The middleground between Dutertard and Yellowtard ‘bloggers’ needs to be filled by REAL pundits

Many see the Philippines today as hopelessly polarised with the “die-hard Duterte supporters” (DDS, a.k.a. the “Dutertartds”) on one side and the old “Yellow” cliques loyal to the cult of personality of the Liberal Party (LP, a.k.a. the “Yellowtards”) on the other. The Yellowtards were, since their colossal loss in the 2016 elections, easily-characterised as an obsolete political faction in its dying throes but, by no means going away quietly as evident in the trite noise it contributes to the national “debate”. The Dutertards, on the other hand, were the up-and-coming “new breed” of influencers who seemingly expertly wielded the modern tools of the trade crafting punchy Intenet memes, sustaining statistically-impressive “engagement” scores on social media, and pushing out edgy “blog” articles over various channels.

For the most part it was, at least as far as our narrowly-curated timelines would reveal, a troll “war” between both camps, each side accusing the other of “weaponising” the Net and burying the “truth” underneath a mantle of mass-produced sound bytes meant more to sow confusion than add clarity to the discourse. But the narrative that had been sustained for a while, that of two unified camps that dominated the Philippines’ bipolar discourse, seems to be evolving. The monolithic character of the DDS has seen some fraying at the edges lately which, following a tell-all video released by Bruce Rivera (erstwhile part of the “solid” DDS inner-circle) that pretty much lay the group’s dirty laundry out for all to gawk at, now seems more like an understatement.

The pedestrian cliques of the Yellowtard side, for their part, have remained consistent to their shallow, primitive, and monomanic style of discourse despite an underworld network of slapstick blogs and shadowy Google AdSense money trails being laid bare under the harsh light of DDS “investigative” blogging. At the upper crusts of the Yellowtard camp, chi chi mainstream “journalists” have maintained their ideological umbilical cord to Western liberalism and even strengthened this bond having all but invited generous commentary on today’s “killings” from their European and American counterparts. Evidently, the strategy involves tapping into stubborn vestiges of Filipinos’ renowned colonial mentality to accord automatic social ascendancy and credibility to these foreign Western voices.

This, interestingly enough, is not much different from pro-administration bloggers and “influencers”. Although “Dutertard” bloggers provide a fresh and innovative perspective to the discourse that contrasts with the Yellowtards’ voodoo primitivism, there remains in the DDS’s approach the same “credibility” built upon cult-of-personality. And just like the “influence” wielded by the Yellowtards during their heyday, the key DDS influencers’ work in punditry and social media is entangled in a conflict-of-interest owing to their being employed or contracted as officials or “consultants” by Malacanang.

As the discourse gets increasingly polarised with both sides digging themselves increasingly deeper into an unproductive trench warfare wherein each side shells and snipes at the other from a distance rather than engage in close-contact combat, the landscape is once again left wide-open for true and independent punditry. The key here is for these true and independendent pundits to elevate themselves above the stalemated trench warfare being waged by the Dutertards and the Yellowtards and way above the intellectually-bankrupt arguments of choice such as “Why should I listent to you, you’re a […]-tard?”

True pundits should focus less on polarising the debate and more on clarifying stuff — clarify the issues, clearly-define the problem, evaluate options, and recommend clear pathways. When there is an increase in focus on clarity, we can expect an increase in focus of inclusiveness in the discourse. At the moment, there is none of this sort that can be seen in the way the Yellowtards and Dutertards conduct themselves. Indeed, the division they are causing is not just between the two camps but, as evident in the Rivera and Cocoy Dayao episodes, also within their respective camps.

The patterns are becoming quite evident. On the Yellowtard side, its honchos have, as presumptive leaders of the Opposition, failed to unify this Opposition around a common ideology or strategic direction. On the Dutertard side, a once-monolithic unity surrounding Duterte’s cult of personality is beginning to unravel and is starting to make the DDS brand look more like a house of cards rather than the formidable edifice it once came across as. Across all that is the general erosion of the blanket trust the public once blindly-accorded mainstream news media and the celebrity “journalists” that fronted the industry.

Seeing all this, it is evident that Filipinos in general haven’t really yet become the independent-minded and skilled thinkers that are essential for a society to thrive in a full embrace of Western liberal democractic ideology. The lip service paid to “equality”, “people power”, and “rule of law” serve well as fodder for the cocktail and latte-sipping classes’ pretentious conversations in their quaint soirées but, unfortunately, these lofty concepts break down in the broader Philippine setting where beholdenness to personalities rather than ideas is more the rule.

