President Rodrigo Duterte suddenly kissed the ground in Jolo, Sulu where the deadly twin blasts took place, an action that raised eyebrows online.
In photos shared by neophyte Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go, also the former presidential aide, on Monday, August 31, Duterte was seen twice kissing the ground where the explosions took place.
Officials stated that Duterte had already been staying in his hometown Davao prior to this incident.
Last week, twin explosions hit the Southern province and claimed at least 15 lives and injured dozens more.
In his post, Go stated that Duterte and he, along with other officials, arrived in Jolo last Sunday, August 30. They immediately went to the site and offered prayers and flowers to the victims of the explosions.
Lieutenant Colonel Rolando Mateo, spokesperson of Joint Task Force Sulu, mentioned that the site of their visit was at Serrantes Street or the “ground zero” of the blasts.
Mateo stated that he stayed there for a few minutes to pray and offer flowers.
Based on reports, Duterte also went camping Gen. Teodulo Bautista in Barangay Bus-bus, Jolo, where he delivered a talk before the soldiers and other town mayors, including Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan, for more than an hour.
He then to the Kuta Heneral Bautista hospital to award 15 soldiers who survived the blasts Wounded Personnel medals.
He also awarded medals to families of three Tausug soldiers who were among the fatalities, one of whom was a police commando.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque previously told reporters that Duterte was expected to return to Manila that night.
Drama or respect?
While Duterte’s purpose for kissing the ground of Jolo or its significance remains uncertain, it caused a stir among his supporters and critics after photos of such action blew up on social media.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin Jr. expressed admiration for Duterte’s “love” for the Philippines.
“He loves with a physical passion every square foot of Philippine soil. He loves its heroes as we saw him weep while running his hand over their graven words at Balangiga. He will never yield a square inch of Philippine territory by right, by law, by the historical claim, and feeling,” Locsin said.
He loves with a physical passion every square foot of Philippine soil. He loves its heroes as we saw him weep while running his hand over their graven words at Balangiga. He will never yield a square inch of Philippine territory by right, by law, by historical claim, and feeling. https://t.co/mOiHh9xOT9
— Teddy Locsin Jr. (@teddyboylocsin) August 31, 2020
House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano described him as a “grieving father.”
“This is why the Filipino people love President Duterte. And why his critics will never understand him. Where they see a politician, the whole nation sees a grieving father. Maraming Salamat Mr. President – for showing us true leadership in this time of crisis,” he said.
This is why the Filipino people love President Duterte. And why his critics will never understand him. Where they see a…
His critics, meanwhile, perceived it as mere theatrics to earn public sympathy. Some people voiced their ire in the form of memes.
Others inquired about the message that the government hoped to convey with these photos.
“The bar is so low. Kahit sino kayang humalik sa lupa. Ako nga nakatulog sa may kanal,” Twitter user @ronaldgem said.
“What is he kissing? the ground where soldiers died? the ground where citizens died? the ground where the suicide bomber stood? or his cell phone?” another user said.
Some Filipinos also cast doubt if it was Duterte who kissed the ground or a cover-up.
May umiikot sa mga chat na hindi daw si Diggy yung nasa Jolo kasi iba yung itsura ng right ear 🤔
— 👑Corona BEERus👑 (@noelledeg) August 31, 2020
One Twitter user, meanwhile, stressed that the government should’ve just used their intel funds to probe on the tragic event instead of showing off.
“I’m tired of Duterte’s tactics, kissing the ground where the bombing happened. There’s a sum of the budget for intel funds, use it to investigate and not to rely on hearsays. Your populist rhetoric and argumentum ad misericordiam does not work anymore,” the user said.
Quick of the bombing
Last August 24, military officials reported that two bombs suddenly went off within an hour of each other at a supermarket in the town of Jolo.
While no group has yet taken responsibility for it, authorities suspected them to be carried out by members of the Abu Sayyaf Group.
Eight members of the state forces and six civilians were reportedly killed. Meanwhile, 27 security personnel and 48 civilians were injured.
On August 26. Philippine Army Commanding General Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana said they suspected two women who were behind the attacks—a widow of a Filipino suicide bomber and wife of an Abu Sayyaf leader.
Roque said that Duterte planned to place Sulu under martial law.
However, some lawmakers immediately rejected the idea and argued the recent passage of the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
Sobejana also later dropped the martial law proposal.
“I always give due respect to the wisdom of our national leadership and the sentiment of the general public,” he said.