President Rodrigo Duterte in his recorded address aired Friday morning was perceived to belittle drivers following his tirades against one of his most vocal critics, former senator Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes IV.
The chief executive mentioned his critic while he was talking about budget adjustments after Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez claimed that the government has spent P352.7 billion for pandemic-related measures.
Dominguez said that while the government has cash, it does not have the authority to spend beyond P4.1 trillion under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.
This prompted Duterte to recall Trillanes who had tweeted before that the national government supposedly has “four trillion” in its coffers.
“Yang sinasabi ni, isa pa itong walang alam na ugok itong si Trillanes. Nagsasalita ng trillion trillion, trillion ng hangin. Trillion of cubic meters of air in your head and it is too tight, that is why para kang buang na nagsasalita ka ng trillion,” Duterte said.
Duterte also recalled that the former senator had tweeted he wanted to hit him on his nape for asking his critics about their contributions or “ambag” as the nation battles the novel coronavirus pandemic despite being granted emergency powers.
“Puro porma, puro hambog, puro hamon at batukan mo raw ako? Sabihin ko sa driver ko, sampalin ka. Ang driver ko na ang utusan ko, hanggang diyan ka lang. Ang tingin ko sa iyo, ka-level mo driver, ulol,” Duterte continued.
Blue-collar workers are frontliners too
Some Filipinos were not amused by the president’s remarks which they perceived as a form of “belittling” blue-collar workers who are also working in the frontlines of the pandemic as part of the essential services workforce.
Some of these workers are employed in agriculture, manufacturing businesses, construction, mining and maintenance, among others. Their work usually involves hard manual labor.
A Filipino recalled how Duterte had built a “pro-poor” image of himself during the campaign period of the 2016 national elections and compared it to the latter’s recent remarks about blue-collar workers.
“Janitor to Chel Diokno ngayon Driver to former Sen. Trillanes. Duterte sold the idea na ‘maka Masa’ (siya) but he looks so LOW on these people (janitors & drivers),” he wrote.
Others couldn’t help but recall Duterte’s previous remarks against human rights lawyer Chel Diokno in his late-night televised address on April 3.
The president insulted Diokno’s appearance and manner of speech and likened him to a janitor.
“In his attempt (to) lambast Chel Diokno, Duterte exposed how lowly he thought of ‘janitors.’ This time, Duterte tells Trillanes that Trillanes is only the level of a ‘driver.’ Only a hypocrite praises frontliners for their heroism yet downgrade their jobs in front of the public,” a sociology teacher from UP Diliman said.
Another online user observed: “Duterte first shamed blue-collar jobs when he compared Chel Diokno to the likes of a janitor, as if it were a bad thing. This morning, he told Trillanes na ‘ka-level mo ang mga Driver.’”
Duterte criticized Diokno last April 3 after the latter expressed his willingness to defend individuals who have been summoned by the National Bureau of Investigation over critical social media posts.
“Itong si Diokno, kung magsalita ka parang kang, ‘wag lang mainsulto kayong mga janitor… ito si Diokno magsalita, parang janitor,” he said in his April 3 address.
“At saka tumakbo kang senador, eh hindi ka binoto ng tao. Alam mo kung bakit? Puwede kitang biruin? ‘Wag kang magalit…. Kasi kalaki ng ngipin mo. Magsalita ka, kalahati ng panga mo lumalabas,” Duterte added.
Drivers and janitors are some of the workers currently employed under essential services who play important roles amid the enhanced community quarantine.
Drivers, for one, service medical frontliners in shuttles and buses to and from the hospital and health centers. They are also crucial in bringing patients to hospitals during emergencies through ambulances.
They likewise serve government officials and employees who needed to report to their respective offices despite the enhanced community quarantine.
Janitors, meanwhile, help keep the environment clean, including hospitals and health care facilities. Second to medical frontliners, they are the ones who are at risk of getting exposed to the virus because of the nature of their work.
They are in charge of maintaining the cleanliness of hallways and rooms of facilities housing probable, suspected and confirmed COVID-19 cases. In this manner, they help doctors, nurses and other medical personnel have lower risk of getting infected in their working environments.