TRICKSTER. President Rodrigo Duterte, who now commands the Philippine military, says he tricked officials so he wouldn’t have to complete ROTC. Presidential photo

President Rodrigo Duterte was in a story-telling mood on Friday, July 14, as he regaled diplomats in Davao City with tales of his pranks and tricks back in his younger days.

One story he shared was how he supposedly managed to graduate from college without finishing the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), a requirement in those days.

Duterte, who as President wants to bring back mandatory ROTC, said he tricked the military registrar by submitting medical documents that proved he was too sickly to take ROTC, thus exempting him from the requirement.

Duterte was an undergraduate at the Lyceum Philippines where he took up political science.

In the year he was supposed to graduate, Duterte said he went to Camp Aguinaldo where he was told by a registrar staff that he won’t be able to graduate unless he completes the ROTC program. He was told that he would only be exempted if he has tuberculosis or is handicapped.

"So sabi ko, ‘Maraming TB-han dito.’ Pumunta ako sa San Lazaro. May isa – nakalinya ‘yung mga gago eh. (Pretends to cough) Ang ingay, in unison! Kanya-kanyang sputum dito sa ground," said Duterte.

(So I said, there are many people with TB here.’ I went to San Lazaro hospital. The fools were all lined up. It was so noisy, they were coughing in unison! Each had their own sputum on the ground.)

So the young Duterte approached one of the patients.

"’Yung isa, kinausap ko, sabi ko, ‘Halika. Gamitin mo itong pangalan mo, Rodrigo Duterte, ilagay man nila ‘yan sa X-ray. Bigyan kita isang libo,’" he said.

(I told one of them, ‘Come here. Use this name, Rodrigo Duterte, they’ll put it in the X-ray. I’ll give you P1,000.)

The man supposedly did as he was told and 3 days later, Duterte went back to get a copy of the man’s X-ray. To show his appreciation, he even gave his unwitting accomplice a P500 "tip".

Duterte went to his college and presented the X-ray to the staff.

The school personnel who received the X-ray was so convinced that he even supposedly told Duterte, "Kaya ka pala payat masyado. Umalis ka! Umalis ka!" (That’s why you’re too thin. Get out of here! Get out of here!)

Duterte did not have to be told twice. He left but not without throwing in a few fake coughs for added effect.

"Paubo-ubo ako, naghahanap ako ng plema (I kept coughing, I needed some phlegm)," said Duterte, obviously still pleased, after all these years, of the trick he successfuly played.

Acting chops

Why go through all that trouble to skip mandatory ROTC? Duterte said the military life is simply not his cup of tea.

"Ayaw ko talaga magmilitar, ayaw ko nga ‘yan sigaw-sigawan ako (I don’t want to enter the military, I don’t want to be shouted at)," said Duterte, now the commander-in-chief of the country’s armed forces.

To wrap up his story, he said street smarts, and politics, naturally come with acting skills.

"Ganoon lang man ‘yan, storya ka lang ng malungkot na kuwento, basta siyempre dalhan mo ng arte. Magpresidente ka kaya kung hindi ka marunong mag-arte?" he said.

(That’s all it takes, a sad story and of course some acting. Can you become president if you don’t know how to act?)

Duterte is a masterful storyteller, often using amusing anecdotes to get his point across. For instance, he has shared on numerous occasions the time he confessed to an elderly Jesuit priest of his peeping at his family’s maid.

Duterte said the priest, Fr Mark Falvey SJ, would use those times of confession to molest him and other Ateneo de Davao high school students.

He uses the anecdote to convince his audience that priests, among his chief critics, have their own sins to atone for. – Rappler.com

Inside Track is Rappler’s intelligencer on people, events, places and everything of public interest. It’s a take-off from Newsbreak’s Inside Track section. Contributions are most welcome. Just send bits of information to investigative@rappler.com.