by Jojo Robles

You’d think by now that President Noynoy Aquino has learned, through the sad experience of his supposed anointed Mar Roxas, not to provoke Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. But because Noynoy is Noynoy, a bully who likes to call out people without even mentioning their names, maybe the President just has to find out for himself if he could get away with his usual cowardly innuendoes with Digong.

Aquino, stumping in the capital for his Liberal Party candidates earlier this week, warned voters in the City of Manila about a candidate who would cut legal corners and abandon due process. The president said he would never dishonor the memory of his mother, who fought a dictator.

Duterte’s reply was short and sweet.

“Mr. President, are you on drugs?” the feisty mayor asked—and he was just warming up.

“Aquino is the reason why criminals are multiplying,” Duterte, a lawyer and former prosecutor, said. “He doesn’t know when to use due process.”

Duterte explained that if a criminal resists arrest and places the life of a law enforcer by doing so, he recommends that the criminal be shot.

“That’s the law, Mr. President,” he said.

I don’t know if Duterte has any real information about Aquino’s alleged drug use. All I know is, now that Aquino has decided to follow Roxas down the path of exchanging insults with Duterte, he had better be prepared for a long, drawn-out cage match with the man they call “The Punisher.”

As luck would have it, I was talking to my favorite “Dutertista,” former North Cotabato governor Manny Piñol, yesterday. I asked Manny why Duterte seems to be hell-bent on going after Roxas—and now, in all likelihood, Aquino, as well.

“The thing that not many know about Duterte outside of Davao is that he is really a very kind and courteous guy,” Piñol said. “But if you provoke him by spreading lies about him, you’re going to regret you started the fight, because he’s never going to back down.”

I tend to believe Piñol even if I’ve never met Duterte. Based solely on Duterte’s performance in the past two presidential debates, I’d say that the mayor is a nice guy until he’s provoked.

Then, too, there was that recent flap about the plan to come up with a Senate slate for the mayor, which had become so unwieldy it had to be abandoned because of Duterte’s penchant for raising the arm of anyone who asks him to do it.

“He’s just too nice to say no to anyone who asks him nicely for his endorsement,” Piñol told me back then.

But I think that Aquino—who I am convinced knows when someone will not allow himself to be bullied—will back off from his new strategy of going after Duterte with his usual “pasaring.” And if he doesn’t, then he’s even more stupid than I think he is.

I noticed that Aquino still has the capacity to learn new things. After all, he seems to have dialed down the criticism on Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.—probably after he noticed that every time he attacks Marcos, the latter’s ratings only improve.

If Aquino goes full “beast mode” on Duterte, that will probably be enough to make the Davao City mayor win in May. Count on it.

* * *

In replying to Aquino’s innuendoes, Duterte also pointed out the further irony of the President’s slamming him for his alleged dictatorial tendencies and lack of respect for the law during a political rally where he was endorsing former Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim.

The Davao mayor, who, like Lim, is also known as “Dirty Harry,” made short work of the former Manila cop who is once again seeking to become mayor of the nation’s capital.

“Lim is dirtier than me,” Duterte sniffed. “I hope people would stop speculating on my real character.”

And because Duterte was already on the subject of Aquino and his chosen candidates, he decided to go back to bashing Roxas, his favorite whipping boy among all of the presidential candidates. Duterte found an opening to troll Roxas because the Liberal Party candidate has been going around badmouthing one of the Davao mayor’s favorite advocacies: federalism.

Duterte belied Roxas’ claim that shifting to a federal form of government would mean that people would be taxed twice, once at the local level and again at the national level. Duterte called both Roxas and Aquino ignoramuses when it comes to law.

“That’s the trouble when you are not a lawyer,” Duterte said. “There’s already double taxation right now, on the local level and the national level. You and the president are both wrong.”

As a parting shot, Duterte also had something for Roxas alone, for coming out with a comic book describing himself as the hero and savior of Tacloban City when Super Typhoon “Yolanda” hit more than two years ago. It’s bound to make Roxas run to the bathroom again, something that the mayor ribbed Roxas about during the last debate in Cebu City.

“Character, not comics, will make you win,” Duterte advised Roxas. I don’t know, though, if SuperMar appreciated the advice.

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