Why political debate in the Philippines is dead

Back in 2008 when I was conscripted by Nick Cugtas, then “Editor-not-Chief” of the now-defunct pioneering blog site, Filipino Voices (FV) to contribute to his “wisdom of crowds” project, the Philippine blogosphere was far more dynamic and diverse. Twitter was not yet the in thing back then and, as such, the dumbing-down effect of having to “debate” over 140-character snippets that spend all of 5 minutes in the part of a scrolling “timeline” visible on a screen was yet to infect the Philippine “intelligentsia”. So blog posts were the primary currency of articulate and structured ideas exchange at the time.

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Leading the pack from the earliest days (perhaps starting as far back as the mid- to late-1990s) was The Noted One, the venerable Manuel L Quezon III. His blog Quezon.ph was the go-to blog at the time, but surrounding him were real heavyweights, Connie Veneracion’s Sassy Lawyer, the PCIJ Blog directly led at the time by Sheila Coronel and the late great Alecks Pabico, and the alluring Rom Sedona on Smoke Talk.

By 2008, when FV went online, the golden age of Philippine blogging was about to go into full swing. Another collective blog, Edwin Jamora’s (a.k.a. Reyna Elena) BarrioSiete had also sprung up adding more fire from an even more “diverse” group.

Another noted blogger Angela Stuart Santiago took stock of the brewing blogo-storm at the dawn of this golden age in her June 2008 piece Battle of the Blogs. By 2012, however, she was already writing about the end of that two-year golden age in her retrospective 2012 piece Blogging in the Wind. The wasteland that was the Philippine blogosphere of 2010 she described as an abject discrediting of Nick’s “wisdom of the crowd” vision for FV. “FV had lost its appeal long before that. The ‘wisdom of the crowd’ never quite showed up; it was impossible to tell who was winning, if any, what argument,” wrote Stuart-Santiago; “and then cory died, FV turned yellow, and then died, too.” The same happened to Jamora’s Barrio Siete. After turning yellow and supporting the candidacy of Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III in the 2010 elections, it eventually disintegrated as well.

What Stuart-Santiago also wrote describing the blogging landscape in 2012 may as well describe the landscape today in 2015, three years hence…

this is all to say how silent, if not kind, the blogosphere is these days, in contrast to the arroyo years. you would think that there’s nothing to question, nothing to criticize, the aquino administration is doing a great job. but since it’s not true, in fact little has changed so far, i figure that most bloggers choose to give the president the benefit of the doubt until, well, who knows, until his term ends? meanwhile, radikalchick and i get a lot of brickbats about being negative, we must be anti-pinoy daw because we have little good to say about the presidency of cory’s and ninoy’s son, and why daw are we not practising journalistic ethics, as in, presenting both sides of an issue, rather than being so critical.

I’ll offer a theory as to why things are “quiet” nowadays in the Philippine blogosphere. But first let us get two obvious major contributing factors to that silence out of the way:

(1) the disappearance of The Noted One, Manuel L Quezon III into the intellectual black hole that is the government of President BS Aquino; and,

(2) as mentioned earlier, the advent of social media which turned formerly serious article writers into cluckety 140-character noise makers.

Outside of those two factors, for me, the real reason the Philippine blogosphere has gone silent as far as real “debate” goes is because the “good guys” are in power. So effective was the 25-year ad campaign to deeply-ingrain the “goodness” of the Yellow brand of the Aquino-Cojuangco clan in the Filipino psyche that criticising top scion BS Aquino today gives people the same heeby-jeebies as, say, cracking Jesus Christ jokes. The beholdenness to the Tarlac saints is virtually religious-fundamentalist in its fervour.

Every now and then, a little boy would apply a child-like innocence to call out the nakedness of Emperor Noynoy Aquino. Unfortunately most people choose to believe that the Emperor is simply wearing clothes made of threads invisible to fools. This mass hypnosis continues today. And a lot of people prefer not to see a world outside of this delusion much the same way the simulated world of The Matrix proved comfier to the half-brained majority of what was left of the human race in that 1999 Wachowski Bothers sci-fi classic film.

To be fair, it is hard to get through to people who to their dying breath fancy themselves a “special” people who hold a monopoly on “goodness” and, whenever said goodness was challenged, would quickly whip out their ace victim card.

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28 Comments on “Why political debate in the Philippines is dead”

  1. Is it dead?

    GRP na kasi ang socio/political blog na namulatan ko (came across the blog last year. Never found something close to your prowess since. I also read that of Ellen Tordesillas sometimes). I heard of MLQ3 but I didn’t know that he’s the king of local blogosphere. So he’s gone yellow and quiet. And the rest of your “peers”, too. Leaving the country to fall into a hell hole dug by the “good guys”. That’s sad but so what? That doesn’t stop GRP to continue to carry out a political debate when you fight what they missed. Don’t you have 90K followers and counting? A hundred shares and flooding of different opinions everyday on your social network? I don’t know what’s in FV but if there’s a scarcity of public-minded and knowledgeable people nowadays, important issues still get a spotlight because blogs like GRP didn’t go with the flow. And that spoil the party for the “good guys”.