To be free and responsible in the use of democratic “freedom” requires intelligence and foresight. The latter is important because the ability to think several steps ahead and visualise the different scenarios that could branch out over that horizon is key to making the right decisions. Also as important is framing the problem properly. Not surprising, therefore, is the reality that faces us; that the Philippines is basically a society that is the result of the wrong solutions being implemented on the back of ill-defined problems.

In such a society, one would be better off cautious about espousing too much “freedom” on the assumption that people to whom this will be afforded will apply enough personal accountability to wield it well. That’s the Philippines in a nutshell, basically. It is a society begging for a dictatorship but fatally-convinced it is entitled to enjoy liberal Western democracy. Note that this is a strong unifying premise that describes the current bipolar condition of the Philippine national “debate” — the Dutertards begging for a dictatorship opposed by the Yellowtards who are convinced of Filipinos’ entitlement to “democracy”. The challenge is to discover what lies between.

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7 Comments on “The middleground between Dutertard and Yellowtard ‘bloggers’ needs to be filled by REAL pundits”

  1. It’s impossible now, the Philippines is just a collection of tribes that was handed a joke of a “Democratic” Government and told to practice “Democracy”, “Human Rights”. and “Equality” that they didn’t earn, create, or have a functioning infrastructure that can support it or even a culture that is compatible with it. Guess what, we might be called Asia’s first and only Christian country, but we’re corrupt to the core with old habits that never die. We might have anti-gun laws, but we still have plenty of violence, murders, rape, and killings that have been a staple even before Duterte’s administration. Even I’m beginning to think it’s due to our genes that we do not have the intelligence required to even acknowledge that the problem is within the culture and it’s people, even before the Spanish came the natives were practicing tribal warfare and they were divided enough to not notice the foreign invaders, it’s the same with today’s politics, with the modern vitriolic and partisan bloggers play divide and conquer with each other and rules and code of conduct does not apply, or even the consequences of their respective “opinions”. And lastly, there’s this choice, a single-ruling Government that can implement and sustain unity, protection of all citizens, and eradication of all the ills in society along with the criminals, corrupt, rebels and terrorists, a proper and efficient bureaucracy, maybe create a culture that defines itself on the whole instead of the tribe, but this can lead into problems of a dictatorship that destroys all of its enemies and create a new breed of corruption if there isn’t a policing of it’s ranks with the fall of standards and morals. Then you get the Utopian and naive Liberal Democracy advocates that practice like what you wrote, lip-service but having no real solution other than supporting the status-quo with slogans and hopeful promises, who cares about how corrupt and inefficient the Government can be? your international friends from other Liberal Democracies praise you for following their ideology and the dictates of a One World Government, everyone is equal, but some are more equal to others. All in all, everything is not Black and White, even I have to realize that some Filipinos demand an end to poverty, but can’t solve the problem of productivity and contribution of a single citizen to the whole or that when workers demand a raise in their pay yet continue to have a terrible work ethic, can’t save their money, but would rather support their vices which is a perpetual mindset of poverty. Even I have to criticize that the Government should have made more efforts to clean up the ranks of the Police Force first, because a corrupt clique of Policemen will always tarnish the uniforms of all the rest. 6 years is not enough to change a broken culture and system like ours, and there’s always the temptation to go all in with a “Benevolent Dictatorship” to finally fix everything.

    1. Democracy is an expensive system of government that requires a robust institutional and social foundation to withstand the frequent disruptions that its periodic elections cause. As such, it had a double whammy effect on Philippine society, the expense the country can ill-afford and the adverse outcomes of too much power given to a largely uninformed and non-thinking electorate.

      1. It’s why a majority of former colonies likes ours are dysfunctional democracies, South America, Africa, Middle-East, and Asia, pretty much running on fumes and some duck tape. And largely uninformed and non-thinking electorate can be handed down to also the poverty problem, can’t afford to go school and have to work longer hours without the time to even properly participate on the democratic process, that leaves the average Mang Juan to liste n and believe his electoral representative or a political party or even a popular figure to have his best interest in heart, why a majority of elections are flavor of the month issues or name-calling propaganda with “He’s more corrupt than we are! vote for us!” and it’s an unending cycle unless we have people to work with each other and solve it, which is also impossible because in Democracies, power is diluted within the branches of Government and the Politicians and Groups who each have their own agenda, like the last administration only focused on their political enemies and having good PR.

