By Jullie Yap Daza
Is the President sick? Heartsick, that he is. In his own words: “I am also bleeding, like you.”
He was addressing his cabinet, a smattering of generals, and prominent members of the Muslim community to mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan, Eid’l Fitr, in Malacañang’s ceremonial hall Tuesday night. Less cocky, less ebullient than usual, Mr. Duterte read from a prepared speech to the very end, then switched to extemporaneous mode, sounding more like the Mayor Duterte who has his audiences loving his every dirty word and joke.
The address was over in 30 minutes and ended with an apology; he was concerned that the thoughts he shared with his guests would cause them to lose their appetite for dinner. Stepping down from the podium, he smiled with his eyes more than his lips, as if glad that the deed was done.
Not that his message was a self-congratulatory one, for he would derive no satisfaction, he said, “even in winning the war,” hoping nonetheless that the enemy would go away, “umalis na lang sila.”
Subdued in tone and demeanor and visibly resisting the impulse to speak from the heart when there was a piece of paper right in front of him, the President almost choked as he confessed how badly the conflict in Marawi hurts him, “Nasasaktan ako,” when he follows the news on TV. In the next sentence, he’s condemning the terrorists for having “created hell in the midst of Marawi” and vowing to finish them, “no quarter given.”
The event, covered live on PTV, was aired just moments after a journalist on another channel dutifully reported that his last appearance was on June 21. The question she did not ask: Is he hiding from us again?
Whether the President has been recharging or attending to urgent matters of security, his presence at the dinner gave us another glimpse of his persona. Saddened by the horrors and sorrows of war, his heart bleeding while venting his anger – “buhos ko ang galit ko” – he appealed to Muslims to “take care of Maranaoans and Maguindanaoans” and look after the next generation to protect them from a group whose only purpose is to kill and destroy.
When he proclaimed, “I will see to it that Marawi will rise again as a prosperous city!,” he had his audience in the palm of his hand.
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