A result of his “bravado” and a “pure campaign joke” – that’s how President Rodrigo Duterte described his declaration during his 2016 presidential campaign where he vowed to personally ride a jet ski and plant the Philippine flag at the Spratly Islands.
“Alam mo, panahon ng kampanya ‘yon. Hindi sanay itong mga g*go sa style ko sa kampanya,” Duterte told the nation during his regular public address on Monday evening. “Kung naniwala kayo sa kabila, I would say that you are really stupid.”
It was during a presidential debate in 2016 when Duterte let loose his infamous “jet ski” vow which he now admits as a gag.
“Bababa ako at sasakay ako ng jetski, dala-dala ko ang flag ng Pilipino at pupunta ako sa airport [ng China] tapos itanim ko. I will say, ‘This is ours and do what you want with me.”
The original question, however, was far from being funny. As it turns out, Duterte was answering one Carlo Montehermozo, a fisherman from Pangasinan who, along with other local fishermen, have been consistently driven out of their fishing site by Chinese coast guards, endangering their livelihood.
Duterte’s latest expression follows his previous public address on May 3 where he claimed that he never promised to “retake the West Philippine Sea.” He also devalued the 2016 arbitration ruling won by the Philippines in The Hague, touting it as a “piece of paper that he can throw away in the waste basket.”
Responding to his latest pronouncement, Senator Leila De Lima, one of the president’s staunchest critics, blamed Duterte for “fooling the Filipino people by using his deceptive tricks to win the 2016 election.”
“Duterte’s remark only affirmed what we already know: that he really has no plans to invoke our sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea,” De Lima asserted. “Joke lang para kay Duterte ang napaka-importanteng isyu sa bansa kaya patuloy ang pagkamkam ng Tsina sa ating teritoryo at pagnakaw ng kabuhayan ng mga mangingisdang Pilipino.”
Fellow senator Risa Hontiveros echoed the same sentiment, penning a Facebook post which implored the chief executive to “stop treating the lives and livelihoods of Filipino fisherfolk as his punchline.”