  2. DRAFT, inviting comments

    PH Enigma: Chewing the Cud
    © Niels Mulder 2017

    In his Commentary column, Oscar P. Lagman Jr. reflects on the most remarkable non-event of the Philippine calender, National Heroes Day (August 28), when the President perfunctorily reminded his people of the courage, leadership, and wisdom of said Heroes that paved the way for the current generation to enjoy the blessings of freedom, independence, and democracy. Even as such magnification is more than somebody in his right mind can swallow, it is characteristic of much of Filipino public discourse.
    Whereas I sympathize with Lagman’s historical observations and commentary that present us with a flood of presidential heroes ranging from fame for his golden chamberpot to the intimidation of the denizens by the Constabulary under a certain General Ramos, and a further gamut of outrageous contradictions, I want to take issue with the idea of ‘damaged culture’. Let me start on a simple example; I buy a brand-new car, proudly park it along the street in front of my abode, but even before I hope to take the family for a ride, somebody bumps into its hoot, and my pride and glory has been damaged. The simple moral from this is that things need to be whole before they can be damaged.
    Subsequently, the question arises whether there has ever been a whole national culture in the Philippines. The answer is a resounding NO; the nation still needs to be built, an exemplary center of culture and authoritative cultural leadership can only be hoped for, the state and its institutions are not held in high esteem, and, agreeing with F. Sionil Jose, I quote,
    “The country is a tragic place where having conviction is an act of heroism. Besides, there is hardly anybody who gets excited about it anymore. It is as if people have been lobotomized by their own obstinacy. They are married to their degradation and do not want to see beyond it. Because people have neither memory, nor sense of history, morality or identity to take pride in, traitors are elected to office, while exploiters and torturers are forgotten. The powerful are admired, and so it seems as if the country in its modern condition is beyond redemption.

    Whereas this condition may be rooted in distant history, it is apparent that people are steadily losing identity, roots and dignity. They are no longer self-possessed but, in the absence of national leadership and moral guidance, overwhelmed by the forces of modernity. We simply live in ‘crazy times’ in which people—certainly those on their way up—are corruptible by nature. Lies are held for truth, ordinary people are denied their dignity, and as almost everybody has to struggle for survival, the feeling of shame becomes a luxury. The idea of moral order has gone lost; what remains are self-centered individuals, driven by greed or the desire for power, violence or anger, gullibility or ignorance.

