QUEEN Guinevere: "What else do the simple folk do to help them escape when they're blue?"
King Arthur: "They sit around and wonder what royal folk would do."
-- From "Camelot," the musical film (1967) and Broadway play (1960)
MALACAÑANG communicators tend to assume ill-will among those who use President Rodrigo Duterte's occasional disappearances from public view as basis for some conspiracy theory related to his health.
The latest rumor broke out last Saturday, August 15, when a social media post reported that a Lear jet 60 from Singapore Seletar Airport landed in Davao City in the afternoon of that day and flew back to Seletar at 8:09 that night. The speculation was that President Duterte was aboard the ambulance plane operated by Medical Aviation Services.
Hole in the story
The gaping hole in the story is that no one saw the president getting into and off the plane and there was no more report of any jet returning to Davao from Singapore with Duterte in it.
The response from Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque however didn't help quell the rumor. He talked of Duterte being under "perpetual isolation," which he later explained was a figurative description of the cordon that prevents most everyone from coming close to the president. It was unfortunate since it linked the tight guarding to the suspicion that Duterte must be sick.
A photo of the president "having a meal with his family," taken Monday, August 17, also didn't prove he didn't go to Singapore. He could've flown Saturday night and returned any time Monday before his address to the nation late that same night.
Why all the fuss when there was no evidence that Duterte was in ambulance jet?
'None of your business'
Yet President Duterte didn't deny the rumor flat out and head on. He stressed instead on his right to travel, insisting that no one can deny him that "guaranteed" right. He said he pays his way, pointing out "I am not stupid" to charge private trips to the government. And in effect telling inquirers to back off, he said in Tagalog, "None of your business."
Albay Representative Edcel Lagman disagreed. Last Tuesday, August 18, the opposition congressman said that where the president travels -- "whether inside or outside the country, for economic, health or leisure" -- is the nation's concern, even if no public funds are used for the trip. The only exception, Lagman said, is security consideration, a refuge that Duterte apparently shunned when he said he was "not obliged" to keep his travel a secret.
Matter of being curious
But this does not have to be a question of right of the people and the obligation of the president to be transparent.
It may also be an uncomplicated matter of people's curiosity. The governed wishes to know what the person governing them does, including his whereabouts.
Queen Guinevere asked King Arthur in a song "What Do Simple Folk Do?" in the film-based-on-a-play musical "Camelot." How do their subjects "shed their weary lot," "pluck up the heart and get through" or "turn their tears to mirth"? What help them "escape when they're blue" and "make them forget"?
Arthur said he was told the simple folk whistle, they sing, they dance.
It can be concern
Ill-wishers and enemies of the president trying to spread disinformation cannot be ruled out. Yet most people may just be curious about their leader, who "inexplicably" continues to enjoy high popularity rating. The curiosity even shows concern, noted Lagman, with the pandemic and all the woes it has brought to the people.
Obviously, many of us don't wish to whistle, sing, or dance, not this time anyway. The plague on the land is not conducive to music unless it is a lament over beer in some karaoke bar. But like the simple folk in "Camelot," we do "sit around and wonder what the royal folk would do."