    1. Thanks. I suddenly realised I was writing about stuff that transpired almost 8 years ago. The landscape then would’ve been totally alien to you guys who have only recently started following blogs like ours.

      You’re right, though. Perhaps the debate is still there, except that there is a lot more noise now to sift through to get to the truly substantial stuff. Hopefully we will continue helping our audience achieve that even as we count on you guys to keep us honest with your frank comments here!

      1. Debate is ongoing except that there is lesser of the free-for-all mix ups like that of FV. Blogs have undergone purification. Like minds congregate; if you do not share the view, you get booed out. Like, you have gone exclusive here and rarely heard of in other blogs unlike the old days when you famously gatecrashed practically all political blogs. Joeam after you banned him, went on to build his own, so now he has a blog with a following which mostly shares his opinions. I used to go there for the excitement of opposing his views, then got banned myself LOL.

      2. Actually, I never banned Joe America. I issued him notice modelled after this administrative action template sent to another commentor exhibiting the same behaviour here. After that he never showed up again. Guess he couldn’t step up to that simple challenge — though one could argue he actually did and put up his own site.

        Takes an American to step up to such challenges. The other Pinoy-run sites are pretty much toast — a reflection of that bankruptcy of imagination Pinoys renownedly suffer from. Not surprising of course. Pinoy nga naman talaga e.

        Yeah, you described my salesmanship days back when GRP was not, as yet, the go-to blog site on Pinoy politics. Now we are. So like all else, we evolved. Nowadays, like Chuck Norris, we no longer seek. We simply publish and wait. 😉

        1. Yeah, publish and wait. Which is why the big debates you are pining for are gone. The big guns of the other side will probably drop by but will not leave a footprint to show they came. Same with you. When was the last time you were in a debate so engaging, benign O? Certainly not here. Man, I miss the old you: irreverent and cocky but sharp. Now, you are somewhat dull, dulled by all the waiting I guess hahaha!

        2. Thanks. I liked my old self too, but I like my current self better. It’s called growing up. The young chicks may dig the young galloping stallion but the more mature, more sober folk have the bigger bucks.

          And so that’s where we’re headed. You wanna move forward? You gotta choose your battles – which means you cannot engage every bozo that rubs you the wrong way. When your gig become bigger and touches more people, the operational dynamics change. Indeed, some of the members of GRP who failed to evolve in the right direction had to go their separate ways.

          I would have thought a new generation of those cocky and irreverent people you like would fill the void we left when we grew out of our adolescence as a media outfit. Interestingly enough none stepped up. Could it be because of the encroachment of social media in the already deficited attention span of today’s youth? Perhaps. But I think it is more because GRP remains THE foremost edgiest blog on the Philippine “citizen media” scene even in maturity.

          We simply get better with age. And that’s the way it’s done. Get better with age rather than regress like all the rest of them.

          Cocky enough for you? 😉

    2. who the fuck is joe america, i cannot see my post
      Probably it is only intended for pople who make believe on daang matuwad…I want to see pnoy in front of firing squad with trillanes will order
      “puwego”on espionage and treason

  2. First, we Bloggers (commenters) are mostly not Journalists. I, myself don’t know , anything about Journalism. “Filipino Voices”, was where, I started blogging, until it supported the candidacy of Benigno Aquino III, for Presidency.

    I believe, that Blog Websites, should be a “Forum”, where all people of :political beliefs; religious beliefs;people without any beliefs; people with various agendas; people who can contribute their knowledge; people who can also contribute their ignorance; people who write with sense/nonsense; YellowTards; any stripe of being mentally retarded, etc…can present what they can present to other bloggers…it is the reader who has the decision to agree or not to agree, with the commenter or writer. So, anybody can present their rebuttal,to what is written. Some Bloggers use their true names. Some use their “Pen Name”. Whatever makes you comfortable, do it…

    If the Web Blog take sides for any political ideology , political party, or any politician. It has lost its sense , already.

    It is a site where, we can interact,gain knowledge, inform and learn from each other. Or, being manipulated mentally…if you are Too Dumb, not to sense it…It is a site, to better ourselves; our mind; our society and our country , as a whole…Happy Blogging!!!

