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A Twitter diplomatic dust-up between the Philippines and China led to the articulation of a hitherto unknown rule about the current federal government of the Philippines: President Rodrigo Duterte is the only person allowed to use curse words. I rely on a report on the quotes published in Philstar Global.

Let us rewind.

The Twitter Remarks and Apology

On May 3, 2021, Teddy Locsin Jr., the Foreign Secretary of the Philippines, had some choice words for the Chinese Government on Twitter regarding its harassment of his country’s coast guard vessels. This is a family website. We need not repeat Mr. Loscin’s impolite language here. Let it be said that I am all in favor of denouncing the Chinese Government and Chinese Communist Party in the strongest terms (and I oppose censorship of those who do so), but doing so need not require swearing.

Mr. Locsin was subtly rebuked by Mr. Duterte for his comments. While Mr. Duterte is no stranger to either swearing or making off-color remarks, it has been noted that he tends to employ more diplomatic language toward China.

President Rodrigo Duterte meeting with representatives of the U.S. Defense and State Departments in 2017 - "171024-D-SV709-563" by U.S. Secretary of Defense is licensed under CC BY 2.0
President Rodrigo Duterte in a meeting with representatives of the U.S. State and Defense Departments in 2017 – “171024-D-SV709-563” by U.S. Secretary of Defense is licensed under CC BY 2.0

In the aftermath, Mr. Loscin apologized – supposedly of his own accord – for his language. Whether his apology was for the choice manner in which he suggested that China vacate the territorial waters of the Philippines or for calling China an “ugly oaf,” I know not. In any event, one who carefully parses Mr. Loscin’s apologies may note the emphasis on the possibility that someone may have been offended by what he said. While Mr. Duterte did not approve of Mr. Loscin’s tone, the Senate President Pro Tempore of the Philippines and others defended both the content and language of Mr. Loscin’s remarks.

Only President Duterte Can Curse

In the aftermath of Mr. Loscin’s choice words toward the Chinese Communist Party, Harry Roque, the spokesman for Mr. Duterte’s cabinet, released a statement. This statement articulated an important rule for all cabinet members:

In the area of diplomacy, there is no place for cursing. Only the president can curse, no one else can copy him.

Harry Roque

Mr. Duterte’s cabinet may aspire to speak with one voice. But only Mr. Duterte is permitted to use certain words.

An important rule to remember.