Duterte gives a news conference in Davao City, Philippines prior to his ASEAN East Asia Summit departure, 5 September 2016.

7 September 2016 (TSR) – Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte on Monday gave a 5-minute speech informing the country that he is about to go to Laos for the ASEAN East Asia summit.

“Respected” Reuters, Fortune, Wall Street Journal, CNN, BBC and even The Guardian, which became known for the Edward Snowden revelations, reported contextless mistranslation of Duterte’s statement and sensationally framing the “Putangina” Filipino curse as a direct and personal insult to President Barack Obama.

BBC went as far as adding a non-existent sentence in the statement, “We will be wallowing in the mud like pigs if you do that to me”.

The perceived offense have put a wedge between Duterte and Obama which resulted in the cancellation of a bilateral meeting on the sidelines at ASEAN.

Instead of instantly correcting false and erroneous reporting, media “heavyweights” continue to milk and spin.

The unintended consequence of the negative press has given the Philippine leader a boost and is being treated as a rock star upon arrival at ASEAN, while making both the US President and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton look like gullible fools for taking the bait. At the very least, the US Embassy should have hired and verified the statement with a linguist and not jumped into conclusions.

The Anti-Political-Correct-Straightforward-Talking President

Last May 2016, 16 million Filipinos voted for a new kind of President the country needs in such a time as this.

Duterte won approval for his platform of “clean government” and his foul-mouthed press conferences as the public is tired with years of well-spoken, smart-talking and classy career politicians from a small Manila-based elite. They voted for him because he has a good track record in Davao in cleaning up crime. This writer can attest to that.

Less than three months after assuming office, he was able to impress people with his track record of “change” as he promised. His domestic popularity ratings of 90% is confirmation to that.

The Filipinos didn’t vote for him because they want to be seen as a country without class or breeding, but a country who will no longer kowtow to imperialists like America, with an independent foreign policy, fair system and honest government, and eliminate crime.

It is no wonder that he is seen in ASEAN region as someone who can stand and deliver. Thus, Duterte is fast becoming an emerging influential leader in the ASEAN region.

The Philippine leader’s capacity for statesmanship and refreshing honesty is usually missed because the local and international media are not used to straightforward, honest and politically incorrect statements.

Like Monday’s press conference, he was accused of cursing the Pope 9 months ago, and much was based on contextless mistranslation of his remarks.

“PUTANGINA” taken out of context

Contrary to popular belief, scientists confirm that those who curse are more intelligent and honest. That makes Duterte a smart and honest man for cursing a lot.

Duterte indiscriminately curses in front of businessmen, reporters and kidnappers. He likes to use the word “Putangina” (son of a bitch). It’s the equivalent of American expression, “Fuck”.

Fortunately, this writer, a native speaker of at least three languages and a speech judge, who is obsessed with context and thus, able to interpret the cadence, the rhythm, the meanings, the nuances of the words, got access to the whole speech and watched the full video.

Lo and behold, Reuters News discriminately edited wherein the Philippine President said “putangina”. The real statement was not even directed to President Obama, but it was directed to the Jerome Morales, a Reuters News reporter who, according to Duterte, “just threw questions and statements.”

What Really Happened

After giving his speech, Duterte asked the audience for questions and clarifications, saying:

“Any questions? I will give you a few.. for clarification on the statement only. Do not ramble on to politics. It’s too far away.”

Despite his warning of not going too far, Jerome Morales from Reuters News asked him:

“Sir, there have been concerns on extrajudicial killings, sir. And you will meet leaders, any line of communication that we have prepared to address this issue in front of other foreign leaders?”

Duterte replied to him:

“To whom shall I address myself to? Who will be asking the question? May I know?”

Somebody from the audience, more than likely another journalist, said “Like Obama, Sir.” And that started it all. This is how he answered the Reuters News reporter:

“You know, the Philippines is not a vassal state. We have long ceased to be a colony of the United States. Alam mo marame dyan mga kolumnista (You know there are a lot of columnists) who look up on Obama and the United States as if we are the lapdogs of this country.”

