If you want more evidence Western mainstream media is deliberately manipulating politics in the Philippines, take a look at TIME magazine’s latest list of the most influential teens around the world. The international publication included 14-year old Filipina Shibby de Guzman in the list. It is not clear how the editors arrived at the conclusion that a year nine student from St. Scholastica’s College in Manila is “influential” though. I mean, why choose her out of all the students who protested alongside her? Or why choose her among the hundreds of protesters who are equally noisy? It seems their only reason is because it would be “cute” to feature a young protester even though she’s not even well-known among Filipinos. Who did she actually influence, really?
Prior to TIME magazine featuring de Guzman in their list, most Filipinos have never heard of her. Local publications did not highlight her activism. She’s probably popular in her school and in her social circles, but a lot of Filipinos were surprised when members of foreign media claimed that she is popular in the Philippines. Netizens were asking “Shibby who?”
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This just goes to show that members of foreign media are just guessing what is going on outside of their backyard. They most likely saw de Guzman’s photo protesting and assumed that she must be “big” in the Philippines. Her photo wearing a cardboard sign against President Duterte’s drug war was used by the publication. The truth is, de Guzman’s stand against the Duterte government is not out of the ordinary. She’s simply echoing what her liberal-minded mentors have taught her. It’s no secret that Senator Risa Hontiveros went to the same school de Guzman goes to and that the senator is quite often seen with student activists during protest rallies.
There are so many activists aside from de Guzman who work harder at “influencing” the public. Renato Reyes of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) comes to mind. He has been a permanent fixture on Manila’s streets rallying against every President every chance he gets. Using the logic applied to de Guzman’s inclusion as an “influential”, Reyes would have qualified for the same award a hundred times over considering he’s been in the business possibly since he was in his teens himself — which makes Reyes a good sample of a future that activists like de Guzman face if they take these “awards” too seriously and follow the same life path Reyes took to adulthood.
One can imagine Reyes being outraged had there been a similar award on offer from TIME in his own youth that went to someone else. Teenagers, nonetheless, make fascinating fodder for listicles that feature “brave” activists like de Guzman. It wouldn’t be as “cute” if you feature a middle-aged guy like Reyes who comes across today as no more than a sad curiosity, a Cold War relic derided as an opportunistic “professional activist”.
On cue, local media outlets like the Inquirer carry the torch over to the local setting and feature her as the suddenly famous “courageous” teenager fighting a “fascist” government. Are they still talking about the Philippines? If de Guzman was actually living under a fascist government, she would not be able to go out to protest freely to begin with. If Duterte was a real authoritarian the way they painted him, he would have ordered the likes of de Guzman and Reyes locked up a long time ago. But no, they actually enjoy the freedom to express their dissent. Does de Guzman even know what the terms “fascist” or “dictator” mean? It seems she has her “fascist” bogeymen all mixed up in her mind. Otherwise, she wouldn’t be joining the call to end Duterte’s so-called “dictatorial” regime. It’s obvious the child doesn’t know what it’s like to live in an actual dictatorship. Her critics may be right in saying her mentors could be brainwashing her into believing Duterte is a fascist and a dictator.
What media outlets like TIME magazine are doing is irresponsible. They are using young people to advance their own agenda. They are putting too much pressure on someone as young as de Guzman. Now that de Guzman has been featured in an international publication, the public will expect more from her and her now manufactured popularity could take a toll on her studies and teenage life. It is possible that she will not have a normal life after this. Here’s an even more horrible thought, she might even grow up to be just like Renato Reyes!
It’s like being put on a spotlight like those showbiz child stars. And we all know how a lot of child stars turn out – not good, indeed. I feel sorry for young people like De Guzman who seem like they are being forced to be in a position they did not ask to be in. We can only hope her family is supportive of her advocacies.
Did de Guzman want fame in the first place? Only she can answer that. But at 14 years old, it would be hard to trust her judgement. We can already tell from her advocacies that she is misguided. She joined a protest rally against the burial of former President Ferdinand Marcos last year and the alleged extra-judicial killings relating to the “war on drugs”. Somebody should have told her that the burial of Marcos was approved by the Supreme Court. It did not violate any laws. And someone else should explain to her that only a court can rule the deaths were the result of “extra-judicial killings” after a thorough investigation has been conducted, not before. De Guzman should also look into the number of deaths and how many actually died in the hands of the police and unknown assailants. It’s not fair to blame all deaths on the government forces.
Those are the things that a 14-year old like De Guzman may have a hard time comprehending. And that is why a lot of people think that young people like her do not understand what they are doing. Shame on the people who bring them to the streets knowing these kids still have a lot to learn in this world particularly in politics. Shame on people in the media like TIME magazine who try to manipulate events. They are the real dictators.
In life, things are not always what they seem.