THERE will be a point in our political life in the future, when our generation, grown old and weary, will look back, asking ourselves what have we done.
When given the chance to make a change, to rescue our country from the black and white narrative into which the post-EDSA elites have buried us, we seem to have failed. For a country whose main export are people with caring skills, able to endure the distance of family to nurture life both young and the old, or to serve in cruise ships and hotels with a ready smile, we are now deeply immersed in political divisions so polarized that it has metastasized, that there is no more caring and smiles.
Hatred is no longer just an intense feeling reserved only for the yellow Liberals and the diehard Duterte supporters (DDS). It is now internally consuming the DDS themselves.
It is not a pretty sight that the people who are now at the forefront in demonizing and asking for the heads of top officials of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO), particularly Secretary Martin Andanar, Undersecretary Lorraine Marie Badoy, and Philippine Information Agency (PIA) Director Harold Clavite, are the top and vocal social media personalities identified with President Duterte. And following their lead, the toxicity and the vitriol spills over to their loyal followers. The boldness of the discourse, the hatred that is being spewed, and the audacity of the mockery and the slander are cringe-worthy. The skewering of Usec Badoy is the most appalling, as it now borders on misogyny and gendered hate speech.
The political landscape has seen this before. But the combatants were different. The targets of the DDS were prominent figures of the political opposition. The DDS justified the partisan hatred that they felt and unleashed towards the enemies and critics of the President as a necessary weapon to counter what they felt was a determined and organized attempt by the opposition to take him down. Some even considered it as just retribution for the decades when the elites, who form the bulk of the President’s critics, inflicted their own politics of hate on the ordinary citizens. This is precisely why there was a natural alliance that was formed between Duterte supporters and Marcos loyalists, because both came from the sections of our society who were demeaned by the so-called yellow narrative.
The demonization of Marcos became the mold within which the demonization of Duterte took form. Hatred of Martial Law and of the Marcos brand fed into the political opposition’s script as they imaged President Duterte as Marcos’ heir apparent.
And hate begets hate. The ferocity of social media clashes between Duterte loyalists and the opposition supporters is enough to make one wonder what happened to the celebrated Filipino trait of shared self, or “kapwa.” There are people who see the danger this has brought to our collective sense of community, the one that made us endure political and natural crises throughout history. We are beginning to become a society divided by political irrationality.
It didn’t help that the new platform of social media has magnified the virulent spread of discordant and atrocious speech. It is horrifying to watch both anonymous trolls and professionals finding it convenient and easy to threaten people, malign reputations, assassinate characters, and mouth vulgarities.
The only saving grace, perhaps, is that there are also indications that social media narratives are simply magnified islands of rage, where angry men and women who are unable to express their frustrations in real life vent their hatred towards their enemies in social media. It is also possible that what we see in social media is not a complete reflection of reality. The evidence of this, for example, is that many of those who appear to be popular in social media are not faring well in the senatorial surveys. On the other hand, Senators Grace Poe and Nancy Binay, who are both the object of hate campaigns by the Duterte supporters in social media, remain on top.
On the day Mocha Uson resigned from the PCOO, social media erupted in anger. One can see palpable rage, with many making it appear that the swords of war have been unsheathed. It is this single event that has triggered the flow of hatred towards Secretary Andanar, Usec Badoy and Director Clavite who are now being singled out by Mocha supporters and loyalists as the people directly responsible for her resignation. There is an attempt to rationalize the vitriol by painting these three as in fact closet allies of the political opposition, with some resurrecting the issue of Usec Badoy as somebody who voted for Robredo, and of Director Clavite as someone who used to work with Liberal Party politicians. The derisive and derogatory label “dilawan” is now freely used to justify why Duterte supporters are now cannibalizing some from their own ranks.
Yet, among the ordinary people I have talked to, who include my Grab driver, the barber who shaved my head, a Starbucks barista, and a vendor of banana cue, the resignation appeared to be a non-issue, with one even expressing relief.
Thus, it appears that we have two worlds, that of social media, and that of ordinary and real life.
But what is dangerous for the President is that his social media support is now being torn apart, with many of his social media enablers and personalities now engaged in smearing his own people. It is an established fact that social media, even if it may be a simulated world, is still a key platform for enabling the President. Hence, it is problematic when discord rents it asunder. At a time when the political enemies of the President are on a high gear, a divided pro-Duterte social media base cannot be good news.
Some people would like to paint the President’s ascendance to his office as something that approximates a revolution. In theory, revolutions are compromised and the beginning of their collapse ensues when the revolutionaries begin to turn on each other. The vitriol that some DDS are heaping on Andanar, Badoy and Clavite includes demands for their heads to roll, a symbolic call for political guillotines to operate to figuratively cut off their heads because they allegedly betrayed the cause.
If there is one thing the DDS should really think hard about is the heavy price they will all have to pay when they begin devouring their own kind, and the harm this would bring to the President.