A lesson in PR: Sorry seems to be hardest word for Rody Duterte

Does this photo need a caption? I wouldn’t jump to a conclusion right away but its best if Mayor Duterte keeps his tongue inside his mouth while describing women, much more a widow like vice-presidential aspirant Leni Robredo. Screencap from this Youtube Video.

In a recent report by the Deutsche Welle website, the Philippines has now officially transitioned to a tiger economy. The last time I heard the Philippines was becoming a Tiger Economy was 20 years ago before the Asian Economic Crisis hit us.

I have never been a strong supporter of President Benigno Aquino III but I know for a fact that when an international foreign media outfit reports something positive about the Philippines, it usually is the real deal. Having worked in one international and reputable news outfit for sometime, I know that their ways of news gathering, editing, and promoting their stories goes through a very stringent process of fact checking and editing, not to mention that their reporters are embedded in the region for years and that sources are credible because there is little personal interest involved in the production or choice of the story.

So I guess, that despite my apprehensions about President Aquino, we really are improving as an economy or at least as a market. This does not mean that we have improved as a nation, but economic well-being is always a start.

During the inauguration of President Benigno Aquino, I was not convinced of his focus campaign against corruption, since it was yet unclear to me how one president who is seen to have merely won out of sympathy to his dead mother can rid the Philippines of one of its major ills. He did not even promise to eliminate the problem in three to six months but he did quite a lot all things considered within six years. I thought that his call to eliminate corruption would only be limited to “wang-wangs” or buzzers that politicos and other “VIPs” use to get ahead in the congested roads of Metro Manila because Noynoy Aquino looks light weight compared to other macho politico types like Ferdinand Marcos or even his Korean War veteran father, Ninoy. The campaign proved to be something bigger. In 2013, the largest corruption scandal erupted, exposing the involvement of several members of the Congress and the Senate in the establishment of ghost projects in exchange for kickbacks. So far there have been three Senators charged and jailed for this in addition to one former president in hospital arrest, and one Chief Justice impeached. Janet Napoles, the mastermind of the kickback operations is now facing multiple charges of plunder.

The campaign against corruption turned out to be the best PR move for the Philippines in its drive to attract foreign investors.

According to the assessment of the DW report, “One of the major negative factors that have harmed the competitiveness of the Philippines economy over the last three decades is the high level of corruption as reflected in the very poor rankings for the Philippines in the annual Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index.”

This perception has improved when according to the report, President Aquino “mounted a campaign against corruption during his presidency.”


The presidential race looks more like a game of nine ball in billiards. You may have been on top of the surveys for so many months but one wrong shot and all your efforts are scratched. I am apprehensive about dismissing Mayor Duterte as an evil person but with all the human rights allegations, and his creepy remarks, it would suit him better if he waited a while and answer these attacks one by one and use his popularity to explain himself. Why does it seem so hard for popular politicians to explain themselves to their people?

I would say the same thing about Mar Roxas, but this guy seems to have been preparing for the presidency since the 1990s and while he may have a loose tongue and rather ill-tempered, you can never expect a rape joke from Mar Roxas. He is sensitive to jokes like that, to the point of castigating Senator Aquilino Pimentel when he crudely remarked about “insertions” during an interpellation at the Senate Hall. Mr. Pimentel is a good senator and a simple man and it might have been just one of those bad green jokes men of his generation tossed around and expected his fellow chaps to take lightly (he eventually moved to remove the comment out of the senate records) and patch it up with Roxas. The significance of this elections though, aside from a change of leadership, is the changing of the times. At which point, we should now abandon sexist jokes and men like Duterte as a thing of the past.

Competent leadership would be self-defeating if one cannot improve the perception of our fellow nations on us as a people. From the Strait Times of Singapore to the BBC of the UK, it is now a hot topic that one of our presidential candidates couldn’t control his words about insinuating sexual abuse on a dead and raped Australian missionary but seeks to control crime and corruption. News like this will be used against us when investors refuse to invest on a nation that is ruled by a misogynistic dirty old man.

You think that’s so far off? Our savagery as a nation is the very reason used by Americans to justify their “benevolent assimilation.” It is the same image they painted of Afghanistan and Iraq. The world seems to turn a blind eye on invasions of foreign powers when their ruler is a barbaric despot (i.e. Saddam and Qaddafi). I don’t think the rest of the world cares if Duterte turned his city into the 4th safest according to numbeo.com if one can’t even trust him to keep his tongue figuratively and literally out (that means well inside his mouth) of a pretty woman in his company.


It’s a good thing that issues about gender sensitivity like that gets out publicly. This is one way we can learn to be vigilant of these issues as they happen in our home. It is a reminder to respect our mothers, sisters, and wives. When the issue of Manny Pacquiao, a person I truly admire as an athlete and as a Christian came out, I was disappointed that he chose the wrong words to express his stand against gay marriage. Its a lesson learned that there’s really nothing we can add to what the scripture says and that our interpretations would always be secondary. One may be Bible reading Christians but its not excuse to behave holier than thou. The lesson of Pacquiao’s gay slur does not end with Nike withdrawing their sponsorship. With his humility, Pacquiao said sorry immediately and no later than a few months he is back on track with a win against Timothy Bradley. This shows that in the end, it is not the mistakes you commit but your ability to rectify them with grace and humility. God will lift you up and always give you another chance. Maybe Mayor Duterte can learn a thing or two from Manny Pacquiao at this moment.

Rodrigo Duterte’s “bad joke” though is not the same since he said his unfortunate “remarks” not out of his religious belief but really out of his own broken personality. Unlike the legalization of gay marriage, rape is not something one can really have strong principles about. All of us right minded human beings should be against it. With that said, one word of apology should be enough to control the damage. I won’t say it would completely reverse the effect of what he said but at least restore the morale of those who believed in him, especially the women who look up to Duterte to keep them safe from the very rapists he seeks to keep in jail or in the morgues. That’s one little and obvious PR lesson we should all learn early on in our careers but in application, SORRY is the hardest thing to say, especially when you are wrong.

When you say it, one thing is for sure “Sorry in general” is lame.#


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