, then don’t believe it!
DAVAO CITY—He has stage 4 cancer and is dying. (Joke!) He will deliver a five-minute inaugural speech. (Joke!) He will solve the country’s crime problem in three to six months (may be a joke).
“If it’s a preposterous statement, do not believe it,” presumptive President-elect Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte told a full-house media briefing before dawn on Thursday.
Don’t take his word for it; don’t take him too seriously—at least not just yet, the Davao mayor advised members of the media.
“Once I’m President, I will no longer joke about five minutes, five minutes,” he said, referring to his widely quoted promise to limit his inaugural speech to five minutes.
“What President would give a five-minute inaugural speech? Filipinos will kill me if I did that,” he said, adding that he was just making the best of his remaining days outside the formalities of presidential protocol.
“I’m just enjoying my last few days… I am enjoying… my rudeness,” said the country’s incoming leader known for his brash sense of humor and earthy—some say, gutter—language.
“If I say something like that, don’t buy it. If the answer is preposterous or ridiculous, whisper to the one next to you from the Davao media and check if I’m serious,” Duterte said, adding that he enjoyed “playing around” and “bantering” with local reporters.
Duterte said his curse-filled vocabulary was the result of growing up in an impoverished neighborhood where he learned life on the streets.
His expletives form part of his “universal identity,” the incoming President said. “I was made by the Lord [like] this.”
But, as his campaign slogan promised, change is coming, and Duterte vowed to clean up his language and spare the presidency from the curse words he wields around like a deadly weapon.
“I will just follow protocol [in delivering the speech]. Maybe I will have to clean it up just to be well-prepared,” he said.
“I will no longer make jokes and say [curse] words when I’m [proclaimed] President,” he promised.
No. 1 license plate
But if there’s one thing he’s sure would be easy to give up as President, it would be the No. 1 license plate. Cabinet officials should also give up their special license plates, he said.
“That’s too corny,” said the mayor who would cruise around Davao on a pickup truck or a motorbike, and has been known to drive a cab to patrol the city late at night.
For the media covering him, however, finding the fine line between jest and truth may well be a challenge. Duterte’s abrasive manner remains a constant—even when he’s joking.
Responding to a question about his health, an incensed Duterte said: “I’m dying! What’s your problem?”
He added: “I divulge my Barrett (syndrome), my smoking, so what else do you want? I will end your speculation and say I’m dying.”
It only became clear it was another joke when the 71-year-old official brushed aside rumors that he was recently confined in a hospital, saying “If you can prove that, I will withdraw.”
He then challenged the reporter to an hour and a half on the treadmill at his house. “If I falter, I resign,” he said.
Upon learning that his salary as President would only be P120,000 a month, he said: “That’s it? Then I will resign!”
It will be an exhausting task, he said, solving the nation’s problems, sleeping late because of work, then waking up early to start working again.
“Then when the news comes out, you’re the bad guy,” he added.