How to distinguish President Rodrigo Duterte's wisecracks from policy statements? Common sense is key, his chief legal adviser said Wednesday, after the chief executive described his viral remark on China five decades ago as a campaign joke.
Filipinos have the common sense to decipher what the President is saying, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo told ANC. The problem is that critics "twist his jokes into something else," he said.
During a 2016 presidential debate, then Davao City mayor Duterte said he would ride a jet ski to the Spratlys and plant the Philippine flag to asser the country's rights. As tensions flared up again in the disputed waters, he told the nation late Monday that it was pure "bravado" and a "campaign joke."
"By using one's common sense, you would know when a person is giving jokes or not, if one is hearing so much. And Filipinos have common sense," Panelo said.
The President expresses himself "quite clearly" when he talks about policy matters, and it's also clear when he is just joking around, Panelo said.
Sought for comment, Senator Panfilo Lacson said five years into his six-year term, it's still difficult to tell when the president is just joking.
"Tuwing magsasalita ba yung Pangulo, tayo yung mag-aanalyze pa? Totoo ba yan o biro? That's very confusing. E seryoso yung topic," Lacson told reporters on Tuesday.
"Yung presidency is no joking matter. I think the presidency is serious business. Kapag hinaluan mo ng joke and hindi na alam ng tao kung biro o totoo o seryoso, may mga implication yan hindi lamang sa pangkaraniwang Pilipino especially doon sa mga grupo, organizations within the government na tumatanggap ng mensahe," he added.
Prior to his statement on Monday night, Duterte also said he never promised to "retake" the West Philippine Sea when he was still campaigning for president.