A president mediating a marital conflict? 'It's my job,' says Duterte

MY BUSINESS. President Duterte says it's his job to listen even to marital troubles of government officials. Presidential photo

MY BUSINESS. President Duterte says it's his job to listen even to marital troubles of government officials.

Presidential photo

Why would the Philippine president intervene in what he claims is just a marital quarrel?

This is what has been on the minds of quite a few people since news broke that President Rodrigo Duterte mediated between Commission on Elections (Comelec) chief Andres Bautista and his estranged wife, Patricia or “Tisha.”

Duterte was asked this during a press conference he gave on Monday, August 7, in Malacañang.

During that news briefing, he kept saying he wouldn’t intervene in the progress of the complaint against Andy Bautista. He also supposedly told Tisha and her lawyers to “spare” him the details of her husband’s supposedly ill-gotten wealth.

While Duterte claimed he isn’t interested in the complaint itself, he called two meetings in Malacañang on the Bautistas’ marital difficulties.

Why? According to him, it’s a president’s job to listen to even personal issues of high-ranking officials like Andy Bautista. After all, it’s what he used to do as mayor. 

“That is the work of everybody, lalo 'pag ka mayor. Sanay ako niyan. Sumbungan ako ng asawa mo.  Gaya ikaw, ang pera mo sa iyo lang, 'yung pera niya pati ikaw kasali. 'Yung mga ganon,” said Duterte.

(That is the work of everybody, especially a mayor. I’m used to it. Your spouse complains to me. Like if your money is yours alone but they allow you to use their money. Issues like that.)

The President said he treats the Bautista case as just another marital squabble he’s had to sort out, but this time, with higher stakes.

“I received him, I said, ‘You talk to your wife.’ I said, ‘That is a very serious case,’” he said.

Pressed on why he would intervene in the family issue when he must receive a lot of complaints, Duterte asked reporters to define his work as president. Doesn’t it include listening to everybody’s problems?

“You have to define me and my work. What is my work? To listen to everybody including you if you have a problem with your husband. Why would I refuse, especially when they said it is the wife of Bautista?” said Duterte. 

When he heard Tisha's side during their July 26 meeting, he decided to have his staff call Andy for another meeting, which took place on August 1. 

It was only when Andy was already in the same room as him that Duterte told the Comelec chief Tisha was in the other room.

“When I was informed that he was here, I went out of my room…. I said, ‘That woman has a complaint about you,’” relayed the President.

When he returned to the room to find husband and wife face-to-face, he pushed for a compromise. But the meeting ended without a reconciliation.

While Duterte distanced himself from Tisha's corruption claims against her husband, the President is fully aware of its political repercussions.

“The integrity of the entire elections may be put into an issue. One can say, ‘Duterte lost, why did he win?’” said Duterte. 

But asked if he thinks the issue will affect his own electoral victory in 2016, Duterte brushed off such worries. 

Aba, bahala na kayo, tapos na ako nag-oath diyan. Natapos na akong na-proclaim,” he said. (It’s your problem. I’ve already taken my oath. I’ve already been proclaimed.) – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

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 pia.ranada@rappler.com.