THE ART OF CONDITIONING THE FILIPINOS’ MINDS

Rodrigo Duterte’s entry into the national political arena, and his eventual ascension to the presidency, opened the floodgates to numerous powerful assertions that changed, and are still changing, the way most Filipinos view and accept things. His repeated public pronouncements on various issues have managed to condition our minds to abandon some deeply entrenched values and beliefs to accommodate his largely unconventional and radical ideas and views. The questions thus currently burning a hole in our minds are these: “When his term ends, can the Filipinos’ minds be unconditioned or reconditioned to how they used to be? Or would we even want that to happen?”

The following are Duterte’s claims and proclamations that many of his supporters are gobbling up—greedily, naively, insatiably.

 

The country seriously needs change, and it can only be acquired through Duterte.

An assertion that the Duterte camp successfully used to anchor their campaign platform on was the country’s supposed need for a drastic change.

Then presidential candidate Duterte capitalized on the collective frustration, hopelessness, and pent-up anger of many Filipinos over the previous administrations’ alleged ineptitude and lack of compassion for the most marginalized members of our society. He managed to convince the electorate that the country was suffering because it had been governed, for the longest time, by the wealthy oligarchs and traditional politicians whose only interests were to protect their wealth and other personal agenda. He was able to manipulate us into thinking that he was one of the disadvantaged masses, one of the ordinaryong Pilipino, and that he was our last hope – our Messiah – to that ever-elusive change.

As much as I don’t want to come off as the previous administration’s mouthpiece, much less its apologist, but history would tell us that President Aquino is largely credited for stabilizing our economy when most in the region was stumbling or falling apart. (President Duterte himself admitted that there was no need to fix the country’s economy left by PNoy because it was doing well.) PNoy even enjoyed a 57% satisfaction rating days before he vacated Malacañang – the highest among the ratings of all the post-Martial Law presidents.

Even the die-hard LP supporters have to admit though that, like the other presidents before him, PNoy had his shortcomings and lapses in judgment, some with graver consequences than others. But I would like to believe that the man served his country the best way he knew how. He just needed a few more years to allow the people to fully enjoy the proverbial fruits of his labor, thus, his appeal for continuity.

But, no, we couldn’t give him that.

How could we when we were already conditioned to clamor for change? We were made to believe that waiting did not have to be an option when someone else could very well make our lives better in an instant. Yes, we, the most gullible of the lot, fell for all those promises of quick results – hook, line and sinker. It didn’t matter one iota that most of those promises were ludicrous, outrageous, unrealistic, or ill-thought-out, as proven by the developments and changes that have already taken place under Duterte’s administration.  (Read Change Has Truly Come Sa Bayan Ni Juan.)

 

The country is plunging into narco-statehood.

I am sick and tired of hearing President Duterte’s repeated assertions that the Philippines is on the verge of becoming a narco state. He used that claim during the campaign, and won the presidency primarily because of his bold promise to eradicate drugs, along with corruption and criminality, in just 3-6 months after he assumes office. Now, already on his 12th month and with more than 12,000 drug-related casualties, he continues to feed us with the same statement during his public tirades and rants…as if he also needs to constantly convince himself of its veracity.

But, how serious, really, is the drug problem in the country?

Based on the 2015 nationwide survey on the Nature and Extent of Drug Abuse in the Philippine, as commissioned by the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB), drug use incidence from Jan 1, 2015 – Feb 5, 2016 is at an estimated 1.8 million, or 1.8% of that year’s total population.

I am not, in any way, trying to discount or even downplay this number or its possible social and criminal repercussions, but this figure is hardly tantamount to an epidemic – especially considering the facts that it was significantly lower than the recorded 6.7 million users in the country in 2004 (the year with the highest recorded number of drug users) and the 5.2% global average of drug use in 2014.

So where did the President get his figure of 4 million “drug addicts,” you ask?

