MANILA - The Filipino electorate who believed President Rodrigo Duterte's campaign promise of defending the nation's maritime interest in the West Philippine Sea are not "stupid," a political analyst said Tuesday.
"Hindi istupido ang Pilipinong botante kasi sa tingin ko, hindi naman sila naniniwala sa literal na pagsakay at paggamit ng jet ski," Dr. Aries Arugay, a political science professor in UP Diliman, told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.
(The Filipino voters are not stupid because I think they didn't believe on the riding and using of jet ski literally.)
"Pero naniwala siguro sila na ang Pangulong ito na mahilig din yumakap ng bandila, maraming sinasabing pro-Filipino remarks, naniniwala sila na ipagtatangol nito ang pambansang interes ng Republika."
(But they believed that this President, who is fond of hugging flags and saying many pro-Filipino remarks, will protect the country's interest.)
In his regular public address Monday, Duterte said his 2016 campaign statement to ride a jet ski to challenge Chinese incursion in Philippine waters was a "pure joke" and that those believed it were "stupid."
"Panahon sa kampanya ‘yan, at saka iyong biro na ‘yon, we call it bravado," the President said of his remarks 5 years ago.
"Iyong bravado ko was a pure campaign joke, at kung naniniwala kayo sa kabila, pati na siguro si [retired Supreme Court Justice Antonio] Carpio, I would say you’re stupid,” he said in a taped speech.
(That was campaign period and that joke, we call it bravado. My bravado was a pure campaign joke, and if the other side believes that, maybe even Carpio did, I would say you're stupid.)
A year after making the "jet ski" remark, Duterte said he will no longer plant the Philippine flag in the Spratlys because China won't like it.
"I would like to correct myself along the way dito. I said I will go to the island of Kalayaan, Pag-asa on June 12 to raise the Filipino flag there," Duterte had said in a speech in Saudi Arabia during a state visit.
"If every heads of state of the contending parties around the West Philippine Sea will go there to plant their flags, there will likely be trouble. Because of our friendship with China, I will not go there to raise the Philippine flag," he added.
Duterte won the Presidential race, with over 16 million votes, after promising to eliminate criminality and corruption, and challenge Chinese incursions in the country's territorial waters.
Upon assuming power, he forged friendlier relations with China by setting aside the South China Sea issue in favor of economic aid and investment.
China's sweeping claims over almost the entire South China Sea, within which is the West Philippine Sea, have no legal basis, a UN-backed arbitration court in The Hague ruled in July 2016.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson raised concern over Duterte's "joke" remark, saying, "We may have a big problem here because we don’t know at what point he was joking, at what point he was serious. We don’t know anymore when he is joking, when he was not."
Arugay criticized Duterte's remark as uncalled for.
"Sa tingin ko, hindi dapat sabihin na istupido. Kasi 'yong mga Pilipino, mahaba ang pisi nila sa mga politiko, pero nakita natin sa kasaysayan, hindi po gano'n kahaba. Nagsasawa din po at nagagalit din ang mga Pilipino. At sa kasaysayan natin, pinapakita nila ito hindi lang sa lansangan kundi mismo sa balota," he said.
(I believe Filipinos should not be called stupid. They may be understanding of politicians, but history showed it doesn't last long. They also get tired and angry. And in our experience, they show it not only on the streets but in the ballots.)
Duterte may get away with his recent remarks after his terms ends next year, but his appointed successor will not, Arugay said.
Manila's maritime row with Beijing made headlines anew over the past few months after hundreds of Chinese ships were sighted starting March in Philippine waters.