  3. What’s that saying? That timing is a bitch, or when it’s too good to be coincidence, it probably isn’t? I say that because that opening of FV and seeming escalation of “debate” online was at around the same time Arroyo was ending her term. It was like they were setting up for it – a gathering of shills. Then Cory Aquino died. Bam. Setting up the Aquino son on the blogs seemed to be the accidental element, but they were already set up to prop someone. That was around the time I hooked up with the Get Real Gang, since I found people who held the same observation is mine: that the things Filipinos tend to hold dearly and as part of their culture are among the things that cause the problems, and yet Filipinos deny them.

    So Aquino won, the polarization of pro-Yellows on FV happened and there, debate was gone. The obvious explanation, they were absorbed into the Yellow Propaganda machine. The Noted One, Reyna Elena and all those, they turned out to be Yellow loyalists. They gave in to the very dysfunctions we at GRP keep on harping about. And so, GRP is among the voices keeping true freedom of speech and online debate alive. Because we are not owned by any propaganda machine, we are our own.

  4. “Why political debate in the Philippines is dead” –

    Let me see… among the people I am with with everyday…

    1) They’re busy with their work and livelihood that politics is just another buzz in the media which is understandable;

    but what I seem cannot forgive are:

    2) A few of them are content with what the media is feeding them.

    Example: They are angry because China has occupied a portion of territory in the South China Sea. Ask them how big, they don’t know; what is the basis of China’s claim, they don’t know. They’ll just say it’s baseless. Ask them what is our basis, they’ll just say its ours because that is what is reported in the news (we should defend what is ours! Filipino pride, yeah!!). That’s it. End of debate. Ask them what is the update in UNCLOS, they’ll just walk away.

    3) They seem to be hypnotized by the cheap and crappy TV shows daily that they don’t know what’s going on around them.

    I’m sure that a good portion of the people in my barangay knows who has been evicted in the PBB house but I’m not sure how many of them knows or heard that Iran had finally reached a deal with P5+1 which earlier PM Netanyahu expressed his opposition against it. Ask them “will this affect us?” A few of them will answer but ask them to explain their answer, they’ll just smile with a blank face. Sorry to say, a few of them doesn’t even know where (or what) Iran is.

    My point is I cannot any more hear or experience a good political debate or chat among the people I am always with everyday because their minds are elsewhere. They sometimes try to talk about national issues but their opinions are armed with – “e di wow!””ikaw na ang magaling!” “arte mo bakit di ka mag-abogado!”

    Two Filipino recognized heroes said “ang kabataan ay ang pag-asa ng bayan” and the other said “the Filipinos are worth dying for.” For the first, I hope he’s right, the other – can we review that?

    1. Unfortunately, the regular Filipino mind is heavily brainwashed thanks to a combination of both culture and limited media choices that the rest follow. Despite the internet being there.

      The only thing that can happen now is nature taking its course. The Philippines is one giant Darwin awards ceremony waiting to happen.

    2. Nice observation Vincent

      I have to admit, I’m guilty also of those you describe:
      -Busy @work & livelihood
      -Never mind politics
      -Believe media 100%
      -Brainwashed/hypnotized

      Until Typhoon Ondoy almost killed me and my family, I started to question, be concern and pay more attention on what is happening around, surrounding, weather, and Politics, etc.

      I soon realized I need to be involve and because of my technical experience, exposure & profession I started to ask and seek answers to the following:

      1. Why Typhoon Ondoy (2009) suddenly came w/out warning, preparation or advice from government?

      2. Why every year Philippines can’t cope with or find solutions To Climate Change or Disaster Risk Reduction?

      In my years of research & study I finally concluded the only solution is Good & Responsible Governance.

      Sometimes people just need a wake-up call to start to care, to question, be aware or observe, and participate in Nation Building and helping each other.

      1. Thank you and thank you too benign0 for posting this as featured comment. I hope that someday I could write for GRP if you’ll let me.

        Dale, sometimes one needs to experience a disaster first hand to fully understand its magnitude and learn from it. There are those that are lucky enough that they realize the seriousness of a situation by merely watching it or hearing others’ experiences and prepare for it.

        For most Filipinos, I noticed that to them debate is what they’re seeing in shows like Face-to-Face. A show that features people exposing their family qualms and other problems on TV to the delight of the audience especially if it turns physical.

        I met a few foreigners who told me that the problem with “Filipino pride” is that a few Filipinos are willing to stand up to the podium, seemed fired up and ready to crush the other side with his well-informed opinion but disappointingly he will just attack the character of his opponent. Others will resort to, “you wait til my educated friends get here!”

        sigh…

  5. Is there any point in public/private debate in Failippines society where hardly any Failipino has been taught how to think, while millions have been taught what to think?

    At first, they’ll only dislike what you say, but the more correct you start sounding the more they’ll dislike you. Don’t raise your voice, improve your argument.

    It is better to debate a question without settling it than to settle a question without debating it. If you’ve got the truth you can demonstrate it. Talking doesn’t prove it.