According to the same survey, the lifetime drug use prevalence in the country is at around 6.1%. Simply translated, this means that the number of Filipinos who have used illegal drugs at least once in their lives is 4.8 million. President Duterte might have drawn his 4 million figure from this datum. Or it may be, as the President constantly claims, from ex-PDEA Chief Dionisio Santiago’s old estimate of 3 million —which the former raised to 4 million using a highly complex process called logical deduction that only he was privy to. (Note that the PDEA Chief was one of the 17 members of DDB, hence, his sole source of official data and figures should be the DDB itself.)

Either way, the President’s basis for his 4 million figure is clearly erroneous. Intentional or otherwise, President Duterte based the “bloody” all-out war that the government continues to wage against illegal drugs on an incorrect premise.

 

The country will be better off if we ally ourselves with China (and if we keep our distance from our long-time partners like the US and the EU).

The President has also been conditioning us to believe that China is our country’s ally – a benevolent, reliable and generous one. He wants us to conveniently ignore China’s blatant disregard of the UN arbitral tribunal ruling favoring the Philippines on our maritime dispute with China over the West Philippine Sea. Questioning China’s bullying, territorial-grabbing and subjugating efforts would, for him, reduce us to nothing more than a bunch of ingrates. So, the next time China builds another artificial island on the WPS, undertakes an exploration of Benham Rise, threatens our fishermen anew, questions our DND Secretary’s visit to one of the islands in the WPS, or worse, sends drones and surveillance cameras and targets us with their precision weapons and missiles should we decide to drill oil there, we should just try to look the other way and remind ourselves of all of China’s pledges – a ready market for our exported bananas, an influx of Chinese tourists, a dole-out of investments and loans, and an unlimited supply of illegal drugs. (Read this.)

 

The Catholic Church will soon be passé.

The Philippines is home to the largest Catholic population in Asia, holding the record for being the third largest Catholic country in the world. Under the present administration though, the Church has been the subject of constant attacks, tirades, and condemnation from no less than the President himself. When clergymen and church figures criticize Duterte’s bloody war on drugs, the President readily retaliates by lambasting the church and its leaders, claiming that the Church has no moral ascendancy and is a hypocritical institution that will soon be irrelevant and passé. Once, he even urged Catholics to stop listening to the priests and, instead, join the Iglesia ni Duterte – a religion he would establish that, he claimed, would not be as restrictive as the Catholic Church. In his Iglesia, he added, men can have as many as five wives.

 

The media is the epitome of bias and corruption.

When the President’s controversial and, oftentimes, contradicting statements and pronouncements stir discord, draw flak, or are picked up by the international press, the local media usually bear the brunt of Malacañang’s censure and wrath. The Chief Executive and his henchmen allege the journalists of unfair reporting and of deliberately misinterpreting, misunderstanding, misquoting, twisting, or sensationalizing Duterte’s words. Critics claim that this knee-jerk reaction and behavior could be considered an attempt to discredit or undermine the media. In the face of the most recent expletive-laden attacks and allegations of the President against the media, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility proclaimed that that form of harassment and intimidation “has brought the highest office to a historic low.” It could be recalled that Communications Secretary Andanar, a media practitioner himself, once accused the Senate media of receiving $1,000 each for covering the press conference of self-confessed DDS member, retired SPO3 Arthur Lascañas. Mocha Uson, an ardent supporter of Duterte and, now, a presidential appointee, makes a habit of calling the media outfits that are critical of the president, “presstitutes.” She also makes a habitual call to her millions of online supporters to boycott the country’s traditional, mainstream media. Additionally, when Duterte won the online poll for the Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World, his supporters rejoiced. Malacañang said that it was indicative of the fact that Duterte is “so admired” by Filipinos and international leaders because of his national agenda. However, when his approach against drugs was heavily criticized by a former Colombian President, who was tasked by Time Magazine to pen the write-up on Duterte (while Duterte’s archnemesis, Sen. Leila De Lima, received a glowing write-up from a former US Ambassador), Malacañang was quick to point out that the said magazine has not been fair by choosing to focus on the negative, unsubstantiated news about the President, while failing to mention the reason behind De Lima’s incarceration.

