It has gotten ridiculous, the way this noisy elite on social and mainstream media has looked down on, put into question, scoffed at, anything at all to do with incoming President Rodrigo Duterte.
Don’t get me wrong: we should be discussing at length and in depth all his major campaign promises because he is willing to risk the presidency to fulfil these. This requires that we be on our toes, and engaging in relevant discussions about the death penalty, human rights, and federalism.
But instead of levelling up the discourse, this noisy elite is grasping at straws. Without the #Du30 press conferences that used to give them — and mainstream media! — much glee because it would give them so much to harp on (the more controversial the better), there is less to complain about now.
And so we are at the point of talking about the inaugural menu and whether or not it can be defined as simple. They are at the point of drawing connections where there are none, if only to prove that Duterte is who they think he is — whatever that might be — regardless of what he says or does.
For example, GMA News Online ends its news article on the Duterte inaugural menu with this bit about its caterer: “Via Mare was also the go-to caterer of former First Lady Imelda Marcos for galas in the Malacañan during the Marcos years.”
That cannot be said of Winnie Monsod, on June 28’s Unang Hirit. For her segment with Susan Enriquez, they had as guest Ambassador Marciano Paynor, head of the Malacañang Inaugural Committee, who was supposed to talk about the particulars of the Duterte inauguration. But where an interview about how this new president is refusing the pomp and pageantry of the inaugurations since President Ramos was possible, Monsod herself sets the tone for this conversation — and it’s a tone that is far from being kind.
Monsod started the segment by questioning Duterte’s decision to have his inauguration separate from VP Leni Robredo, which to Monsod means “for sure merong problema yung dalawa.” To her though, only one person is at fault here: and it’s not Leni.
<…> pero yung problema hindi galing kay Leni Robredo, galing kay President Duterte. Kasi bilib na bilib yata siya kay Bongbong Marcos, palagay ko ang isip niya eh dinaya si Bongbong. Ewan ko lang ha.
And then she goes on to say that while the Duterte inauguration might cost less, it is the people who are going to suffer for not having a Luneta inauguration: they will not have the opportunity to “enjoy” and the people will lose “business.”
Pero that is one thing, mura nga, mas mura nga ang inauguration, pero anong gagawin ng mga tao, yung mga taong gusto pumunta roon sa Luneta, para magtinginan, mag-enjoy, etc. hindi ba that is part of the celebration? Ngayon the people who can go to Malacañang, selektado, hindi lahat. Tapos anong gagawin ng mga Pilipinong may mga business-business do’n, di’ba kapag may parada, may inauguration, katakot-takot ang business, eh ‘di nawalaan na sila. Akala ko this is for the poor, this is for the Philippines.
I’m not sure where Monsod got the idea that the inauguration of the President and the VP are for the poor, because I never thought of this ritual — any government performance of a ritual for that matter — to be about the poor.
Too: when we imagine businesses that might have suffered with Duterte’s decision to have a simpler, more frugal inauguration, certainly we’re not thinking of the fishball or yosi vendor, or the “poor” that Monsod speaks of? For sure the ones who have lost some business are those who would’ve provided the food and drink, the music and lights, couturiers and salons, the ones who provide the pomp and pageantry?
The other issue is the message that this gives out to the people, that there is disunity between the President and the Vice President. That disunity dapat eh after the elections, sama-sama na sila, they’re going to be together for the country. Eh itong message na ito eh parang diyan ka lang, dito ako, ang sagwa ng message ano ha? Hindi ako nagagandahan.
Never mind that Robredo herself was far from being the bastion of unity and peace during the campaign, and never mind that so many of the Liberal Party’s supporters have continued to say things in Robredo’s name, from declaring that they will take down Duterte no matter what, to insisting that impeachment is near and he won’t last long in the presidency, to blatantly and shamelessly asserting that it is Robredo who deserves to be president.
Even Monsod herself, given the way she started this segment and presumed the reasons behind Duterte’s decision to do separate inaugurations, could only be complicit in this enterprise of taking down the incoming president, in favor of her loyalty to the VP and the party she ran under.
The rest of this segment is a measure as well of this complicity.
She kicks-off the “interview” with Paynor (in quotes because she barely let him finish his sentences) with the question about the inaugural menu.
Paynor: Actually ho two parts ho yung pagkain diyan.
Monsod: Bakit meron for the poor and meron for the rich? <laughter>
One wonders if this was a freudian slip, a measure of how the Daang Matuwid that Monsod campaigned for actually dealt with the people: by drawing a line between the poor and the rich.
She might have forgotten that the one doing this oath is Duterte, and not the candidate she endorsed.
Paynor: Lahat po ng bisita, except for the members of the Diplomatic Corps, gagawin po ang security check sa PICC. Kasi isipin niyo ho, ang directive kasi ng president-elect, let us not create traffic in the vicinity of Malacañang.
Paynor: If you imagine, now there are 600 plus guests …
Monsod: Akala ko gusto niya maliit lang?
Paynor: That’s how much the Rizal Hall can handle …
Monsod: And of those 600 guests, the guests of Mrs. Robredo, were too much na?
Monsod obviously does not care much for heavy traffic (because she asked “so?), but also she reveals here that her beef against Duterte is mostly just about his decision to have a separate inauguration from the VP.