    As the tentacles of the oligarchy reach through the whole of society, yeah, even into the classroom, the only things that count are money and power. Morally, the social edifice has become an empty shell; as a result, culture, civilization is violated. Instead of assumed Oriental spirituality, we see the shameless mix of business and politics presided over by rapacious elite incapable of, and uninterested in, providing moral leadership. On the contrary, they corrupt society, rendering both olden ways and modern ideals irrelevant. (Jose 1992, 1993; Mulder 2016). “
    A variant interpretation is Nick Joaquin’s when he reflects on National Heroes and Goyo’s self-sacrifice, such as “Where we should bewail our incompetence, our sloth, our lack of enterprise, our reluctance to look ahead and plan, our inability to organize, our disunity and childish trust in outside forces expressed in our bahala na—where, in short, we should burn with shame for our ineptitude, there we are made to feel justified in our very stupidities—and in going on acting stupid. If we bungle and botch, never mind, we do fall gloriously. O felix culpa that produces a Del Pilar at Tirad, a starved USAFFE in Bataan! And because we think heroism can cover up for our botches, we are always very eager indeed to acclaim our defeats as “moral victories.” Tirad was such a “victory”, Bataan was such a “victory.” Ours is the most mysterious progress because we make it on disasters. In what shambles will we proclaim our next “moral victory”?” (2005: 185).
    Whereas Jose and Joaquin comment on the big picture, we should be aware of the fact that Filipino existence unfolds in its inner world of family, relatives, friends, and immediate community. There it is, should be at least, whole, and it is there that it is vulnerable, exposed as it is to the exigencies of life in the present, with millions going overseas in the hope to experience materially better conditions, or dwelling in the social media on internet, so forgetting about life in the real world while “feeling stuck in the comfort zone of likes and semi-anonymous opinion.” As a result, if there is such a thing as damaged culture, it is the damage of the inner world caused by the conditions of present-day life.
    The sentence I quoted has been taken from “An emoji for Ninoy”, the National Heroes Day’s ‘Young Blood’ column of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, which the author, Jason DC. Gavina, concludes with “There is a beginner app for love of country. I believe it’s called responsible citizenship. :)”
    I do not know whether there is such connection. Love of country is a many-headed animal. Everybody is emotionally attached to Heimat, to place and community of birth, which, for some if not for most people is rather tangible, close to home, but may expand to include the personally unknown other, resulting in the idea of ‘imagined community’ that may enlarge to ‘nation’, and, in a religious sense, to fellowman or mankind.
    Responsible citizenship is a different creature, which brought the distinction of Gemeinschaft (community) and Gesellschaft (society) to mind that, by their very nature, call forth different codes of conduct. Whereas communal life demands a civil culture of politeness, consideration, cooperation, life with multitudes of unknown others should result in the civic culture of city and state, in said ‘responsible citizenship’ in which public affairs have become personal concerns. This demand stands in obvious contrast to the EJ or makalusot way of life characteristic of current Pinoy existence. This style of going about in the wider environment even infringes upon ordinary civility, for example the barrage of compulsive hubbub, heavy with mind-numbing beat or moronic drone, inconsiderate karaoke fun, the littering of public space, the amplified insult to musica sparked off by one’s neighbors, and parking or stopping one’s conveyance in unsurveyable curves and other-endangering places, many a time right in view of a police outpost.
    What comes to mind, is the frequency of commenting on ‘impunity’, run-away ‘individualism’ or the each-and-everybody for him/herself, prevailing short-time perspectives combined with the ease of changing ‘loyalties’—if you can’t lick them, join them—and we find ourselves in a perennially fission-prone society. Such comments and observations about life beyond one’s inner circle make the desire for responsible citizenship, civic culture, or Bürgerlichkeit (‘burgherhood’) no more than a fata morgana.
    Whenever one enters his yard in a crowded, middle-class area of our town, the short-leashed dogs on both sides of the house will rant and rave. So, when I entered the house, it took a minute or so before I could explain what I had come for. After concluding our business, I inquired how to drive to my destination in the southern part of town as, from late August up to October 13, the roads going there are blocked by the stalls of the annual Feria. Upon this, I couldn’t help observing how it is modernly possible to obstruct life and routines of the townspeople for some seven weeks every year, not to mention the ensuing nightmarish traffic.
    He shrugged it off with a smile, “That’s the way things are, and who will go against the mayor? It has been like this for a long-long time, and so it will be as long as townhall can get away with it. It is the pith and marrow of the individualistic Pinoy way of life. So, who cares?”
    Apparently, my friend accepted things as they come—a trait known as ‘Filipino tolerance’—even as I gave it some further thought. The world on the other side of one’s fence is in a permanent state of mild anarchy where people do whatever they can get away with. My friend’s noisy dogs disturbing the neighbors is the latters’ affair, at the same time that the Feria lines somebody’s pocket irrespective of common well-being.
    The question arrises whether the above comments and observations are anything new under the Philippine sun. Thanks to Ambeth R. Ocampo’s search for primary sources, he was struck by a letter and report from Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, containing his frank description of the character of the native way back in the 16th century that seems painfully relevant about Pinoy ways at present, such as “The people do not act in concert or obey any ruling body, but each man does whatever he pleases and takes care only of himself and of his slaves. He who owns most slaves and the strongest can obtain anything he pleases. … No person favors another unless it is for his own interest. … They recognize neither lord nor rule. … These people declare war among themselves at the slightest provocation, or with none whatever. … Privateering and robbery have a natural attraction for them. …” Upon this, Ocampo concludes, “Legazpi’s reports provide a mirror to our past so we can understand why we are the way we are …”
    Harking back to the idea of ‘damaged culture’, one might as well talk about a ‘failed society’, which would imply that there ever was a wholesome, coherent way of living together. There NEVER was; at best we witness the stunted growth of a people at drift that cluster around local strongmen or caciques, which implies that bonds are essentially personal / emotional, or build on materialistic motives. Modernly, there is no pride or identity in being part of a so-called ‘imagined community’ that would comprise a Philippine nation-state, and so, in the absence of these, Gavina’s ‘responsible citizenship’ is not in sight.
    References
    Gavina, Jason DC. 2017. “An emoji for Ninoy”, PDI 8/31/17: A13.
    Joaquin, Nick. 2005. A Question of Heroes. Mandaluyong City: Anvil Publishing Inc.
    Jose, Francesco Sionil. 1992. Three Filipino Women. New York: Random House.
    —. 1993. Viajero: A Filipino Novel. Manila: Solidaridad Publishing House (2nd ed. 1998).
    Lagman Jr., Oscar P. 2017. “Our damaged culture”, PDI 8/31/17: A12.
    de Legazpi, Miguel Lopez. See Ocampo
    Mulder, Niels. 2016. Life in the Philippines; Contextual Essays on Filipino Being. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press: 175-89.
    Ocampo, Ambeth R. 2017. “Painfully relevant in the 21st century”, PDI 6/28/17: A17.

