As my colleague Ilda pointed out, Filipinos seem to be averse to speaking out. This may seem to be a counterintuitive assertion to make, given how Filipinos pride themselves with a tradition of flamboyant political activism, tacky spectacle in the way they practice freedom of speech in their mass media, and voluminous undifferentiated chatter in social media. But as far as “speaking out” goes, Filipinos at an individual level aren’t likely to speak up even as they are slow-cooked to a crisp within their often wretched circumstances.
This is the irony of Filipino society — at once both a noisy “democracy” and a timid, passive-aggressive culture. This mashup of opposing character flaws manifests its resultant psychosis in the infamous Pinoy viral video circuses that made personal hells for Christopher Lao, Robert Carabuena and, now, Paula Jamie Salvosa. When a people are told they live in a “democracy” in theory then find that in practice they, in reality, actually lack an effective voice then they switch to the more efficient alternative — technology.
So no amount of signing up to pledges will stop the so-called “cyber-bullying” of Pinoy viral video subjects unless the underlying issues that characterise the underbelly of the Filipino psyche are addressed.
The reality of 21st Century living is that the technology to exercise “freedoms” that bypass traditional communication lines to authority figures, institutions, and public servants is now readily available and ubiquitous. This has always been touted by “social media practitioners” as the single greatest thing about the whole shebang of personal mobile devices, the Net, social networking platforms, and the apps that connect us to these. Predictably as such, the biggest causes for “indignation” amongst the Filipino chatterati are often about anything they preceive to be a threat to this “freedom” — such as laws that seek to regulate published digital content.
If we step back a bit and review the definition of that now-demonised concept of “libel” upon which Republic Act 10175 (a.k.a. the Philippine Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012) was built…
Existing libel law in the Philippines is quite specific about what elements need to be present in an act that may be construed to be libelous: â€œ(a) imputation of a discreditable act or condition to another; (b) publication of the imputation; (c) identity of the person defamed; and, (d) existence of malice.â€ [Daez v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 47971, 31 October 1990, 191 SCRA 61, 67].
Publishers â€” whether they be traditional journalists who disseminate their reports and views via mainstream media channels, or people and entities (such as bloggers, web publishers, and so-called â€œsocial media practitionersâ€) who do the same by making use of new forms of media to which the 2012 Act extends existing libel laws â€” are by the very nature of their trade inherently subject to Condition (b), publication of the imputation.
… we will find that all conditions are present to warrant a strong case of libel (specifically online libel as defined by RA 10175) against the people who captured and uploaded these videos onto the Net.
The irony in all this is that while the social media chatterati are quick to take up arms against any sort of legislation that proposes to regulate the use of these technologies, the same people expect us to take “pledges” to self-regulate our online activities on the basis of the same things RA 10175 supposedly seeks to protect the public against. And yet on the same page, they also celebrate the wondrous chatter of unfettered self-expression. The point we seem to be missing is that these viral videos and the pointed “discussion” these induce constitute a significant and inescapable aspect of the Filipino self — our collective ego — very loudly expressed. Viral videos and the power with which these resonate across Filipinos are mere symptoms.
As that iconic Bisolvon ad encourages us to do, we should not take drugs that merely suppress the cough. We should buy meds that take the cure down to the source of the cough — phlegm.
The challenge therefore is not around how to control the symptom but to address the root cause of Filipinos’ bad behaviour.
The fact is, good manners, good breeding, and common sense cannot be legislated, and certainly cannot be “pledged” out of existence. We need to get to the bottom of what keeps Filipinos bogged down in bad habits, bad manners, and bad thinking. The underbelly of the Pinoy psyche must be routinely identified, highlighted, thrust into the centre stage, faced squarely, and directly addressed. “Polite” and “civil” society have obviously not been up to the task of taking on the dirty job of lobotomising the Filipino mind to rid it of the sorts of dysfunctional thinking that, at the most fundamental levels, hinder it in attaining its aspirations to get in step with a sustainable march to prosperity.
Indeed, an analogy all of us can relate to are all these pledges to vote “wisely” and on the bases of platforms rather than on campaign songs-and-dances. And yet, none of these initiatives change the most ingrained thinking (or non-thinking, as the case may be) faculties of the average Filipino voter that pre-disposes them to vote to office popular pedigreed prayerful emo politicians despite their being the most awkward unqualified inexperienced unintelligent, and unstatesman-like candidate amongst the choices.
The key to change lies in our culture — the DNA of our society. Change that and sustainable change will bubble to the surface from the bottom up and pave the way for the effectiveness of guidance coming from the top down.
Then you stop coughing.
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