In this statement, Duterte was clearly addressing his audience, which is the press. Obama’s name was only mentioned as an example because somebody in the audience mentioned Obama. But that doesn’t mean he was addressing Obama directly. The question was about what Duterte would say to foreign leaders who would confront him. There’s that big difference. Duterte’s response was about what he would do in a hypothetical scenario that the reporter placed in front him.

This was very clear when the Philippine President said:

“Wala akong pakilam sa kanya (I don’t care about him). Who is he? I am not beholden to anybody.”

Duterte was merely reminding the Reuters News journalist whom he really serves and whom he is accountable to and was addressing a hypothetical foreign leader.

“I do not respond to anybody but the people of the Republic of the Philippines,” he stated.

Any linguist who truly understands the Filipino language will know that he is not degrading Obama. That particular Q & A showed a leader devoted to his people and love his country.

Like many world leaders, Duterte have been annoyed with media reporters who twist and distort statements. This is very obvious in how he answered the hypothetical and presumptuous question by Reuters News journalist.

He was putting the press in their place and reminding the audience in front whom they are addressing:

“May mga kolumnista dyan na (There are columnists out there that write headlines such as) ‘Wait until he meets..’ Who is he? I am a President of a sovereign state and we have long ceased to be a colony. I do not have any Master except the Filipino people.”

He further asserts his presidential authority and the sovereignty of the Philippines with this statement to the columnists and reporters:

“You must be respectful. Do not just throw away questions and statements.”

Then he said:

“Putangina, mumurahin kita dyan sa forum na yan! (Son of a bitch/fuck, I will cuss you in that forum!)”

That “putangina” contextless sentence is the sound byte that Reuters and mass media are purposely spinning all over the world and the one that President Obama got as briefing.

But if you watch the rest of the statement, Duterte continued:

“Huwag mong ganunin! (Don’t do that!) Tell that to everybody!

None of the statements referred directly to President Barack Obama. Duterte has been referring to reporters who are not respectful and are throwing questions at him that are not on topic.

Duterte is a real Patriot

Duterte is an iconoclast. He also used that opportunity to chastise Filipino journalists and local media whose loyalty is more towards United States than their own Motherland as well as the cherished belief that Americans are beyond reproach.

“Itong mga kolumnista para ba akong tinatakot. (These columnists, they’re like threatening me).

Anak ka ng…! Umalis kayo dyan sa Pilipinas, pumunta kayo doon sa Amerika! (son of a…! Leave the Philippines, go to America!)

“You, you write columns as if you’re the lapdogs of the Americans! Who is it to confront me?,” the leader said.

“Masyado kayong bilib sa Amerika! (You believe too much in America!) Bumilib kayo dito sa atin! Ehhh, Amerika. (Believe in your own country! Not America.),” Duterte asserted.

It’s America who has a lot of apologising to do

Reuters purposely chose to report on sensationalism rather than substance.

For if Reuters wanted the real answer of the Philippine president to their reporter’s question, they would have gotten it:

“As a matter of fact, he (Obama) has too many…America has one too many to answer for the misdeeds in this country! Hanggang ngayon hindi pa tayo nakatikim ng apology nyan. (Until today, we have not received any apology from them.),” Duterte said.

“When as a matter of fact, at the turn of the century before the Americans left, the Philippines in the pacification campaign of the Moro (Filipino Muslims) in this island, there were about 6 million, the population of Moro peoples. How many died? 600,000. If he (Obama) can answer that question and give the apology, I will answer him”, he stated.

“That is the reason why Mindanao continue or continues to boil. Sabi mo (you said) that was the last century. Yang wounds na yan (Those wounds are) from generation to generation. As a matter of fact, we inherited this problem from the United States. Why?!”, the leader reflected.

“Because they (US) invaded this country (Philippines) and made us their subjugated people,” he said.

America has no right to lecture about Human Rights

“Everybody has a terrible record of extrajudicial killing. Why make an issue about fighting crime? Ni hindi nga nya maubos-ubos yan sa Mexico border nya! He (Obama) can’t even exhaust/finish/end that Mexico border (issue)! Look at the human rights of America along that line, the way how they treat the migrants there”, President Duterte exclaimed.

