Personally, I’ve never had the honour of being named ‘Chief Boy Scout’ of a nation, like President Duterte was yesterday.
Nor have I ever been called upon to address an audience of impressionable children, some as young as four, who will inevitably hang upon my every word and seek to emulate their new Chief in every thought and deed.
In the unlikely event that such a situation ever came to pass, I would probably confine my acceptance speech to such topics as helping others, being kind to animals and brushing my teeth twice a day.
I would almost certainly avoid discussing any plans I had to kill people.
But that’s exactly what President Duterte did after being installed as the official role-model for thousands of eager youngsters.
After thanking all involved for his (constitutionally obligatory) elevation to Chief Scout, he immediately launched into his favourite topic — the war on drugs.
As he did so, some of the younger kids fidgeted in boredom, while others sat in open-mouthed awe, drinking it all in.
He said: “I am angry. I will kill people if they destroy our youth.
“I am really strict. And they say I kill people. I really kill people if they destroy our children.
“You drug addicts, since you’ve been identified, avoid the streets, stay in your homes because I will throw you in Manila Bay. I’ll make you fertiliser for the fish.”
To be fair to The Punisher President, he managed not to swear in front of his young audience. Not even one “son of a bitch”, “goddamn” or “faggot” dropped from his lips.
However, he did acknowledge his foul-mouthed ways, saying: “I told them, I won’t say bad words. I will just talk about the dead, there are many dead in funeral homes.”
At this point, some of the kiddy-winks must have been wondering if there were really funeral homes operated by the fish of Manila Bay, while others were no doubt googling what his “bad words” were.
The youngest kids were probably just continuing to fidget, but inevitably taking in their Chief’s announcement that it’s perfectly fine to kill “naughty people”. Any parent — or even uncle, aunt or cousin — knows that kids of that age absorb everything they hear like sponges.
But killing isn’t a one-way street, the Chief Scout was keen to remind his audience that sometimes you’ve got to make the ultimate sacrifice yourself. “Who wants to be a soldier?” he asked. “Die for their country? I’m depending on that. I’m depending on you to become soldiers.”
On this theme he spelled out to the children his plan to bring back mandatory ‘Reserve Officers Training Corps’ (ROTC) at schools to instil a “love for country” and prevent laziness.
“Now, no one is going into ROTC,” he said. “They know nothing about holding a gun. They know nothing about how to fight our enemies.”
Personally, I remember being a kid, and a Boy Scout. If I was ever addressed directly by my nation’s Chief Scout, every word would have been engraved on my heart (even if I was only four years old and fidgeting, they would still have sunk in, somehow).
So, what have the Boy Scouts of the Philippines effectively been told?
Basically: “Learn to use a gun and kill people (for reasons you don’t quite understand)”.
In an eyewitness report on the speech by journalist Pia Ranada, she concluded: “His speech appeared to make an impact on the kids. After his speech, Duterte walked offstage to have a chat with them. As he turned his back, a kid could be heard saying he wanted to kill drug pushers.”
While it’s impossible to verify this account conclusively, it’s a perfectly reasonable thing for a Boy Scout to say considering what he’d just heard from his Chief — after all, scouting is all about personal discipline and respect for leadership. It’s also introducing young minds to the concepts of justice and the rule of law.
But when you have a Chief Scout pedalling such a version of justice and law, is there any hope for the next generation?