The fisherman who expressed his sentiments on the “jet ski” joke of President Rodrigo Duterte left him vulnerable to attack by China policy supporters.
These were among concerns social media users aired after the fisherman was interviewed on radio where he shared his disappointment of the chief executive.
In his regular address last May 10, Duterte insisted that his 2016 comment about taking a jet ski to the West Philippine Sea was merely bravado and a “campaign joke.”
“Alam mo, panahon ng kampanya ‘yon. Hindi siguro sanay itong mga g*** na style ng—style ko sa kampanya, pati ‘yong bunganga ko ngayon. Nagyabang ako na pupunta ako sa Spratly, magdala ako ng flag nang sakay ako ng jet ski,” Duterte said.
In the same speech, he repeated an earlier remark that people who believed it “are really stupid.”
“We call it ‘bravado,’ ‘yong bravado ko that was just a pure campaign joke. At kung naniniwala kayo sa kabila, pati na siguro si Carpio, pati si—I would say that you are really stupid. Sige, maghanap ka ng tao dito magpunta ng jet ski,” Duterte said.
His remark, however, was a response to an earnest question from fisherman Carlo Montehermezo at the presidential debate in 2016.
Montehermezo, whose livelihood was affected by the harassment of Chinese Navy to fisherfolk like him, asked the candidates back then what they would do to stop Chinese encroachment.
In an interview over dzMM on May 12, when asked about his reaction to Duterte’s recent admission that his answer to his question was a joke after all, he expressed how hurt and disappointed he and his fellow fishermen were.
He noted that what they once believed in was the promise of Duterte being able to defend them.
“Kaming mangingisda dito, masama loob naming. Joke-joke lang sinabi sa’min noon. Masama loob naming no’n tas yun sinabi niya na inaasahan naming gagawin niya,” he said.
“Pero nung sinabi niyang joke-joke lang, joke-joke lang siya na naging presidente natin. Masakit. Nagpangako siyang ganon, tapos hindi niya tinupad,” he added.
Some Filipinos online echoed that the issue about the country’s sovereignty, along with the livelihood of the fisherfolk at the West Philippine Sea, was not a laughing matter back then until now.
Due to the fisherman’s strong words in the interview, some Filipinos raised the possibility that Duterte’s die-hard supporters might attack and bully him online.
“I am expecting that this fisherman is going to be attacked by the rabid fans,” one user said.
“Ya know those fans are actually trying to say na kasalanan parin nila Aquino to kung bakit daw ganito or ganyan….they are trying to forget na sinabi ni Duterte na estupido mga naniwala sa kanya,” another user said.
“Protect this fisherman, please!” one user said.
“Protect Kuya Carlo,” another user wrote.
Some Reddit users, meanwhile, considered possible scenarios on what government officials would do to change Montehermezo’s mind.
They cited the Reed Bank tragedy in 2019 where fishermen of a rammed Filipino boat were nearly killed at sea.
“Remember the fishermen who got involved in a collision with a Chinese boat and were left to die? They survived because a Vietnamese boat helped them get home. Remember what the government did after? They sent a fully armored up SWAT team and went all intimidation tactics on them. Duterte does not respect the poor and see them only as political tools. It’s not just going to be social media,” one user said.
“Two things might end up happening: Expect tonnes of ayuda from Malacañang and false assurances with photo ops from B. G*go. Or tulad ng sinabi ng isang nag comment dito baka mag pa swat ulit as a form of intimidation,” another user said.
As of writing, there are no reports or responses from the Palace following the fisherman’s reaction.