Acts of Speech, Bites of Sound: Rodrigro Duterte’s Oral Flexing and its Discontents

Oscar Tantoco Serquiña, Jr.

1The University Of Melbourne, Australia

Other than its deadly war campaign against illegal drugs, the presidency of Rodrigo Duterte is also notorious for polluting the Philippine soundscape with double-speak and verbal assaults inclusive of cuss words and sexist jokes. This presentation listens along and against the speech acts and sound bites that Duterte has engendered so far to come up with a concept-work about how a head of state’s “oral flexing” becomes a crucial part of doing politics and becoming political in 21st-century Philippines. The presentation first describes the ability of Duterte to at once captivate and saturate his audiences through his characteristically sprawling, almost rambling, presidential speeches. It then reflects on the reconfiguration of the politics of orality under a regime that revels in the spectacles of presidential speech, while also constraining the critical voices of others. Finally, the concluding section of this presentation highlights how some Filipino citizens and social collectives perform their dissent through systems of speech and sound that operate as counterpoints to Duterte’s cacophony.


Oscar Tantoco Serquiña, Jr. is a PhD Candidate in Theatre Studies in the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne. He is also an Assistant Professor (on leave) at the Department of Speech Communication and Theatre Arts of the University of the Philippines. His essays have appeared in Humanities Diliman, Kritika Kultura, Philippine Studies, and Theatre Research International, among others.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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