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Rodrigo Duterte: Judge me by my values, not my cursing

Pia Ranada
Rodrigo Duterte: Judge me by my values, not my cursing
But the foul-mouthed presidential bet cuts down on his cussing during a visit to Cebu City

CEBU CITY, Philippines – “You judge me, not by the cuss words, epithets, and curses that you hear. Judge me for what I stand for, the values that I hold dear.”

These were the words of a much more restrained and less foul-mouthed Rodrigo Duterte who presented himself to Cebuanos on Thursday, January 7.

The presidential candidate and his running mate Senator Alan Peter Cayetano are in Cebu City for their first political sortie in the Visayas as a tandem.

“I’d like to address myself to the people of the Philippines. Listen to my cursing. Listen to it carefully. I invite you to just really look at me and relate those words to my character. Because behind those words is the real tragedy and agony of the Filipino people,” he said during a press conference.

Cayetano, who had previously come to Duterte’s defense in other issues, said, “We will have different public opinions but in the end, what does he have to offer and can he perform well as president? And I think many will agree that he will make a good president.”

No ‘motherhood statements’

Duterte has been both criticized and idolized for his brazen use of cuss words to express himself in public speeches, often ignoring requests from television stations or schools to tone it down.

Things came to a head when he “unintentionally” cursed Pope Francis over the traffic jams the pontiff’s Metro Manila visit had caused.

Weeks after the Pope Francis incident, Duterte visited an archbishop to “receive admonishment.” He also promised to pay P1,000 for every cuss word he would utter from then on. 

But Duterte said he is more than just his cuss words. Unlike his opponents, he has used more specific wording when it comes to a platform. 

Motherhood statement lang yung ‘We will take care of…’ Ako, specific ako. Tatapusin ko talaga ‘yan,” he said, referring to his promise to stop criminality and drugs in 3 to 6 months after he is elected.

(‘We will take care…’ is just a motherhood statement. Me, I’m specific. I will really end those things.) 

“For so many years, one promise to another.That’s why when I say I’ll stop criminality, I’ll stop it in 3 months,” he added.

Less cursing

Duterte’s speeches, both during a press conference and plaza assembly that day, were noticeably more formal and less peppered with expletives than usual. 

In a one-hour press briefing, he uttered only around 3 to 5 cuss words. In previous speeches of the same length, he is known to cuss more than 20 times. 

But in front of reporters and in the public gathering, he even lowered his voice when saying certain expletives.

Could cutting down on bad words be Duterte’s New Year’s resolution?

Duterte said he himself did not like his habit of saying bad words “because I cannot control myself.”

Though he said he was taught good manners in school, “Why it has not sunk into my brain, that is something which you have to help me out [with],” he appealed to the public.  –

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at