 

Spreading fake news is fine, even for government agencies and entities.

Both the Philippine News Agency and Mocha Uson, as the newly appointed Assistant Secretary for Social Media, are under the competent stewardship of Andanar’s PCOO. Uson has been the source of numerous fake news that Duterte supporters gleefully spread. Apparently, her new government position does not deter her from continuing with her old ways as she recently shared a wrong photo of the Philippine Army on Facebook. PCOO, on its part, was responsible for an animated video promoting Martial Law, while PNA has had its fair share of blunders like its report that 95 nations, in their UN Human Rights Council meeting, were convinced that there are no extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.

 

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The opposition is constantly working to destabilize the government.

Under this administration, opposition is not regarded as a necessary partner in legitimizing our democratic right to dissent, or even in hearing out the voices coming from the proverbial other side of the fence. Instead of directly addressing the issues hurled at them, Duterte and his minions of apologists and defenders are known to malign, intimidate, mock, verbally abuse, humiliate, threaten, persecute and, in Sen. De Lima’s case, jail anyone who holds contrary views and adversarial positions. The United Nations, the European Union, leaders of other nations, human rights advocates, the faith-based groups, and the international and local media – they are all nothing but an unruly bunch working closely with the “dilawan” in hounding and attacking the government, with the sole intent of overthrowing it. Early this year, all the remaining opposition senators were stripped of leadership posts and committee chairmanships while, in the House of Representatives, the solons who voted against the death penalty bill were ousted from their key posts. If this tyrannical condition persists, all the political dissenters under this administration will eventually find themselves cowering in the corner, voiceless and powerless, behind bars or, worse, rotting away six feet under.

 

Slut shaming, catcalling, disrespecting or objectifying women is acceptable.

President Duterte’s sexist, chauvinistic and, to an extent, misogynistic reputation remains intact months after he assumed presidency. More than 16 million voters chose to ignore the offensive “jokes” Duterte constantly delivered during his campaign sorties – jokes about his multiple girlfriends (of which one of them he claims is for his “short-time” use only), their housemaid that he used to molest in her sleep, the Australian missionary raped and brutally killed by a gang of inmates that he thought was a waste because the missionary was so beautiful that he should have been first among those who lined up to rape her, and of Duterte actually giving a couple of his female supporters a liplock. During a press conference shortly after his inauguration, he catcalled a female reporter. (Catcalling, for him, is a compliment if we are to believe his apologist in Malacañang.) During the anniversary of Supertyphoon Yolanda and in front of hundreds of the typhoon’s survivors, he admitted to ogling at VP Leni’s knees during their cabinet meetings.  He also used the rumor of a sex tape to slut-shame Senator De Lima on national TV. In his apparent effort to defend House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez against the issue of womanizing, Duterte said that it simply couldn’t be helped; “There are so many women and so short a time in this world.” Just recently, he made another rape joke in front of our troops fighting in Marawi City. His supporters, meanwhile, believe that Duterte’s behavior towards women is a non-issue. After all, they voted for a president, neither for a priest nor a saint.

 

Government resources can be used freely to pay for personal debts of gratitude.

When the President won, he promised to hire only the “best and the brightest.” The Filipino people deserve only the best, he quipped – “walang palakasan o anumang utang na loob.” Naturally, his supporters gloated. Today, we, the taxpayers, are paying the likes of RJ Jacinto, Arnell Ignacio, Kat De Castro, Aiza Seguerra, Liza Dino, Cesar Montano, and Mocha Uson – not because of their admirable academic backgrounds, competencies, personal attributes, or experience in public service, but because these celebrities happened to support Duterte during his campaign. Duterte himself admitted that those appointments are his way of paying his debt of gratitude to his loyal supporters. His foreign trips are also highly criticized due to countless tag-alongs and free riders (Ex-President Ramos called Duterte’s Russia trip a junket.). With no less than the president openly advocating and practicing patronage in government, worse cases of corruption will inevitably be more prevalent under this administration.

 

Killing/Waging war is the panacea for our country’s many ills.