    The clash of ideas is not weakness. Truth reaches its place when tussling with error. In all debates, let truth be thy aim, not victory, or an unjust interest.

    The most important tactic in an argument next to being right is to leave an escape hatch for your opponent so that he can gracefully swing over to your side without an embarrassing loss of face.

  6. If George Orwell were alive today, he’d be dumbfounded by the different kind of tyranny the Philippines suffers under.

    The Filipino is not trapped in any kind of physical prison. Its a mental one cultivated by the ones in power. As the “masa” are more than willing to shovel down the “truth” the Philippine government likes to dole out.

  7. Does the majority of Filipinos even know what the correct meaning of a debate is? Alam lang ng mga nasa kanto pag sinabing debate away gamit ang mga salita.

    Nakakainis na nakakalungkot.

  8. Theres an American living somewhere in the Visayas who writes about the Philippines. The crowd there is quite yellow.

  9. benign0, how do I start my own topic here and post ?
    I need to vent before I explode living here in the Philippines !

    DRIVING IN THE PHILIPPINES: HOW THE DRIVING HABITS OF THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES REPRESENT THE OVER ALL PROBLEM OF WHAT IS WRONG HERE !TO WHAT SEEMS TO BE THE MAJORITY OF FILIPINO DRIVERS:

    I do not say this with prejudice….I would say it to any race , white, black , brown, Purple who treat their country like the Filipino’s do in the Philippines: YOU DON’T DESERVE TO LIVE IN THE PARADISE YOU LIVE IN! You throw garbage everywhere, you use your public streets as toilets, you treat people who come and live here and spend their hard earned dollars as outsiders. You have no respect for anyone in your driving habits, you have no respect for pedestrians, be they pregnant women, old men and woman, school children or just the average citizen. Don’t ever point your fingers at me and say I am a boastful American. My wife is Filipino..my child is half Filipino…I live among you everyday, and quite frankly, it is not making me a better person. I take better care of your country than you do ….I use trash cans, I use the CR and not the streets, I try to stop for pedestrians and use proper and safe driving habits but YOU are turning me into the same kind of driver YOU are because if I try to drive like a decent person, I get horned and given dirty looks, passed on the right and left because YOU are self serving and in a hurry and don’t have any respect for your fellow drivers …..And sadly , now I won’t even stop to help someone hurt in an accident , laying in the street , even though I have 20 years of medical experience because you place MY life and My Family’s life in danger by your stupid , asinine, selfish attitudes…. There, I said it ! Maybe now I can go out and drive tomorrow with a fresh attitude !

    1. Well said Mr. Beene!

      Everything you said about the driving and whole traffic chaos in this country is spot-on!

      I’ve been saying this for ages: when there’s no LAW ENFORCEMENT, there will be anarchy! There’s no civil law enforcement – disposing trash properly or men peeing against walls out in the open in sight of everyone with no consequence. There’s no traffic law enforcement like name it – everything from the drivers to pedestrians violating every law you can think of! Jaywalking? Check. Speeding? Check. Illegal lane change? Driving on the shoulder? Tailgaiting? Two cars occupying one lane? No stopping at blind intersections? And on and on and on! And please, this short list has only to do with passenger vehicles! The list for those pain-in-the-ass, pesky motorcycle drivers is even longer!

      Bottom line is law enforcement. When (and IF – big IF) the time comes where, like in developed countries with more civil societies such as the US or Europe, LAW ENFORCEMENT DOES THEIR JOB, this cluster-*uck, idiotic chaos known as driving and traffic will improve. Otherwise 20 years from now, it’ll all be the same if not worse!

      1. Also well said , Not Tony B! Last week late at night we went to MCDonalds…I parked at the Park, got out to open th edoor for my wife and there is a PNP Patrolman standing behing the jeep next to me taking a piss ! Not a private jeep, a PNP jeep ! If it wasn’t so ridiculous I would be furious, but it just proves the point…no one respects the police here and there is a reason why…. they represent the “City of Keystone” where law enforcement makes you laugh ! Sad , but oh so true …….

  10. Simply put, the political debate during the time Benign0 mentioned was contrived, and those who are really doing meaningful debate (like us) are pushed to the sides or are on the receiving end of mudslinging. So it’s a hard fight of sorts, but we keep at it.

    1. It depends on the technology yet to come I suppose. But then you see that there still are people who write — even on the Yellow side as PNoy pointed out at the end of this year’s SONA. 😉

    1. Regardless of who will be the new president. MLQ3 can no longer be seen as an objective party providing insight to the political scene from an outsider’s perspective. It’ll be possible for him to reconfigure himself but it’ll be an upward climb. He was reduced to being a mere mouthpiece for six years — a big degeneration from the lofty place in the blogging food chain he once held.

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