‘Obama, go to hell’? Senate leaders say it’s just Duterte’s style

Camille Elemia
‘Obama, go to hell’? Senate leaders say it’s just Duterte’s style
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III say the country's diplomatic ties won't suffer

MANILA, Philippines – Top leaders of the Senate came to President Rodrigo Duterte’s defense, saying his latest tirade against US President Barack Obama is just his “style” and “expression.”

On Tuesday, October 4, Duterte continued his verbal lashing against the US leader, who has been critical of the administration’s drug war.

“Mr Obama, you can go to hell. EU [European Union], better choose purgatory. Puno na ang impiyerno. Bakit ako matakot sa inyo? (Hell is full. Why should I be scared of you?)” said Duterte.

But for Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, Duterte’s statement is just mere rhetoric.

Pimentel, Duterte’s partymate in PDP-Laban, reiterated that it is just the “style” of the President. In fact, he said it is so “effective” that Duterte won the 2016 presidential elections because of it.

That’s the style of the President. Naalala ‘nyo during the campaign sinasabihan ‘nyo rin ako nang ganyan na, ‘Pipigilan ba natin ang Presidente?’ (Remember during the campaign you were asking me the same thing: ‘Are we stopping the President?’) Sabi ko (I said): Let him be himself, he will be more effective. Tignan mo nangyari, eh di nanalo sa eleksyon. Gano’n po ‘yun (Look at what happened, he won in the elections. That’s just how it is),” Pimentel told reporters on Wednesday, October 5.

The Senate President urged the public to just allow Duterte to be himself, saying there would be “adjustments in due time.”

Critics have expressed alarm over the President’s antics, saying these might affect the country’s welfare. (READ: Duterte: My mouth can’t bring down PH)

“Let him be because he will be more effective. He is not pretending to be someone else and then in due time, we all learn from our experiences, we all learn from our mistakes. We also consider, take into account the feedback of the public so there will be some adjustments in due time and allowing for the personal style to be also seen,” Pimentel said.

Sotto, for his part, said the controversial remark is just another Duterte “expression.”

“Expression lang ‘yan. Bakit naman seseryosohin? Alangan naman pumunta sa impiyerno. He could have said go to heaven. Expression lang ‘yun, ‘wag masyado sineseryoso,” Sotto said.

(It’s just an expression. Why will you take it seriously? As if one can go to hell. He could have said go to heaven. That is just an expression that should not be taken seriously.)

‘Diplomatic ties won’t suffer’

With Duterte’s incessant attacks against the US, some have expressed concern that this might affect the country’s economy, foreign policy, and the people.

But Pimentel doubts this. “I don’t think so. Countries are not that shallow,” the Senate President said.

He explained Duterte’s statement might have meant that he only wants the country to have an independent foreign policy.

The President’s remark, Pimentel added, may be his way of cutting the “umbilical cord” of the Philippines from the US.

Asked if there is a cause for concern, Sotto said: “I don’t think so. Siguro (Maybe) he’s contemplating on that. Nothing is written in stone yet. So nothing is written in stone unless it is executed or it is implemented by the executive department or a law is passed to that effect.”

Sotto added that Duterte should be given “leeway” because it is difficult to “express” thoughts in public.

“Pagka nagsasalita ang isang speaker, especially the President, madami pumapasok sa isip niya. He probably believes it is a good thought. Later on, he could probably think it over. Dapat bigyang leeway ‘yung speaker, hindi madali mag-express ng iniisip mo,” he said.

(When a speaker is talking, especially the President, there are many thoughts entering his mind. He probably believes it is a good thought. Later on, he could probably think it over. A speaker should be given leeway because it is not easy to express your thoughts.)

It is not the first time Duterte has lashed out at Obama or other international personalities. He earlier cursed Pope Francis over traffic and criticized United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, among others. – Rappler.com

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Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, 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 camille.elemia@rappler.com