The “debate” on whether it is right that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) plans to sue shock “activist” Mae Paner (a.k.a. “Juana Change”) for disrespecting the uniform continues to rage. Paner donned a military costume as part of a “protest” spectacle she staged during the second State of the Nation Address delivered by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday. The stunt has caused an uproar amongst the Philippines’ military brass.
The complaint to be filed by the AFP is on the basis of Article 179 of the Revised Penal Code which stipulates…
Illegal use of uniforms or insignia. — The penalty of arresto mayor shall be imposed upon any person who shall publicly and improperly make use of insignia, uniforms or dress pertaining to an office not held by such person or to a class of persons of which he is not a member.
…and Republic Act 493:
(I)t shall be unlawful for any person not in the service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines or the Philippine Constabulary… to use or wear the duly prescribed insignia, badge or emblem or rank of the members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines or the Philippine Constabulary, or any colorable imitation thereof.
Some “observant” members of the Opposition Twitterati, however, pointed out that Communications Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson “also likes to wear fatigues” and cite Uson’s Twitter profile and various photos of her and her “Mocha Girls” dance troupe also donning similar military-themed costumes in their public shows.
[NB: As of this writing, Paner is appealing for legal help on Twitter. Any volunteers?]
On the basis of what the law stipulates, the legal battle will likely be around whether or not these costumes (worn by Paner, Uson, the Mocha Girls, and any other public performer for that matter) are deliberately meant to mimic specific insignia, uniforms or dress pertaining to an existing office or rank or class of personnel in the AFP. That’s for the lawyers to debate and “observant” members of the chattering classes to quibble over.
But let’s not let legal details and self-righteous quibbles get in the way of a good show, shall we?
Ultimately, the real “fight” will be in the Court of Public Opinion as this circus is, at the end of the day, around mere
To be fair, Uson and a number of bloggers and pro-administration “influencers” also make use of the same low-brow “activist” techniques, building strong followings on the strength of their public persona and not much else. But that fact merely strengthens the point I make that what is really at stake here (as is the case in many “trending” Filipino “political debates”) are the personal brands of these “activists” and “influencers” and, again, not much else.
So here’s the thing. The more important points to highlight are (1) why it could be an easy-peasy PR walk in the park for the AFP to go after Paner, (2) why it is likely that the popular tide of public opinion will be behind the AFP’s legal attack on Paner and not on a foreseen counterattack on Uson and the Mocha Girls for the same charge, and (3) why Uson and the Mocha Girls will likely emerge from such a tangle unscathed. Like the 2012 “impeachment trial” of the late former Chief Justice Renato Corona which merely pretended to be a legal exercise and was in actual fact political and showbiz in nature, the fight Paner faces will be a nothing more than a popularity contest.
Paner will be doing herself a favour by evaluating her next move on the basis of confronting realities about the situation she finds herself in. This is really not about who is right or wrong or what laws were broken or upheld. It will be about who will win the PR and popularity contests. At the moment, the AFP enjoys an astounding well of PR capital thanks to the Marawi War. Opposition “influencers” had, in fact, grossly miscalculated the effectiveness of the old 1980s mind trick of painting soldiers as the bad guys and the people they kill as “victims” in this instance. Filipinos are squarely behind their boys on the battlefield and less inclined to lap up old 1980s-vintage activist rhetoric. As for Uson and the Girls? Well, one only need take stock of the latest popularity polls and the remarkable hit Duterte’s Second SONA proved to be.
And, on top of all that, I can cite one important and unmentioned factor that will draw people behind Mocha, her girls, and our boys in uniform and no more than a sad irrelevant minority behind Paner and her hipster camp. But I’m not gonna go there.
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