    Appendix
    There is something about the Philippines that sets it apart from the rest of our progressive neighbors like Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Malaysia. The Philippines holds claim to the title “the only Christian nation in Asia” and yet ironically ranks among the worst in the list of those most infested with corruption and crime to the very core of their national psyche. To identify the root cause of Pinoy dysfunction, one only needs to notice a consistent pattern: the strong link between the Spanish brand of Catholicism which we share with many Latin American countries and the pervasive socio-economic ills that plague such nations. Combine Spanish Catholicism with hot-humid tropical weather and presto: you get a narco-state banana republic filled with crime, corruption and zombies multiplying like rabbits, a sure-fire recipe for a failed society. (Get Real Post 05 October 2017)
    Sounding the SONA
    The menace of poverty afflicts 44 million Filipinos, resulting in a rate of 1 to every 3 children being impaired for life due to biological stunting because of hunger and lack of proper nutrition. Said poverty and stunting also implies that 1 in 5 children never enter school or will drop out of it in no time.
    In spite of the prevailing healthy sex drive—in my area it is pregnant first, marriage later—combined with medieval rigid thinking about sinful sex and reproductive health, population growth remains rapid, with a taboo on sex education and subsequent ignorance promoting an intolerable high level of HIV infection, legal obstacles to the means of preventing unwanted pregnancy, capped with the impossibility of obtaining legal divorce.
    In spite of respectable economic growth, the Philippines has yet to catch up with comparable Asean neighbors in export earnings, foreign direct investment inflows, tourism revenues, and infrastructure. Subsequently, the original Asean 5 and Vietnam are zooming faster, and the gap by which the Philippines falls behind is actually widening, at the same time that the country leads in corruption, favoritism, widening income gaps, environmental degradation, senseless bureaucratic requirements, and subsequent hurdles to trade, combined with declining educational standards, to boot.
    The fact that there is no solidary nation in the offing is blatantly exemplified by the unsporting conduct of politics that appears to be driven by politicos’ self-aggrandizement and demolition behavior vis-á-vis those in power. That politics should be motivated to enhance the well-being of the population and their state has not penetrated the Filipino imagination; to the man in the street, politics is a spectator-sport, a life-and-death struggle worth watching, but at best to personally stay away from, at the same time that those on top are smugly unconcerned about the problems of the ordinary denizen, i.e., the common tao. Like many of its children, a stunted society, indeed!
    Reference
    Much of the above has been excerpted from the NO FREE LUNCH columns of economist Cielito F. Habito in the PDI of 5/16/17; 6/23/17 ; 9/1/17; 9/5/17.

  3. We have never been a Democracy. The Social Media is a new way to inform our countrymen. Those who are well versed in this medium of information, should use it well to awaken our countrymen.

    Truth is the casualty in the “trench warfare” between the “Dutertards and the “YellowTards, now the White Tards” …I call them AquinoTards, it is better.

    All we have to do is to bring out the Truth, as best, as we can; write them in our blogs, as simple and as clear, as possible. Most of us, are not Journalists. But, some of us, can write better than any Journalist, in the mainstream media. Some of us, are very much well informed and knowledgeable on the subjects, we are discussing.

    It is time, to do our duties, and lead our people to the right path, thru accurate and precise information…It is not for us, but for the future generation of Filipinos !

  4. One side of the “Duterte-aligned” socmed personalities seems to be literally battling it out for influence with the other pro-Dutertes – which could explain the territorial and dominating behavior of the other. And if it is indeed about influence, then there’s probably a scheme, and the other side of persuasion has to be stifled or weakened. It’s easy to test credibility (or lack of it) in some of them, but it should’ve been done early on.

  5. I don’t accept the idea that there are two sides to any issue. I think that the middle ground is to be found within most of us.

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