When the most powerful man in the land promises to kill every drug dealer and user, and promotes killing as the most effective and fastest approach to winning his war on drugs, and when his officials believe that drug addicts are not humans and are thus not entitled to the most basic of human rights, we better be prepared for the inevitable deadly outcomes. Laws and due processes are blatantly disregarded. Human rights are abused and trampled on. The death toll continues to rise at an alarming rate. Bills such as the Death Penalty and the Lowering of the Minimum Age of Criminal Liability are feared to be used for the government’s bloody campaign against drugs. Critics of the war on drugs are cursed, threatened, or persecuted. Law enforcers are emboldened to take the law into their own hands. The root causes of the problems are not duly addressed. Even the issue of China’s illegal and baseless claim on the WPS was reduced by Duterte to an unsavory pick between two choices only: the relinquishment of our sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the disputed waters OR an all-out war against China. Filing a diplomatic protest before an UNCLOS arbitral tribunal is not an option for this administration.

 

Duterte can get away with almost anything because he is a popular President.

Filipinos are known to be a forgiving race, but where the present Commander-in-Chief is concerned, many of us could go as far as being unquestioning and complicit. He curses virtually everyone as much as he wants during presscons and public speeches, and we hardly bat an eyelash. He threatens to kill somebody, and we shrug our shoulders. He slut shames a woman, and we laugh uproariously. He gives the WPS to China on a silver platter, because it is, after all, “theirs historically”, and we feign indifference. He puts people’s reputation and lives in jeopardy by publicly disclosing unverified lists and making unsupported claims, and we rejoice unabashedly. He travels with his friends and supporters using our hard-earned taxes, and we endure with calm acceptance. He rubs elbows with big-time plunderers and oligarchs, and we react with fierce protectiveness. All of these make me wonder: How low a level should the President stoop to before we finally wake from this deep apathy?

 

It’s just a matter of time before the entire Philippines is placed under Martial Law.

In the wake of Ferdinand Marcos’ dreadful years of dictatorship, Filipinos have avoided the possibility of another Martial Law like the plague. A mere mention of it could cause some of us to shiver with fear. But due to Duterte’s constant and seemingly casual reference to it – as a response to CJ Sereno’s alleged interference with his job, to the “sheer magnitude of the drug problem in the country,” to lawless violence after the Davao blast, to a need to “preserve his country,” to the crisis in Mindanao –, many of us have gradually grown desensitized to the idea. Now that he has already declared ML over the entire Mindanao, we should brace ourselves to Duterte’s imminent declaration of expanding it to cover the whole country and, possibly, beyond the constitutionally mandated 60-day period. Especially after announcing that he would ignore the Supreme Court and Congress if they try to meddle with his decision.

 

The erosion of our moral values is no cause for alarm or even concern.

Throwing our all-out support behind a particular leader could actually be commendable, but doing so at the expense of some values, beliefs and principles that are deeply embedded in our culture and psyche is alarming. Go to a link to a Rappler or ABS-CBN’s article about Sen. De Lima or VP Robredo and it would be impossible not to notice how Filipinos today could be indifferent or complacent on one hand, and ruthless, harsh and violent on the other. Bigotry is now at its peak. Comments and remarks laced with malice and virulence are flying around. Vindictiveness has become the name of the game. Integrity, benevolence, diplomacy, and basic respect for others have flown out the window when Duterte and his minions occupied the Malacañang Palace almost a year ago.

 

With six years’ worth of mental conditioning under the present administration, can the Filipinos’ minds be unconditioned or reconditioned to how they used to be when his term eventually ends? Would we even want that to happen?

HE WAS ADVISED. HE JUST NEVER LISTENS.

On their radio program, anchors Anthony Taberna and Gerry Baja said the other day that only those who voted for President Duterte during the last election have the right to criticize him.

Duh! Seryoso ba ang dalawang payaso na ‘to?

