IT’s never too far from the surface, this very Tagalog- or Manila-based bias against people from the Visayas, who are often made fun of because they “talk funny.” But when supposedly decent people indulge in accent-shaming because they can no longer find new ways to attack President Rodrigo Duterte, you know they have crossed a line that even the Dutertards they despise don’t go beyond.
It started when a rabid and indiscriminate critic of Duterte’s by the name of Raissa Robles (no relation) commented on Twitter about the president’s way of speaking during his one-on-one with chief legal adviser Salvador Panelo this week. In a tweet last September 11, Robles wrote: “Duterte just now said that the communists are engaged in ‘armed stragol’.”
This prompted a response from former presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda, who probably thought he was being incredibly witty: “You have trabol with my president’s dictionarment?”
Realizing belatedly what she had done, Robles tried some lame damage control. “My context is that President Duterte is a very good mimic,” she wrote in a subsequent tweet, putting forth the novel theory that the president uses this ability to hoodwink people.
“He can do accents very well, which he has shown when he was copying ex-Foreign Secretary [Perfecto] Yasay’s broad American accent,” she continued. “He uses [his]Visayan accent to put you guys under his spell. Para utuin kayo [To hoodwink you].”
Lacierda reverted to a common strategy of his whenever he can no longer lie his way out of a controversy during his stint as spokesman of Noynoy Aquino: He kept his mouth firmly shut on the matter.
Both strategies reek of bovine manure. But let’s attempt to pick through the excrement that these two unrepentant and unthinking Yellows left behind before burying them in it.
The only context you need to know as far as Robles is concerned is that she has never said anything good about Duterte — or about anyone perceived to be opposed to the Yellows. That is the underlying premise of all her blog posts, social media rants and occasional “journalism.”
It doesn’t matter if her attacks are actually based on truth. If need be, she will invent stuff as long as she can get a catchy headline out of it.
Singapore-based federalism campaigner Orion Perez Dumdum, in a lengthy Facebook post last year, called Robles “a liar, a purveyor of fake news and a fool” for supposedly inventing a report that Duterte’s push for a shift in the form of government was intended to pave the way for one-man rule. “Federalism means lessening the power of the central government in order to empower regional authorities,” Dumdum wrote. “Shifting to a parliamentary system means diminishing the real powers that the president has.”
Earlier on, Robles showed her knack for the inappropriate comment when she tweeted this right after the death of the well-loved former senator Miriam Defensor Santiago: “If MDS had become president and her VP had won, Bongbong Marcos would now be president. Think about it.”
Of course, the tweet was wrong in so many ways because Santiago received only around a million votes in the 2016 presidential elections, nowhere near the 16 million Duterte received to win. And Marcos nearly won the vice presidency after he lost narrowly (or was cheated by — the Supreme Court still has to decide) to Maria Leonor Robredo.
But for me, Robles’ personal low as a journalist was when she accused two children of the late Chief Justice Renato Corona of owning properties in the US that they had only rented when they worked there as medical professionals — gathering her data through “crowdsourcing,” which she basically defined as online gossip. When all she could come up with by way of proof was that Corona himself had lived at the Florida properties for some time, without owning them (a simple enough thing to verify), she asked in her blog if the Chief Justice was not, in fact, an American citizen or a green card holder.
As for Lacierda, he, too, has never been accused of being too careful with his “facts,” ever since he was plucked out of obscurity as a pro-Aquino blogger and placed in the office of presidential spokesman. But apart from blushing on television when he knows he’s lying, the only thing Lacierda really did with any distinction during the Aquino years was to serve as the escort of pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles.
As a spokesman, he was almost always unprepared and tongue-tied, except on Twitter, where he believes himself to be some sort of super-witty comedian always ready with a snappy remark or comeback. Lacierda is said to be eyeing a slot in the Liberal Party’s “slate of losers” for the Senate in next year’s elections; his anti-Visayan remark will definitely not get him a lot of votes in what is basically two-thirds of the entire country.
With their declaration of their ill-concealed prejudice against Visayan-speaking Filipinos, Robles and Lacierda have taken their anti-Duterte politics to new lows. And for them to do so tells me two things: They have really run out of ammunition against the administration and they are the type of Tagalogs who are just barely able to hide their biases, which break out like nasty sores from time to time.
Of course, the irony is that these are the people who are at the vanguard of the so-called “disente” crowd, who want to keep political discourse at a high level and who worship only saintly and unsullied politicians. But truth will out, eventually.
I think it’s too much to expect these people to change their political stripes, since they are way too invested in the Yellow administration during which they gained what fame and fortune they have. But if this makes Raissa and Edwin think before they click for just a second, maybe the shaming that they’re getting for being unthinking bigots will have served its purpose.