On Duterte’s Presidency: An observation of people’s attitudes and manner in pertaining to the president

It’s no secret that I’m staunchly against Duterte being president. I like his stand against drugs and the oligarchy; I just don’t like the way he deals with them. I’m pretty sure there are many other ways to deal with them besides trial by publicity and OBOSEN (ubusin/ killing them all). Not that I’m a yellowtard (Aquino supporter) either. Come to think of it, I’ve never liked any of the presidents, and I don’ think I’ll ever like any president. I don’t trust Philippine politics in general.

Generally, people wouldn’t find anything wrong with that statement had it been, for example, comparing President Aquino with President Arroyo. It is alarming that staunch and illogical Duterte supporters would only see the first sentence in this blog post, threatening you on social media and pulling asinine conclusions that are far removed from your statement. It is not uncommon to find in the comments section of a post that is critical of a certain facet of Duterte’s administration policies people threatening the authors lives as well as the lives of their loved ones. Often, you’ll see comments ranging from “Halatang dilaw (clearly an Aquino supporter)” and “BIAS(ed)!” to “Sana ma-rape ka/ang pamilya/anak mo para malaman mo na tama ang ginagawa ni Digong” (I hope you/your family/your child gets raped so you know that what Duterte’s doing is right). I’m pretty sure that the last one should be enough for someone to be sent to jail, but cyber crime is not the focus of this administration, so no one (in the government) is doing anything about it.

Recently, I’ve had a lecture on culture and how it affects the therapist-client relationship. One point the lecture brought up is the tendency for Filipinos to unquestioningly follow what people in authority say, thinking that those in authority probably know best. While the advent of accessible information has allowed others to take a more proactive role in their health care, there are still those who either don’t use it or can’t use it and choose instead to just do what the doctor/therapist says they should do.

Perhaps there is something there that explains why people are so defensive of the president that being critical about the president would merit one death threats. It is possible that people believe that he should be afforded respect by not airing out criticisms just because he’s in a position of authority. In social media, many say that it doesn’t matter what he does, as long as it works. This may be a reflection of the authority figure knowing what is best for the people.

Compounding the problem is the Filipino trait of taking things too personally. Personally, I have observed that many Filipinos do not take criticism too well. Often, they feel that criticism is an attack on their abilities. Maybe attacking their chosen candidate makes them feel that we are looking down at them because of their choice (i.e. an attack on the president is an attack on my values, beliefs, and who I am as a person), leading them to lash out.

The most alarming factor is our increased dependence/reliance on social media for information. We know we should be wary of false information that could easily be uploaded/posted, and yet many fall victim to the stories found on Facebook. Lately, there seems to be a movement dedicated to revise history, saying that Ferdinand Marcos should be considered a hero and not the villain history has made him out to be. For those who are unfamiliar with Philippine history, that’s like saying that Hitler should be named a hero for the contributions to society he made during his regime. This is coupled by their unwillingness to see reason (ie. being shown credible sources) because it was different from what they were told or experienced. You’d hear things like “Sabi ng lolo/lola ko, masarap ang buhay noong panahon ng Martial Law. Tahimik, may trabaho. Yung mga pinapatay ay ang mga aktibista.” (According to my grandparents, life was good under martial law. Quiet, jobs were available. The only people being killed were the activists.) The threat of historical revisionism doesn’t directly tie in with the Duterte administration, but some have pointed out that this is eerily similar to what Marcos did during the early days of his administration before declaring martial law.

It is our responsibility, as Filipino citizens, to act as a sort of check-and-balances for the government. We are, after all, the people who put them in power, making us more powerful than they are. Airing out our criticisms is one way of telling the government that we are dissatisfied with what they are doing and that they should change it. Without critics voicing out their opinions, how else would the government know that we don’t agree with their actions? We should view our authority figures, with respect instead of blind reverence. We need to be able to accept criticism for what they are- point for improvement. We need to be discerning of the information that we see and believe only the sources that are credible (hello, hierarchy of evidence!). Lastly, we should never be afraid to voice out our dissent (who else would keep our government officials from having huge egos?).

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