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Photo by Pia Ranada/Rappler
MANILA, Philippines – Is it because Christmas is in the air?
President Rodrigo Duterte, on Tuesday, December 12, departed from his usual threatening tone against the media by assuring them, he is not their enemy.
"I am not your enemy. Your quest for truth, that's your business, not mine. At the end of the day, it's not my property," he said during his speech at the Malacañang Press Corps Christmas party he hosted.
He was addressing reporters and cameramen who cover Malacañang. The party took place at Heroes Hall inside the Palace.
Duterte, who has previously blasted the media for reporting on his alleged ill-gotten wealth, inquiring about his health, or writing supposedly slanted news about him, said he understands the "adversarial relationship" the media must take in relation to government.
"Never mind about our relationship, it's always adversarial. Your truth is not my truth and everybody's truth, so we fight with each other," said the President.
Despite his harsh words against media – including threats not to renew the franchise of television network ABS-CBN, threats against the previous owners of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and claims that Rappler is funded by the US Central Intelligence Agency – Duterte insisted he has no beef with them.
"Wala naman tayong galit (There's no anger). We do not fight with each other. I do not hate anybody here or else I will not be inviting you to my place," he said.
Does this mean the President believes what media reports? It doesn't seem so as he spoke of multiple "truths" and how truth is a "contentious" word.
"But truth is something which is relevant but at the same time a very contentious word. Like I said, there are always two sides of the coin, my truth, your truth, and the public perception," said Duterte.
He wrapped up his message by saying, despite the "ruckus" between him and media, the protection of the public interest is paramount.
"It's just public interest foremost and I think, it's the only one, the only standard is public interest," said Duterte.
Despite his high-minded words, the President has made criticism of him and his administration risky business, with his penchant for making curse-laden rants and allegations against naysayers.
Rather than address the criticisms head on, Duterte has typically labeled them as merely being fueled by politics.
His attacks against Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, both appointees of the previous administration, have been perceived as damaging to the checks and balance system provided by democracy.
He has also fired a government official for "contradicting" his 4-million figure for drug addicts, and another for questioning the wisdom of accepting a major drug rehabilitation center as a donation. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.