Recto urges Duterte to 'calm down,' watch his words

MANILA, Philippines – After the string of controversies involving President Rodrigo Duterte's statements, a minority senator urged the President to "finesse" his way of speaking.

Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto said people in power should watch what they say, as their words have greater implications.

"When there is divergence of thought, we plod on. As both Batangueños and Bisayas would say: Kalma lang (Just calm down)," Recto said on Thursday, August 11, in response to Duterte's martial law threat.

"Words can move a nation, incite people, disturb the peace, and make the political temperature rise. So people wielding large bullhorns should exercise caution in what they say," he added.

Such acts, Recto said, would not bring the nation to its desired goals. (READ: De Lima: Duterte's martial law threat 'really very worrisome')

"Unnecessarily raising the specter of a constitutional crisis will not bring us closer to what we commonly want to achieve – to defeat crime and bring law and order," he said.

Duterte earlier threatened to declare martial law if the Supreme Court hinders his fight against criminality and drugs. (READ: Duterte to Sereno: Want me to declare martial law?)

Don't take Duterte's statements seriously

This is not the first time Duterte drew flak for his controversial statements. During the campaign period, he was heavily criticized for joking about the rape of an Australian missionary, saying he should have been the first one to do the act.

By now, Recto said, the public should learn how to "auto-delete" the "colorful parts" of Duterte's pronouncements and not always take "his antics as policies."

"The best coping mechanism is not to let his curses get in the way of studying the causes he is fighting for," Recto said.

"Makulay ang kanyang pananalita. May halong pangungutya. 'Yung pang-aasar ay parte ng kanyang stagecraft. Hiwalay ito sa state policies he is pursuing," he added.

(His words are colorful, with some mockery. Teasing is part of his stagecraft. This is separate from the state policies he is pursuing.)

But another minority member, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, said every word Duterte utters becomes policy and serves as a call to action for his subordinates.

In addition, he said Duterte serves as the "face" of the Philippines in the international community. For Trillanes, how the President acts would reflect on the Filipino people.

"As a President, he is not only the leader of and exemplar of the Filipino people but also the face of our nation in the global community," Trillanes told Rappler.

Trillanes added Duterte's behavior has been very clear since the 2016 campaign days, saying, "That's the package we got when the people voted him for president." –

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email