Lost in Translation

I saw the speech. POTUS was not the target. Still, it’s easy to see how a directly literal translation could be misconstrued, and Duterte Harry seriously needs to stop dropping the colloquial equivalent of the F-bomb because it’s way too easy to take that line out of context.  Can’t help giving the man a slow clap, though. Dude has cojones of steel.

A lot of the time, politics is mostly lip service and empty grandstanding. A politician actually doing what he said he would do and following it to the letter? That’s practically a unicorn sighting. It’s an arguably pleasant surprise to actually see results. A 911 line. Curfews for minors. Suspending illegal mining operations. The outing of alleged big players in the illegal drug trade. The surrender of over 60,000 users and drug pushers. Non-Filipinos don’t understand why Duterte’s approval rating is still so high, but that’s because the only results they’re aware of are the ones that have ended up  splattered on the street.

The Duterte regime is the gift that keeps on giving. We have a President who makes moves so polarizing, foreign media can’t resist throwing their hats in the ring. Before this particular presidency, what made the Philippines largely newsworthy were the basic B’s: boxing, beauty pageants and beaches. Then our new President comes along and unleashes the dogs of of war (on drugs) with results that are simultaneously heartening and disheartening. Now we’re getting a lecture from Team America,  international watchdog and global police, on how  human rights are being ignored.

Seriously?  This, from the country that displaced thousands of Native Americans, requiring them to live on reservations and stealing their land in its hungry quest for expansion? This, from the country that kidnapped, enslaved and practically imported a completely different race, forcing them to pick cotton on their vast plantations?  This, from the country that  has yet to close Guantanamo, a detention camp so famous for the tender loving care it bestows upon its detainees, it’s been referred to as a modern-day gulag?   This is who says we need to respect human rights?


You shouldn’t judge the state of another person’s kitchen if your own is a disaster. And what country’s government hasn’t made egregious missteps in this day and age? You’d think they’d spend their time and energy minding their own business and fixing their own mistakes instead of poking their noses into the goings-on in our little archipelago.

Yes, we’re allies. They’ve helped us. We’ve helped them. But it’s never been an equal relationship. It can never be an equal relationship when one side has a massive nuclear arsenal, is a leading global superpower and has  military capabilities that the other is nowhere near capable of matching.  What could we possibly threaten America with, less caregivers?

Because of this imbalance, there’s an unspoken agreement that whatever America wants, America will get, because it pays to be diplomatic, because it pays to stay on the good side of the world’s leading super power. Having a President who isn’t afraid to point out that we are no longer vassals, that he is not answerable to anyone but the Filipino people, is not a bad thing. It’s a reminder that we don’t always have to succumb to colonial mentality and that maybe, just maybe, we should take the reins of our own country, take the lead and show other countries what we are capable of accomplishing.

Say what you want about our new President (and plenty has been said), it’s definitely an interesting, much needed change of pace to see someone unafraid to stand up to the powers that be.


In Dumaguete MetropostFeatured image by Reuters

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