A SLAP for a slap; a taunt for a taunt.
The bitter war of words between Liberal Party (LP) standard-bearer Mar Roxas and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo "Digong" Duterte has degenerated into threats of physical violence with the former challenging the latter to make good on his promise to slap him should they meet.
On Monday, Roxas, who has been increasingly vocal in his criticisms of his rivals, responded to Duterte's provocations, which came after the LP candidate labelled the mayor's reputation as a crime buster a "myth."
"Let him slap me. Let him come here, or I will come to him. Have him slap me at the airport," Roxas said on the sidelines of the Urban Poor Solidarity Week event at the University of the Philippines Ang Bahay ng Alumni.
The former interior secretary said the trouble with Duterte was that he got used to "one-man rule."
"He got used to a system in which if he does not get what he wants, if someone tells him the truth, he will just slap someone or raise his fist," he said.
"I don't know if he has slapped any powerful person; he has only slapped the small people who cannot fight back," Roxas said in Filipino.
On Sunday, Duterte, appearing on a local TV show in Davao, questioned Roxas' academic credentials, saying the latter's Economics degree from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School was a lie.
He challenged Roxas to produce evidence he did finish a four-year degree from Wharton. (Duterte's claim has been discredited by official university sources available online showing Roxas did complete his degree).
To which Roxas said: "Let us slap each other. If my Wharton degree is fake, he can slap me. I will not turn my face away. But if my Wharton degree is true, I will slap you."
"You speak so rashly of things you have no idea about. You know, Digong, I treated you like a friend. I respected you, our friendship. It's good that now we know your true colors," he said, addressing Duterte by his nickname.
Roxas said he was prepared to show proof of his degree.
"I will show it to you. In fact, I will write Wharton today myself to produce official records, in case he still does not want to believe it."
Roxas also defended his comments about Davao City not being as safe as touted by Duterte's followers. He had cited Philippine National Police records showing that Davao City recorded the fourth highest crime incidence in 2014.
"The statistics I mentioned came from the PNP. Mayor Duterte is chair of the regional peace and order council. He may have forgotten that. He is the chair of the entire region. The stats came from PNP, from the people, from the system that counts the blotter. That's the truth," he said.
"Can't he accept that? That's the truth. Does it mean that if he becomes President, if the news he receives is not good, he will just slap people? Is that his kind of governance?" Roxas said.
Roxas said he found Duterte's recent pronouncements "shocking."
"Wasn't his issue with me that I was supposedly besmirching him? I never did that. He's the one who's maligning me. He's even cursing me," he said.
"That's the kind of thinking, of violence, of heavy fists, which has no place in our society," Roxas said when asked to comment on Duterte's statement that the police and the military would become the "backbone" of his leadership.
"That was our dark history," he said, referring to the martial law years under the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
"The police are the protectors of the people, not their murderers. They should not be used for violence against our people," Roxas said.
A crowd of supporters began applauding after Roxas made the comments.