The repercussions of Duterte’s ‘mamatay ka na’ remark vs Robredo

March 3, 2021 - 6:03 PM
On the left: Vice President Leni Robredo delivers a speech (Photo from Office of the Vice President via Instagram) On the right: President Rodrigo Roa Duterte talks to the people on September 28, 2020. (Robinson Niñal/Presidential Photo)

The position of President Rodrigo Duterte as a world leader was stressed anew following another controversial remark he uttered in a speech aired during a national address.

In a televised address aired March 1, Duterte ranted against Vice President Leni Robredo who previously voiced out her concern on Sinovac’s coronavirus vaccine or CoronaVac.

The chief executive’s remark once again made online buzz as he appeared to wish death upon the vice president.

“Iyan ang mahirap sa iyo eh, you want to be relevant. And you…you know, sometimes you make an idiotic stance. Iyong mga ganoong “they deserve the best.” Anak ka ng…Bakit ako? I would give them the worst?” Duterte said.

“Mamatay ka na. Hindi…hindi ko iwanan ‘yong mga frontliners and you do not need to really be redundant about it,” he added.

Asked for a comment, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque in a briefing stood by Duterte’s remarks and justified it.

“Well, what he said remains. But the context, because, ang sinasabi kasi ng vice president, kailangan aprubahan muna ng HTAC bago ibigay sa mga doctor,” the spokesman said.

Robredo earlier called for Health Technology Assessment Council or HTAC review on the donated Sinovac vaccines, saying that vaccines developed by AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech also went through the same process.

The HTAC is an independent, advisory body of the Department of Health that is tasked to “undertake technology appraisals by determining their clinical and economic values in the Philippine healthcare system, with the aim to improve overall health outcomes and ensure fairness, equity and sustainability of coverage for all Filipino citizens.”

HTAC previously provided positive recommendations for AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccines.

All three COVID-19 vaccines had been approved for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration.

‘Unbecoming for a world leader’

An advocacy group called iMPACT Leadership shared on social media a video clip where Duterte made the “Mamatay Ka Na” remark, which triggered critics to emphasize how unbecoming and dangerous such language is for a head of state.

Journalist Barnaby Lo pointed out that this hits different should foreigners manage to watch the pre-recording.

“This okay for a world leader to say? I mean the tone towards the duly-elected VP isn’t new but ‘mamatay ka na?’ For foreigners, Pres. Duterte tells VP Leni to drop dead,” Lo said.

Poet and screenwriter Jerry Gracio claimed that the general public allowed Duterte to get away with this ill-mannered behavior since 2016.

“Hinayaan natin si Duterte na bastusin ang kung sino-sino, kaya namihasa. Ngayon, puwede niyang sabihin sa Vice President na ‘mamatay ka na,’ at tatanggapin natin iyon na normal na, kasi nga, bastos talaga siya. Siya lang ang puwedeng mambastos, di siya p’wedeng bastusin ng iba,” he said.

One Reddit user, meanwhile, observed that the Duterte administration appeared to be using Robredo as a “scapegoat” or distraction to conceal its failures.

“Ginagawang escape goat lang ng admin si Robredo sa kapalpakan nila e. Naghihintay akong me magtanong ke Roque ng ‘Nag meltdown na naman po ang Presidente, ano po bang issue na gustong itago ngayon?’” the user said.

Another pointed out that Duterte’s supporters might perceive such remarks as orders.

“Bagaman nakakatawa dahil napapakita na desperado siya, nakakabahala dahil baka maging utos sa mga panatiko,” the user said.

Dangerous rhetorics

Aside from his policies, Duterte was also notorious for his controversial, off-the-cuff expletives and tirades in his speeches.

Palace and his allies normally downplay them as mere jokes and part of his “tough” personality and leadership.

Robredo was not the first person to receive such dangerous expression.

In 2018, Duterte made a suggestion to “kill” bishops during his word war with the Catholic Church.

Moreover, since the start of his presidency, he has also been making “shoot-to-kill” statements against critics and drug users.

Experts previously perceived that Duterte’s rhetoric, despite being violent and offensive, makes him popular among the general public.

“Even the humor, mabenta sa mga Pilipino except meron mga negative reaction doon sa kanyang mga sexist na mga jokes na hindi na nawawala sa ating pangulo,” said Dennis Coronacion, chair of the University of Santo Tomas’ Political Science Department in an interview with UNTV.