Undersecretary for Presidential Communications Lorraine Badoy has gotten herself into a hell of a pickle recently. After asserting in a Senate probe on “fake news” that “vice president” Leni Robredo is a “purveyor of fake news”, she is now being taken to task on two fronts. Firstly, as an officer of the presidential communications machine, she had to backpedal to a clarification that this statement did not reflect the official position of Malacanang.
The second is more interesting. Netizens have unearthed a meme posted on the 28th of March 2016 on Facebook by the admins of the page “Women for Leni” suggesting that Badoy was once a supporter of the then vice presidential candidate. I’ve reached out via Twitter to the Undersecretary to ask whether or not she is aware of this meme or at least provide comment. As of this writing, no response has been received.“Thought leaders” of the Opposition are now using this still-to-be-verified information to take Badoy to task for what they describe as “awful” things she’s been saying about the presumptive “vice president” considering she was once a supporter. Staunch supporters of current President Rodrigo Duterte, on the other hand, are pointing out that the fact that a one-time supporter of Robredo had gone full 180 degrees to being a top critic says something about the character of Robredo.
Both camps make good points. But the more important point to highlight here is the whole trouble with loyalties to personalities rather than ideas or principles.
Lorraine Badoy’s predicament pretty much characterises the fundamental problem of Philippine politics. She mirrors the character of the general Filipino electorate where voters make choices (and often rabidly stick to them) on the basis of personalities rather than the platforms, ideologies, or principles they or their parties stand for. Cult of personality is what primarily fuels the partisan dynamic during elections. As such, debates around pertinent issues struggle to compete with the low-brow debate between rabid cult supporters.
The more important question in light of this is this:
What exactly was Lorraine Badoy thinking when she threw her support behind Robredo at the time?
It is heartening for many Duterte supporters that former Yellowtards would defect to their side as they consider it a testament to their camp’s ability to convert the unevangelised. But for a top-tier thought leader of the “Die-hard Duterte Supporters” (DDS) to be exhibited as a former Yellowtard raises disturbing questions such as that above.
We within the GRP community would like to think that we are loyal to principles first and that we express support for or criticise people who happen to be on the right or wrong sides respectively of the principles we uphold. This approach to examining Philippine politics at an arm’s length from the pedestrian debate around personalities is what gives us the unparalleled consistency in and timelessness of the content we publish.
On that, there is cause for me (not persuming to speak for my fellow GRP colleagues) to be a bit harsh in how I regard former supporters of Robredo or, for that matter, former Yellowtards. There will always be the question of what sort of thinking was applied to their chosen candidate in the past or, more importantly, why they pegged their position in the broader political discourse on a person.
See, ultimately, the truly intelligent debate is more a battle of principles and ideologies. The questions should be around which systems serve the public better and, on that, which people work best with or espouse the systems we espouse. Loyalties arbitrarily accorded to people basta basta (“just because”) does not serve this debate well and degrades the political discourse. This is why the Philippine political debate remains intellectually-bankrupt — because it has not, in any way, evolved into a modern conversation about ideas.
This is the high bar we need to set for our thought leaders — evaluate them on the basis of what they are thinking when they say or assert something. That way, it become less-embarrassing to change personal loyalties — because people who have and uphold consistent principles can easily justify a change in personal loyalty.
If there is a path to redemption for Lorraine Badoy, it is in her providing evidence that her conversion from a Yellowtard (if the meme is true) to a DDS was a function of some kind of personal principle of hers at stake and not just a personal whim made on the back of a succumbing to cleverly-crafted emotional appeals.
If we want Philippine politics to evolve from one fuelled by a debate on personalities into one fuelled by a debate around issues, we need to begin by expecting the same of the “thought leaders” we revere.
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