MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Otso Diretso candidates clapped back at President Rodrigo Duterte for insulting them, reminding him it is the opposition's job to be critical of the administration.
On Monday, March 4, senatorial bet and human rights lawyer Chel Diokno told the President he should not be "onion-skinned."
"Alalahanin natin ang sinabi ng aking ama, 'Yes-men are not compatible with democracy. We can strengthen our leaders by pointing out what they are doing that is wrong.' Tungkulin ng oposisyon na kuwestiyunin, punahin, at magbigay ng alternatibo sa pagpapatakbo sa pamahalaan. Huwag naman sanang balat-sibuyas ang ating Pangulo – ito ang diwa ng demokrasya," said Diokno.
(Let us remember what my father said, "Yes-men are not compatible with democracy. We can strengthen our leaders by pointing out what they are doing that is wrong." It is the job of the opposition to question, criticize, and give alternatives to how the government is running the country. The President should not be onion-skinned – this is the spirit of democracy.)
Duterte hurled slurs at the opposition coalition's senatorial lineup during a campaign rally for his political party's slate on Sunday, March 3, in Zamboanga City. (READ: Duterte hits Otso Diretso candidates: 'Diretso papuntang impiyerno’)
In rallying support for the administration bets, the President asked the crowd: "Who will you vote instead of that Eight Straight to hell?"
Another Otso Diretso candidate, former solicitor general Florin Hilbay, told Duterte he should not take the opposition's criticism personally.
"Mr President, ang trabaho po ng oposisyon ay tumutol sa mga maling ginagawa ng administrasyon 'nyo. Demokrasya pa rin naman tayo, at hindi diktadurya, 'di ho ba? Wala pong personalan, trabaho lang," said Hilbay.
(Mr President, the job of the opposition is to oppose the wrongdoings of this administration. We are in a democracy, not a dictatorship, right? Nothing personal, just work.)
Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano also did not mince words against the President, whom he once tried to impeach.
"Ang eleksyon sa Mayo ay hindi nakasentro sa 'yo na ang tingin mo sa qualifications ng mga tumatakbo ay iyong tatahimik at tatango-tango sa mga kagustuhan mo. Ang eleksyong ito ay para sa kinabukasan ng mga Pilipino," said Alejano.
(The elections in May are not centered on you and your view that a candidate is qualified only if they are silent and would be a puppet just agreeing to what you want. The elections are about the future of Filipinos.)
Former Quezon congressman Erin Tañada urged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to push through with a senatorial debate so the administration bets can talk about pressing issues.
“Gawin na natin ang Comelec-sponsored debate para hindi ang Presidente ang nagsasalita para sa mga kandidato. Mas magkakalinawan at hindi mauuwi lang sa name-calling. Mabibigyan pa ng panahon ang mga kandidatong ipaliwanag ang kanilang track record at platform,” said Tañada.
(Let us do the Comelec-sponsored debate so it’s no longer the President speaking for his candidates. There will be clarity and no more name-calling. We will give candidates the chance to talk about their track record and platform.)
On Sunday, Duterte mentioned specific Otso Diretso candidates in his speech, including resigned Bangsamoro Transition Commission member Samira Gutoc. But the President refrained from saying anything against Gutoc because she is a woman.
Gutoc first thanked Duterte for his "recent show of respect" for her. But she also called on the President to stop the drug war that has killed thousands. (READ: Central Luzon: New killing fields in Duterte's drug war)
"I appeal to your better senses to stop the 'bloodier' drug war for the second half of your presidency. Mr President, I respect your drug war, pero ang kailangan po natin ay drug war laban sa mga drug lords at drug war kontra sa source ng droga. We should work for better enforcement," said Gutoc.
(I appeal to your better senses to stop the "bloodier" drug war for the second half of your presidency. Mr President, I respect your drug war, but we need a drug war against the drug lords and against the sources of drugs. We should work for better enforcement.)
She then sought justice for the victims of the government's anti-drug campaign.
"At nasaan po ang ayuda para sa mga biktima na pawang naka-shorts at naka-tsinelas? Nasaan po ang mga dapat na improvements para mapabilis ang hustisya sa ating bansa? At nasaan po ang accountability ng mga nakibahagi sa mga drug operations na nakapatay ng mga walang laban at inosente?" said Gutoc.
(And where is the assistance for the victims in shorts and slippers? Where are improvements to hasten the granting of justice in our country? And where is the accountability from those who took part in drug operations that killed the defenseless and the innocent?) – Rappler.com