In his annual “State of the Nation” address on Monday, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte urged telecommunication companies to improve the country’s Internet service “by December” because he said he wants to “make a Zoom call with Jesus Christ himself in Bethlehem,” local news outlet Coconuts Manila reported.
Duterte delivered a wide-ranging, one hour and 40 minute-long speech to the Philippine Congress on Monday in the National Capital Region of Metro Manila, the seat of the government.
At one point in the speech, Duterte issued an “ultimatum [to] telco [telecommunication] companies to fix the country’s sluggish internet connection by December because he [said he] planned on calling Jesus Christ in Bethlehem on his computer,” the news outlet reported.
“Kindly improve the services before December. I want to call Jesus Christ to Bethlehem. Better have that line cleared,” the president said, after claiming to speak on behalf of Filipinos supposedly fed up with “lousy” Internet service from the Philippines’ national providers, such as Smart Communications and Globe Telecom.
“I call on our [telecommunication] companies to improve their services lest we be forced to take drastic steps to address the less-than-ideal service that the public is getting from you,” Duterte said in a mix of Filipino and English.
“Sometimes we are a government pictured to be weak and incompetent because we cannot really force our mandate … public services, you better improve … If it’s just a question of added capitalization or the infusion of money, go and look for it,” the president urged.
“Because if you are not ready to improve … I might just as well close all of you and we revert back to the [land]line telephone … we are a republic, a sovereign country, bear that in mind because the patience of the Filipino people is reaching its limit. I will be the one to articulate the anger of the Filipino people. And you might not want what I intend to do with you,” Duterte said ominously.
“You [telecommunication companies] give us half deals, half-cooked transactions, lousy service … Tell us now if you cannot really improve on it because I will work by December. I have two years. The next two years will be spent improving the telecommunications of this country without you. I will find a way. I will talk to Congress and find a way how to do it,” the president promised.
Duterte’s threat to “close all” of the Philippines’ telecommunication companies comes just two weeks after he forced the shutdown of the country’s largest TV network, ABS-CBN, following years of repeated warnings that he would block its pending license renewal. Observers say Duterte pressured his numerous allies in the Philippine House of Representatives to successfully vote against ABS-CBN’s 25-year license renewal on July 10. Prior to the vote, the Philippines’ National Telecommunications Commission ordered the network off the air on May 5 after its license expired.