Monsod was on a roll.
Paynor: Sa ngayon ho she has 300 guests, the president-elect has 250, 300 almost, because the rest of the 600 are in a sense must-invite guests. So mga diplomatic core, mga senior government officials…
Monsod: Ayaw niya imbitahin ‘yon, pero kailangan imbitahin ‘yon, gano’n ba?
Note that Monsod was not joking here, nor was she saying this in jest. She was, for all intents and purposes, interjecting and practically putting words in Paynor’s mouth, presuming the worst of the president-elect.
Paynor: Hindi naman sa gano’n, kasi nga … well background ho ano. Noong more or less presumptive president-elect siya and closer to his proclamation as president elect by COMELEC, nag-meet na ho kami ng transition team niya. Kami naman ho we defer to the incoming president-elect’s wishes.
Monsod: And what are his wishes?
Paynor: Simple, meaningful.
Monsod: Meaningful and simple. His guests include the diplomatic corps, must invite, and his personal guests. And who are those guests, are they from Davao?
Paynor: Many of them.
Monsod: Many of them are from Davao. How many are from Davao?
Paynor: Hindi ko lang po masiguro.
It’s unclear to me why this is relevant, why the number of guests from Davao matters at all. We’re not asking the same of Leni Robredo’s 300 guests at her inauguration are we? How many are from Bicol? How many from Naga in particular? How many from the Liberal Party? etc. etc. etc.
Oh but let’s get back to the menu, because the noisy elite can’t seem to get over it. Neither can Monsod.
Monsod: Teka muna, yung pagkain?
Paynor: So we are offering breakfast for those who will be checked, we ask them to be in PICC at 8:00, kasi they have to be seated in Malacañang by 10.
Monsod: What if there’s bomba in their car from PICC to Malacañang?
Paynor: Hindi nila dadalhin ang mga kotse nila. They will park in PICC, because malaki ho ang grounds ng PICC, if they go to Malacañang, they only have that portion in front of Holy Spirit, so isha-shuttle sila. We’re offering 10 to 12 buses for this group.
Note that when Monsod reacted with “Jesus!” to the fact that guests have been asked to go to PICC before Malacañang, it’s not quite clear why there is reason to be aghast.
Monsod: So may breakfast do’n sa PICC. anong breakfast nila sa PICC?
Paynor: It’s standard Filipino fare.
<Susan Enriquez asks for specifics re the menu>
Paynor: Itatanong ho natin sa Via Mare sila po ang gumagawa…
Monsod: Akala ko simple lang eh! Via Mare naman pala eh! Anong klaseng simplicity yan! Anong cost per head?
Paynor: They are charging minimum.
Monsod: Eh what is there minimum? Alam mo naman tayo tsismis eh. Magkano ‘yon?
Paynor: This one’s definitely less than a thousand per head.
Monsod: But this is breakfast and …
Paynor: Then there will be served again after the oathtaking.
Monsod: So it’s breakfast and pre-lunch.
Paynor: It’s meryenda cena.
Monsod: And the two cost less than 1000 pesos? Ambassador Paynor, you are sorely uneducated, because Via Mare does not get anything less than 200 for breakfast, and anything less than 600 for …
Paynor: Sa restaurants po siguro nila, pero catering prices are different with my experience with them.
I don’t know about Via Mare prices, but certainly that menu of monggo and lumpiang ubod, pandesal and kesong puti and dalandan juice has to be fraction of the cost of every other menu that’s been put together in Malacañang before. Certainly it is less than the cost of having wine and cheese for the vin d’honneur? Certainly it is nothing like the cost of a Luneta inauguration?
Oh but Monsod confuses herself — and us! Because on the one hand, she thinks Via Mare is still not “cheap” or simple enough. On the other, she thinks that the people deserve to have the inauguration in Luneta, regardless of cost, for reasons that are just as confusing.
Monsod: Okayyy. Pero mga kapuso talagang it’s cheaper for the government. But it’s not cheaper for the citizens of the Philippines, because the people were expecting to go to Luneta, have a good time, and see the parade, parang free show ‘yon eh! Eh hindi nila pinagbigyan.
But isn’t this smaller, simpler inauguration cheaper for the Filipino people? If government spends less on pomp and pageantry, less on rituals and traditions that have nothing to do with alleviating the lives of the poor or making nation more productive, doesn’t that mean more money for the things that truly matter?
Ah, but this is the thing with media personalities like Monsod: it is not about what might truly matter, but what matters only to her social class, what they assert as right and wrong, what they are offended by and what they find bastos, and — in the case of Duterte — what it is he’s doing wrong because there is nothing he can do right.
And so Monsod and her ilk are given the media mileage to (over-)read Duterte’s words and actions, and presume the worst of him.
Apparently as we say goodbye to Daang Matuwid, we are being welcomed to the era of the noisy elite — social media and mainstream media included — the ones who demand decorum and propriety no matter the ideological underpinnings of these practices, who would rather the performance of unity instead of no pretentions, and who would rather some spin and a lot of press releases instead of some good ol’ I-don’t-like-you honesty.
It would do us all well to keep this noisy elite in check, watch them move, listen to what they say, because their hostility is telling of what is to come — or what they hope might come. We would only know to critique them if we don’t shoot from the hip like they do.