By Elinando B. Cinco
I am not certain if he or his handlers realize it, but the President has missed those invaluable opportunities to show to the world that he is compassionate and humane, after all the piercing arrows of criticism thrown in his direction.
There were two passing golden opportunities that were presented to him. One was when he excluded foreign members of the Foreign Correspondents Club of the Philippines (FOCAP) from attending press briefings that the Philippines hosted in Singapore.
In one instance, he allowed them in but told them not to ask questions.
These imbroglios happened during the 32nd ASEAN Summit held in the Lion City last April 27-29.
And, two, when he ordered the booting out of the country of Sister Patricia Fox, an Australian nun now doing missionary and poverty-alleviation counseling work in the country. She has been doing this pastoral work here for the past 27 years.
Why am I saying this?
In the first case, what the President did was a violation of the provisions of the Philippine Constitution on freedom of information.
If he just allowed the entry of the non-Filipino members of the FOCAP and faced them squarely even if they asked prejudicial and derogatory questions, such a gesture alone would already soften the belligerent attitude of the outside world towards the Duterte administration.
That would have been a perfect time for him to counter – he is good in that department – the misinformation being retailed in the international community on, say, EJKs, and putting the blame on the President.
And besides, the presence alone of the FOCAP members in those press briefings and conferences was a clear manifestation of a cordial government. There was no reason for the claim of critics, such as the usual “clamping down of dissent and gagging of media,” to give it credence.
The strategy would have left no room for the foreign press to criticize the Chief Executive as being selective of persons who would be present in his press briefings and conferences.
As regards the second case, there is still time for President Duterte to rescind his order of showing the door to the elderly Australian religious. The Christian world would welcome his edict.
As it is now, in the eyes of the international community, the President is the villain, notwithstanding the Bureau of Immigration’s claim that the nun has been speaking in public rallies against the government.
Now in the country doing missionary work for the past 27 years, her rhetoric in public rallies, assuming she did appear in those, viewed from any angle would appear harmless and devoid of such wild claims as “inciting to rebellion.”
The expulsion outburst of the President is not only uncivilized but also unchristian.
Instead, what the President should do is to invite Sister Pat to Malacanang, accompanied by a few members of her congregation, serve them a simple dinner, and right there and then tell her that he is cancelling his earlier order of handing her the walking papers, in a manner of speaking.
To make the event more significant and memorable, the President should either ask sister Pat to bless him by putting her right palm on his forehead, or wrap around his right arm on her right shoulder with the two of them putting on a friendly smile.
That heart-rendering scene is a perfect one for the foreign audience, made of front-page stuff that newspapers and primetime TV newscasts around the world are on the look-out for.
Truly, a government communication man’s dream!