MANILA (UPDATE) - Sen. Panfilo Lacson said Tuesday it has become difficult to discern when President Rodrigo Duterte is serious or is joking during his public address.
Duterte, during his weekly address that aired Monday evening, said his election promise to ride a jet ski to challenge Chinese incursion in the West Philippine Sea was a "pure joke" and that those who believed it were "stupid."
"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," Lacson told ANC's Headstart.
"That’s a problem because he said he was just joking during the campaign debate that he would ride a jet ski to the West Philippine Sea. After that, he said he actually ordered a secondhand jet ski. At what point was he joking? At what point was he serious? We don’t know anymore, so we have a big problem in our hands," he said.
Lacson said this is problematic because "we cannot understand anymore" which parts of his speech were said as jokes and which ones are serious statements. "Mahirap yun. It’s really hard for Filipinos," he said.
Duterte said his "bravado" during the 2016 presidential debates was a "pure campaign joke," but he followed it up by adding that he ordered a secondhand jet ski, but spare parts for it have not arrived.
During the televised debates in April 2016 ahead of the presidential elections, Duterte said he always wanted to be a hero and if China kills him, "Bahala na kayo umiyak dito sa Pilipinas" (Cry for me here in the Philippines).
Later that year, while Duterte was already in office, an arbitral court favored Manila in its case against Beijing. The ruling junked China's historical claims to the South China Sea, within which is the West Philippine Sea. However, Duterte shelved the victory as he pursued warmer relations with the Asian economic giant to get investments and loans.
In April 2017, he also said he will no longer plant the Philippine flag in the Spratlys archipelago because China won't like it.
In a separate interview, Lacson urged voters to be wiser in choosing leaders during next year's elections.
"When we choose our leader, hindi 'yong titingnan lang natin na magaling mag-joke, magaling magsayaw, magaling mag-TikTok, magaling mag-budots, magaling kumanta sa stage (we should not look at how good they are at making jokes, in dancing, using TikTok, singing on stage)… It’s about time that we look at issues,” he said.
The senator stressed current issues would affect the country's future.
Communication professor Liana Barro of the Far Eastern University also echoed the need to transform the Filipino electorate into critical voters.
"Any candidate will promise anything and everything. Thing is, when they promise anything and everything and you believe it and they do not deliver, who do you blame? You cannot blame anyone but yourself," she said.
Barro said voters' education could start as early as in the elementary level by teaching children how the government functions.
"Dapat i-include siya sa curriculum. Sabi nga, politics should be everybody’s business. Because politics can somehow produce good leaders and somehow make our country get better. Politics can produce good policies. So lahat 'yan, nagsisimula diyan eh. So, hindi tayo puwedeng dedma sa politics,” she said.
- With a report from Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News