Totoo nga that the President was installed into power by more than 16 million voters. Totoo rin that he won with a wide margin of victory over the other candidates. Subalit kahit na ang numerong ito constitutes only 15% of our total population, si Rodrigo Duterte, under our Constitution, ang kinikilala at dapat talagang kilalaning Pangulo ng ating bansa. Ang ibig sabihin, he is the president, not only of his 16M supporters, but of the 102M Filipinos in the country. And, as such, he is accountable to all of us.

If there’s one adjective that would fit President Duterte to a T, it would have to be “unpredictable”. And this unpredictability is what’s landing us to a lot of trouble these past 100 days.

During speeches, no one from the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) has any idea kung ano ang mga sasambitin ng Pangulo o kung kanino nakasentro ang kanyang hard-hitting commentaries and pronouncements. Tulad nating mga pangkaraniwang mamamayan, the PCOO people and the presidential spokespersons are nothing more than engrossed spectators. Nahihimasmasan lamang sila and are galvanized into action once the President is done with his tirades and they need to consolidate all their efforts to, somehow, weaken the adverse impact of Digong’s words.

Paano kamo? Ganito po.

They explain his latest pronouncement as something made in jest or due to the rush of emotion or heat of the moment.

They make his remarks more palatable for public consumption by deodorizing, sanitizing and sterilizing his words. If these do not work, they resort to sugar-coating or twisting.

They interpret his statements to ensure that they will not be misunderstood, misinterpreted, misquoted, taken out of context, or lost in translation.

They make appeals to the media and the public for deeper understanding for the noble motives behind those pronouncements.

They make people understand that those remarks could be adversely affected by the President’s foul mood, other human frailties, or even by the time of day the speech was made.

They introduce and acclimatize the people to Duterte speak and hyperboles, sarcasm and slips of the tongue.

They encourage people to learn the fine arts of reading Digong’s mind and deciphering his every word, and of using their “creative imagination” in interpreting his remarks. Sabi pa nga ni presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella, “Let us not be literal.”

They make swift rebuttals to the criticisms made by the “yellows”, the “bleeding hearts”, and the “hypocrites”.

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The presidential apologists and interpreters. (PCOO Sec. Martin Andanar is not in the picture). Photo credit: professionalheckler.files

Pero sa maraming pagkakataon, all these efforts do not work.

With his dirty mouth and controversial stances, President Duterte has successfully antagonized the United States, the European Union, the United Nations, the Christians all over the world, the Jewish community, the human and women’s rights advocates, the local and international media, the Martial Law victims and their families, and pretty much the international community.

In this age of globalization, I dread the possibility of the Philippines being a hermit kingdom. Apparently, hindi ako nag-iisa. Marami pa rin ang naglalakas-loob na punahin ang Presidente sa kabila ng pag-aalala na sapitin din nila ang naging kapalaran ng mga kritiko ni Pangulong Duterte, kagaya nina Sen. De Lima, CJ Maria Lourdes Sereno, US Pres. Obama, UN special Rapporteur for summary executions Agnes Callamard, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Commission on Human Rights Chairperson Chito Gascon, mga Obispo at kaparian, at marami pang iba. (I am still awaiting kung ano ang mangyayari kina Agot Isidro at Edgar Matobato.)

I read somewhere that in this world of Mocha Usons, we should salute the likes of Agot Isidros who stand up, speak up, and make sure that their voices are heard.

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Photo credit: newsfeed.ph

Here are the pieces of advice from some of the people who, like Agot Isidro, dared.

GMA’s Cabinet Sec. Ignacio Bunye: Please, Mr. President. Immediately renounce your Japanese citizenship. Stop being Rodrigo Nakamura. No more talk about abolishing Congress. No more talk about your dislike for Catholic prelates. And control that dirty finger.

Former Sen. and Diplomat Leticia Ramos-Shahani: We don’t need to make enemies to make new friends and that is the art of diplomacy. So I think, our President, if I may have to say so, has to take a beginner’s course in diplomacy.