“Can he (Obama) explain the 600,000 Moro (Filipino Muslims) massacred in this island? Do you want to see the pictures?,” the president told the press in the room.

He then said to the Reuters News journalist:

“Maybe you’ll ask him. I’ll make it public! We have a recorded history of that sordid period of our national life”.

He went further into the hypothetical scenario of being confronted by a foreign leader like Obama:

“Siya ang mag-explain sa akin kung bakit kayo, yung extrajudicial killing nila! He (Obama) should be the one explaining to me, why they, your extrajudicial killing”.

“Who are you talk? Eh yung American Indian lang inubos mo eh. (Your American Indian…you killed them all)”

“Or what about the rights of those guys who died in the past? Is it because it’s just the past tense so we do not answer for the present tense?”

Duterte then brushes the Reuters News journalist’s hypothetical question with:

“You must be kidding! Stop joking yourself! Kayong mga (those of you…)

“Sobrang ka-bilib dyan (you believe too much (in America)) Who is Obama to ask me that?? I’ll tell him, ‘Who are you?!’,” he continued.

Duterte told the Reuters News journalist:

“Tell him (Obama) that! Telegraph mo ngayon! (Telegraph that now!)”

Duterte muttered and declared to the reporter:

“We have long been a Republic. I do not! I said, I do not kneel down before anybody else except the Filipino in Quiapo walking in misery and in extreme poverty and hunger”.

He also tried to refocus the reporter to what’s more important to cover:

“Hindi kayo maghinto doon sa droga (Why don’t you focus on the drug war?)”

Duterte then mutters:

“Sirang magbilib ka nyo dyan. (It’s whacked you believe in them), ay ang kulong magbasong (their prisons…) Susmaryosep! (Jesus, Mary and Joseph!) Pagka-lapdog ng mga…(what lapdogs of…)

The Philippine leader then wraps up the Q &A with Reuters News journalist by reiterating his resolve in fighting crime and stopping drugs in the country:

“The campaign against drugs will continue. Maraming mamatay dyan. Plenty will be killed until the last pusher is out of the streets. Until the drug manufacturer is killed, we will continue, and I will continue, and I don’t give a shit about anybody observing my behaviour”.

Here is the full transcription and translation of President Duterte’s statements to Reuters News.

The Takeaway

Speaking from a political strategist point of view, the “Putangina” spin is a media tactic used to defame someone you can’t control.

President Duterte is perceived by Washington as an unpredictable man and too forthright for America’s taste and comfort.

The new president is an unwelcome element to the Asia Pivot strategy meant to contain China and Duterte’s well-informed and sophisticated political thinking keeps Washington up at night.

Duterte is pushing for an independent foreign policy for the Philippines, a contrast to the (previous) Aquino administration who kowtowed to the US.

His aim is to balance the Philippines’ alliance commitments to the U.S. while restoring ties with China that went into a deep freeze after his predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, launched a legal case in The Hague against China’s sweeping territorial claims to the South China Sea.

He has pledged not to bring up South China Sea territorial disputes in multilateral summits, moving closer to the position of Beijing that all parties should hold one-on-one talks with China that exclude the United States. This poses a big problem for Washington as it is a setback to their strategy.

After helping the Aquino administration with the Hague Kangaroo ruling, they expected that the new Philippine president would follow suit.

However, carefully listening to his answers to the Reuters News journalist, Obama, the next US President and Washington hawks will continue to have sleepless nights.

Not only are they faced with the assertive Chinese President Xi Jinping and his administration, they now have a very aware and unpredictable honest person, who ran for president because he wants to return the dignity and pride of the Filipino people in their Motherland.


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Lady MJ Santos is the Founder/CEO of The Santos Republic Systems. Her professional background is political and media strategy, asset and credit enhancement, international trade and development and public speaking. For two consecutive years, she was awarded by Silicon Valley’s TRIPBASE as their favourite “writer to be revered and respected” of all the world politics blogs from across the internet for “displaying knowledge and temerity in her approach matched only by her success in the political and managerial circles”.


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