MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Rodrigo Duterte faced protesters outside the House of Representatives on Monday, July 24, shortly after delivering his second State of the Nation Address (SONA).
Duterte walked up the stage of the People's SONA, surrounded by his security, and spent around 13 minutes trying to talk to the protesters. He asked them to be more understanding of the difficulty of his role heading the country.
“Meron kayong isyu, naiintindihan ko alam ninyong ginagawa ko ang lahat. Hindi ko sinasabi na tinatakwil ko ‘yan (You have issues, I understand. You know that I am doing everything. I am not saying that I turned my back on [your issues]),” Duterte said, addressing a sea of militant protesters from different sectors.
Protesters kept interrupting Duterte as he spoke,as they asked him to end martial law in Mindanao and to continue peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front (NDF), among other issues.
“Sa martial law may tatapusin lang ako. Kaya ako hindi makapasok diyan, dahil may hostages diyan sa malaking mosque. Binawalan ko ang militar to assault dahil madadamay ang 300, dahil puputulan talaga yan ng ulo. ‘Yan ang problema ko na hindi 'nyo alam,” he said.
(I just need to address something in terms of martial law. There are hostages in one big mosque. I barred the military from assaulting it because 300 would get hurt, they would all be beheaded. That's my problem that you don't know about.)
He also reminded the leftist groups that they have representatives in his Cabinet who can act as their intermediaries to the administration. (READ: Keeping up with Duterte: One year inside the Cabinet)
"Magrespetuhan tayo. Huwag 'nyo ako i-ambush (Let's respect each other. Don’t ambush me)," Duterte told them referring to recent New People's Army attack on a convoy of the Presidential Security Group (PSG).
On calls to continue peace negotiations with the NDF, Duterte said there will always snags in the process, such as what happened now. But this didn't mean that the talks were over, prompting a protester to point out that he said the opposite in his SONA.
Amid the shouts from the crowd, he said: "Okay ako na sigawan ninyo, balewala sa akin ‘yan. Politiko ako. Kung ‘yan ang gusto ‘nyo, wala akong problema. Ayaw ‘nyong magrespeto; ambushin ’nyo ako. Tiis tayong lahat."
(I'm okay with being shouted at. That's nothing to me; I'm a politician. If that's what you want, I have no problem with that. You don't want to respect me? Ambush me. We'll all suffer.)
When the crowd chanted, "Pasista (Fascist)!" The President responded: "Basta ganito, kung wala tayong respetuhan, 'yan ang gusto ‘nyo, ‘yan ang ibibigay ko sa inyo. ‘Yan ang ugali ko. Ayaw 'nyo na respetuhan tayo? Okay wala. Ibibigay ko sa inyo. So kalimutan 'nyo ako."
(If there's no mutual respect, if that's what you want, I'll give it to you. That's how I am. You don't want mutual respect? Okay. There will be none. I'll grant that. So forget me.)
But before leaving, he said, "Sigaw kayo hanggang maubos ang boses 'nyo, pero huwag na huwag kayong magalit (Shout until you lose your voice, but never get angry)."
The only other Philippine leader known to have done a similar move was former president Fidel Ramos. The former leader once walked to protesters holding up banners near the venue of a presidential engagement outside Malacañang, and tried to interact with them.
Photo by Rambo Talabong/Rappler
Leftist leaders were pleasantly surprised with Duterte's unscheduled participation in their event.
"Yung nangyari ngayong gabi unprecedented 'yun. Wala pa siguro sa kasaysayan na naganap 'yun, at tingin namin positibo (What happened tonight was unprecedented. It might have been the first time in history that something like that happened, and we think it is positive)," said Bayan Secretary General Renato Reyes.
Former Bayan Muna representative Teddy Casiño said the surprise visit gave them two reasons to be happy. First, it showed that Duterte cared for them.
"Tingin namin pagkilala iyan ni Pangulong Duterte na lehitimo ang mga hinaing ng mga taumabayan natin. Bagaman nong nasa loob siya ng Kongreso, ininsulto niya 'yung mga tao rito [na] umuwi na kayo ayaw ko makipag-usap," Casiño said.
(We think it was a recognition from President Duterte that the grievances of the people are legitimate. This is despite him cursing us while he was inside Congress, saying that we should go home.)
The other reason is that Duterte clarified that peace negotiations with the NDF were not yet over.
But while the gesture was good, Casiño and Reyes said Duterte "did not answer the questions of the people" in the crowd.
"Mas magiging makabuluhan sana 'yung paglabas ng Pangulo dito kung naging kongkreto ang kanyang mga tugon sa mga sinisigaw ng mg mamamayan sa baba ng entablado (The [visit] of the President could have been more meaningful had he replied to the shouts of the people below the stage)," Reyes said.
For Reyes, Duterte may have opened the door again, but he did not give the people a commitment to continuing the peace talks. During his speech to the protesters, Duterte kept retorting that the NPA ambushed him.
"Parang ang sinasabi lang niya dito ay bigyan siya ng pagkakataon na masyado pang maikli ang panahon that he's trying his best, pero sana makinig talaga siya sa mga tao rito," Casino added.
(It's like he's saying that we should give him a chance because he has been in the position for a short time, that he's trying his best, but I wish he would listen to the shouts of the people here.) – Rappler.com