Former National Security Adviser Jose Almonte: Based on what is done in the [present administration’s] last 100 days, I say it’s exceptional. [But] If he can make his colorful statements colorless, that’s a big change for me. [Also] The Philippines could remain as friends with our old allies like America, but at the same time, we can be friends with all others including enemies of America. This will be the best policy. Let’s maintain friendship with our allies but work hard to be friends to others.

Archbishop Socrates Villegas: There is virtue in silence. There is virtue in speech. Wisdom is knowing when it is time for silence and when is the timing for speech.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman: The President must avoid outlandish and provocative statements with detrimental consequences. The mouth must be the oracle of discreet and studied statements, not ill-conceived and outrageous utterances.

Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan: As President of our nation, he represents all 100 plus million Filipinos both here and abroad, including myself, my wife, and my children. Thus every time he speaks in public, depending on what he says and how he says it, all of us Filipinos can be affected either positively or negatively. We appeal to the President to exercise greater restraint and to choose his words carefully when he speaks out on various matters now that he is President of the entire nation and no longer just the Mayor of Davao City.

Vice-President Leni Robredo: Marami kaming mga personal na pakiramdam na hindi dapat sinasabi sa publiko dahil sa aming position. Kaya kay President, paalala lang siguro sa kanya na what he says is policy kaya maiging mas maging careful. As far as diplomacy is concerned, baka makakatulong na mas deliberate, mas pinag-iisipan bago nagsasalita.

Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson: What is the point of saying sorry when, in the next vein, magsasalita ka naman ng ika-ka sorry mo? Dapat lesson ‘yan. How many times has he said sorry already? Marami-rami na rin eh.

Sen. Richard “Dick” Gordon: We have to protect the country from bad statements and the President has the duty to be a statesman. He must not be heard saying all [those] bad words.

Maingay ang Pangulo, sobrang ingay ng Pangulo. Tama lang na ipakita niya na galit siya sa droga pero huwag na siyang mag-ingay na ‘I will kill you. Hindi tama ‘yan. Kaya he is falling on his own sword, nadadapa siya sa kanyang espada dahil salita siya ng salita. Napagbibintangan tuloy ang bansa na ‘yan ang nangyayari.

Majority Floor Leader and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas: I would advise the President, huwag na ho kayo magsalita. Magtrabaho na lang kayo. Siguro (he should not speak) until such time he gets to adjust.

Davao Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla: Listen. Listen. Listen. I will tell him, “Digong, God gave us two ears and only one mouth. Which means that we have to listen twice as much as we speak. But it’s the reverse eh. That’s why we are in trouble.

I am worried about him as a friend. I think, he has a problem and we need to help him. He is in the course of self-destruction, without even knowing that he is ruining himself. If he can only listen and not talk too much, earn friends instead of enemies, he can become the greatest President of the Philippines.

[If I get to see Digong] I would say to him that what you are doing now, your mother may not like it. I’ll say also that this is not the Digong I knew.

Senate President Koko Pimentel: I won’t tell him to zip his dirty mouth entirely. He just needs to use it less often. I won’t tell him to eliminate cursing. Maybe just don’t do it 100 times. Be yourself, but everything in moderation.

Former President Fidel V. Ramos: I find our Team Philippines losing in the first 100 days of Duterte’s administration – and losing badly. This is a huge disappointment and let-down to many of us. Are we throwing away decades of military partnership, tactical proficiency, compatible weaponry, predictable logistics, and soldier-to-soldier camaraderie just like that? Ours is not to heap more brickbats on Pres. Duterte – because he has had more than enough already – but to help enable him to transform (thru his own efforts) from a mere provincial official to a capable international player at the head of 101 million multi-cultured Filipinos.

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Photo credit: eaglenews.ph

Ang sabi ng Malacañang, hindi raw bingi ang Presidente sa payo ng kanyang mga kaalyado. Subalit, bakit ganun? Matapos ang pagpuna sa kanya ni Sen. Gordon, ito  ang kanyang naging pahayag. “You say that my mouth is not for a statesman, whoever told you I was applying for a statesman?

Hay naku, bayan. Saan ka igigiya ni Pangulong Duterte?

He was advised – many times.

He just never listens.