By Leiron Martija
It has been 100 days since Rodrigo Duterte took power. It has been 100 days of death and decay.
In the span of such a short time, our country has gone straight to the dogs: the poor continue to die in the streets, our diplomatic ties come undone, and feckless thugs continue to occupy crucial posts in government. Our Senate is in disarray, caught up in its lecherous and distasteful crucifixion of the one opposing voice of a female senator. Our House of Representatives, this congress of baboons, surrenders its mandate and power to a Justice Secretary who intervenes in what ought to be a legislative hearing, perhaps it is because they know nothing of representation, and think only in political doggie treats. Our Judiciary scrambles to afford our countrymen due process in a day and age when it has turned into a bad word, a day and age when the value and sanctity of human rights is now up for debate. In this government’s so-called campaign against drugs, it has killed other things with it—the value of truth, the sanctity of life, the importance of human rights.
How dare Duterte claim that “change is coming,” as his slogan promises, when he stubbornly refuses to change himself? How dare Duterte claim he is a people’s man, that he cares for the poor, when millions of taxpayers’ pesos go to his Manila-to-Davao commute, the logistical effort of shuttling his entire administration across the islands, only to show that he is some gung-ho “man of his word?” Tyranny is such sweet sorrow, and the promises of a man who drags public discourse through the gutters with his boorish language has absolutely no ascendancy to keep his word.
And so public debate has shifted. Social media has empowered more people with a voice, and what could have been an opportunity to substantially discuss policy and governance quickly turned into a shouting contest and a noontime variety show: celebrities take center stage as either distractions or electoral candidates, word wars waged in the comments section take a turn for the caustic. Efforts to censor and silence free speech decades ago could never have foreseen that all they needed to do was discredit public discourse by letting everyone speak all at once. Behind this move, a conspiracy of paid internet trolls who constantly stir the pot, who go further and further down the moral and logical fault line in exchange for a quick buck.
Some of us are livid, and we have made that clear enough either online or in real conversations. Some of us insist that politics can and should serve the people, not massacre them. Some of us recognize that no democracy can ever be complete and real without respecting women, respecting indigenous peoples, respecting the poor and unemployed and other minorities. Some of us deplore the piggish behavior of Congressmen, who casually doubt if “slut-shaming” even exists. Some of us are vexed, enraged, disappointed when Duterte tells Obama to “go to hell,” when he tells the United Nations to “fuck off,” or even when he will literally appoint anyone or anything to key government positions: after all, he’s considered Teddy Boy Locsin as ambassador to the UN when the reprobate is an aging petty bourgeois joke. Arnell Ignacio to PAGCOR, cronies of the Arroyo administration back in power, and the terrible jokes keep getting appointed and this government keeps on spinning.
It has only been 100 days, and it is clear change will not come from this government. If there is any change, it has mostly turned for the worst. This leader, this government, is uncomfortable with the idea of public accountability because in the four decades he has run Davao, he was never beholden to anyone but himself. This leader chafes at the reports of the press because they print and publish exactly what he says (but bizarrely allows them to do their job afterward). The Communications office insists that the citizens are ignorant, that there are verbal angles either acute or obtuse that are missed whenever the president opens his filthy trap. But the bureaucracy can contort itself all it wants. The government is lying, and when it lies, speaking truth to power becomes an act of revolution.
[pull_quote]The youth must step up and make it clear that the buck stops here. Trolls will have a dozen words and ways to spew their vitriol—to call the new and emerging voices “bias,” “bayaran,” and “yellowtard.” Changing discourse means empowering the truth once more, and to do that it means we must answer back and call these animals what they are: “liars,” “hypocrites,” and “unqualified.”[/pull_quote]
I do not expect the president or his government to change. Not in a hundred more days, not in a hundred more months. I do care about the Filipino youth, because it is our voice and our message that gets lost in all the noise: that enough is enough. Nietzsche once said, “do not fight with monsters, lest ye become monsters.” It is no truer than it is in our politics today. Everyone is angry, everyone is filled with rage, but let the trolls and fanatics of this occult male ego of a president settle for words; the rest of us, the youth, must be moved to action. The youth must write history with our feet, with our hands. Our anger must go beyond indignation, and we must expose the lies and corruption that feeds off our government’s coffers, and pry it out like the tick it is. It is clear that Duterte and his trolls will not change, so it is time for the rest of us to be the change he can’t deliver.
We must question everything this government does—from its anti-political moves like showing a sex video in a legislative hearing, to billions of pesos all appropriated by a rubber stamp Congress, taxpayer’s money which, by its nature cannot be held to accounting. We must pierce this veil of populism and incompetent tyranny, and expose Duterte for the fraud that he really is: a sexist, a misogynist, a patriarch to a political dynasty, a benefactor of pernicious forces that seek to benefit from our country’s diffidence and our democracy’s lethargy.
Now, more than ever, we need to make facts a popular demand. We need to bring politics back to the center, but more importantly we need to speak the truth: that what the Duterte regime calls a “war on drugs” is really a “war on democracy.” That these 100 days have eroded our most sacred rights in its wanton massacre of the poor, while wealthy businessmen get personal meetings with the president, or mayors linked to the drug trade get pardoned. That actors and actresses caught in possession of illegal drugs get due process, while our poor get the bullet in the head. That the Duterte cabinet will have the “best of the best” in their respective fields, but we get the likes of Mark Villar in the public works department, despite his family having conflicting interests because of their housing business.
The youth must step up and make it clear that the buck stops here. Trolls will have a dozen words and ways to spew their vitriol—to call the new and emerging voices “bias,” “bayaran,” and “yellowtard.” Changing discourse means empowering the truth once more, and to do that it means we must answer back and call these animals what they are: “liars,” “hypocrites,” and “unqualified.” Needless to say, they will continue in their impotent rage, but where they scatter, the Filipino youth must come together, to actually discuss policy and solutions to our country’s needs. They can flood all the comments sections all they want, but to everyone and anyone who will listen, let us discuss irrigation in our farm lands, ending contractualization, efficiently managing traffic, and making our country safer for women. And maybe, when the government feels like it, when it’s not busy debating the merits of some shifty sex video or reallocating unaccountable funds to the president’s office, they can join in.
A final word: politics today is frustrating and pointless, often avoided in polite conversation or discarded as hubris. In the end, the greatest burden is on the Filipino youth, for it is our turn to reckon with our country. The brightest ideas to fix our country’s problems won’t come from trapos who have nothing new to offer, but from young women and men who have everything to offer for their country. It will be upon this Filipino youth to live and work and fight for a better tomorrow, a kinder, freer, more prosperous Philippines.
Change is coming, and it won’t start with this tyrant. Change will come, and it will start with us.
Photo from the Philippine Daily Inquirer