MANILA - A University of the Philippines Los Banos student who has come under criticism for his question to presidential aspirant Rodrigo Duterte denied Monday that he had any intention to show disrespect to the Davao mayor.
In a Facebook post, UPLB student Stephen Villena said a lot of Duterte supporters are angry with him for supposedly showing disrespect to the mayor during a student forum last week.
"To all the people who defended me particularly on social media, you have my deepest gratitude. To all the people who were hurt by my statements in that March 11 forum, rest assured that you have my full respect. I only ask that you try to analyze first the full context of that said forum and hopefully come to the conclusion that I was not maligning your beloved candidate for the presidency," he said.
"To Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, I know that you carry so much weight on your shoulders now. You have always been known to be frank and direct when you speak. I believe that among the candidates running for the presidency, you in particular will easily understand a student who only wanted to be frank and direct with you."
During the forum, Villena asked Duterte how he would upgrade the weapons of the police without increasing the defense budget.
Duterte explained that the cathedral of Davao City had been bombed twice while the Davao airport was also bombed, hence the need to have better armaments for the police.
Villena then said: "Sana po pakisagot yung tanong ng diretso. Kasi ang tanong ko lang po is - hindi po ba madadagdagan yung budget for defense, mai-implement niyo sa Davao City sa buong Pilipinas if ever you are president? Sana pakisagot lang po ng diretso dahil nagtatanong kami ng diretso dito para makauwi na po kayo."
Duterte then explained that he will deploy more policemen to maintain peace and order in the country while allocating the biggest piece of the national budget to education.
In his Facebook post, Villena defended his question, saying he was merely "posing an academic question which required an academic answer and I in no way intended to disrespect the good mayor."
He noted that the question on education vs defense is important since Duterte has already said he wants to focus on peace and order.
The student said that before he asked the question, he was already informed that Mayor Duterte was in a hurry to leave the forum as it was getting late.
He said he decided to ask a follow-up question to the mayor to answer the question directly "para maka-uwi na sya."
"To be clear, it was Mayor Duterte who was in a hurry to leave. The spliced video that was uploaded to the internet did not show the full exchange between me and Mayor Duterte. The cut video somehow made it appear na pinapauwi ko na si Mayor. Hindi po, sya po ang nagmadali na umuwi. In fact I only wanted to accommodate his wish to finish the Q&A portion of the forum asap. The end result was that the people who only saw the shortened video but did not participate in the forum somehow got the impression that I was bastos, arrogante, walang modo," he said.
He added: "This here is the crux of the matter: It is not so much the issues I raised with Mayor Duterte that garnered so much attention. It was rather my way of speaking that was deemed insensitive. The spliced video only deepened the perception by many that I arrogantly wanted Mr. Duterte to leave immediately. I am not exactly suave and charming when I speak. This is probably why I was seen as insensitive. But let me just say this: MY PERCEIVED LINGUISTIC IMPERFECTION IN NO WAY IMPLIES AN ARROGANT DISPOSITION."
"We live in a country where we value democratic principles. And in any democracy it is a given that there will always be a multitude of opposing views on what constitutes a healthy democracy and who are the best people qualified to manage our fragile democracy. In my case I was not even fighting an opposing view with my personal view. I was ASKING for the particular view of one particular candidate running for public office regarding one particular issue."
He also denied that he is a blood relative of any of the candidates running for national office or that he is a friend of any of the children of Liberal Party vice-presidential bet Leni Robredo as alleged.
Duterte himself has addressed criticisms that he did not give straight and concrete answers during the UPLB forum, saying that some of the questions were "a bit silly."
"For example, one was asking why the guns of the Army [in Davao] look better than the rest of the soldiers he saw around in Mindanao. I was about to tell him you do not have be a smart aleck," he said.
"We do not supply the arms of the Army. It's the Armed Forces of the Philippines [which does that]. They are just deployed in the city by the Armed Forces, by the contingencies of the moment. We have nothing to do with the army of anyone here... Ayaw ko namang hiyain."
Duterte: Some questions at UPLB forum were 'a bit silly'
Meanwhile, Duterte campaign spokesman Peter Laviña urged Duterte supporters to "take the moral high ground when engaging in any kind of discourse" concerning the mayor.
"In light of the issue involving some students of the University of the Philippines Los Banos, we enjoin all of you to be responsible citizens and exercise civility, intelligence, decency, and compassion when engaged in any discourse."