Duterte wants meetings in Cebuano
DAVAO CITY—President Duterte on Thursday said he wanted Cebuano used as the language during Cabinet meetings, suggesting that aides who don’t speak in his native tongue better start learning it.
Using mainly that dialect during his speech at the Mindanao Indigenous Peoples Leaders’ Summit here, Duterte joked about how some of his Cabinet members—past and present—would speak in English which, he said, he barely understood.
He cited how former Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. sounded, for example.
“Who is that American beside me who talks like…?” Mr. Duterte asked, adding that the Cabinet appointment of the “English spokening” Yasay was not confirmed by Congress probably because of his accent.
“So when he talks and the congressman…. the Congress beginning to deny him because this man sounds like an American. And he was talking like, you know.”
Even during Cabinet meetings, Duterte recalled, he barely understood what Yasay was saying. “I told them, stop that (evil). I don’t understand anything he’s saying.”
That’s why he told Cabinet members to just speak in Cebuano, he said. “I asked them ‘You can’t understand? Learn it. It’s not my problem anymore … I am your chief. Listen to what I say. If you don’t understand, learn Visayan, Cebuano.’”
The Duterte Cabinet has a number of non-Cebuano natives who can speak or understand the language. They include National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. who spent time in Mindanao and Cebu province as a military commander and Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi who graduated from the University of the Philippines Cebu.
But the President’s preferred lingua franca may pose some difficulty for the likes of current Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, a Filipino speaker born and raised in Taguig City, or Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, who hails from Batangas province.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said he could understand many Cebuano terms, so it was never much of a problem for him whenever Mr. Duterte switched to the dialect during Cabinet meetings. —FRINSTON LIM AND LEILA B. SALAVERRIA