MANILA, March 30, 2004
Administration officials twitted yesterday popular comedian Dolphy for dishing out offensive jokes about President Arroyo during a rally for fellow actor Fernando Poe Jr. in Cebu over the weekend.

But Poe, standard-bearer of the Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP), and his campaign manager Sen. Vicente Sotto III downplayed the tempest over Dolphy’s campaign commentary.

"Well, pabiro lang ‘yun (It was just made in jest)," said Poe, after a covenant signing for defectors from pro-administration parties in Greenhills, San Juan yesterday.

When asked if the joke was in poor taste, Poe simply smiled and said, "I can’t answer that."

Sotto said the remarks shouldn’t be taken out of its folksy context.

"Alam mo naman, probinsya ‘yun at ganun sila magsalita ‘dun (Well, you know, that’s the way they talk in the provinces)," he said.

Mrs. Arroyo and Poe are the leading candidates in surveys for the May 10 presidential elections.

"Rude, unfair and tragic," said administration congressmen Prospero Nograles (Davao) and Isidro Real (Zamboanga del Sur) in an apparent pun of the comedy king’s specialty.

But KNP leaders were insistent that Dolphy’s remarks were being taken out of context.

"Aba, dugay na sa Malacañang, tonto guihapon (They have long been in Malacañang but they remain clueless)!" exclaimed Dolphy in Cebuano before a rally of Poe supporters last Saturday night.

Dolphy, Rodolfo Quizon in real life, was reacting to the President’s supposed unfamiliarity with his weekly sitcom "Home Along Da Airport" on ABS-CBN.

Mrs. Arroyo’s alleged put-down was in turn a reaction to opposition claims that she was behind attempts to have Dolphy’s show taken off the air in retaliation for his support of Poe.

Interviewed by Radio Mindanao Network, Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye expressed dismay over Dolphy’s digs at the President.

"We were shocked because we consider Mr. Dolphy a gentleman. So we did not expect this kind of statement from him," he said.

Bunye added that the administration would not engage in "mudslinging" with the opposition because it wanted "to elevate the level" of their campaign and "raise the political maturity of the electorate and present to them the issues and platform of government."

In his official statement at Malacañang yesterday, Bunye assailed the opposition leadership for its "insolence" in scoring media points to thwart Mrs. Arroyo’s bid to secure a full six-year term of office.

"We did not expect such insolence to be hurled against the President," he said. "We are definitely not in this game and we leave the people to judge such conduct."

Official campaign spokesman Michael Defensor also deplored the personal attacks, even as he denied that the administration had anything with the rumored cancellation of Dolphy’s show.

"First of all (perhaps Dolphy) was merely trying to be funny. But we must all be careful what we say because for institutions that we respect, such things (as what Dolphy said during the Poe rally) affect the thinking of our people and the process of our politics," he said.

For Nograles, both Dolphy and his show — which hasn’t been axed anyway — were non-issues.

"Let’s not take Dolphy seriously. He should just stick to comedy roles and not meddle with serious national issues. It’s mudslinging they are using because they do not have a platform to stand on," he said.

He also reminded Dolphy that the President "does not have the luxury of time to watch TV programs." — Nikko Dizon, Jose Rodel Clapano, Marichu Villanueva

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved