Inside the world of the Dutertards

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ANTONIO P. CONTRERAS

(This is excerpted from a professorial lecture that I will be delivering this afternoon at the De La Salle University.)

THE word “Dutertard,” started out as a pejorative. It was used by those who hate President Duterte to label his supporters, as shorthand for “Duterte retards,” in retaliation for the latter’s use of “Noytard” or “Yellowtard” to describe them.

But the best way to diminish the insult is by celebrating the label, in not allowing those that use “Dutertard” as an insult to demean the pleasure of owning the meaning of the label. We can recuperate and appropriate the word “Dutertard” as a label to defy the politics of its progeny.

Hence, I use Dutertard as a celebratory affirmation.


The whole world knows that I did not vote for Rodrigo Duterte. But I must admit I initially considered him. After all, he was anti-establishment, a fighter, and he bore the narrative that challenged the elitist status quo. However, I was turned off by his cursing, and his offensive manner of speaking, and his rape jokes. In fact, I fought with his supporters. I was trolled, attacked and bashed with ferocity. I was called names. The most vitriolic attack I got was when I threw his baller in the trash can and posted a picture of it in my FB account. At the time, I had a taste of the enormous passion and rage that the likes of Maria Ressa, Raisa Robles, Pia Ranada, Jesus Falcis, Leni Robredo, Leila de Lima, Risa Hontiveros, Antonio Trillanes, Edsel Lagman and Bam Aquino have had to endure.

When I took Grace Poe to the Comelec, I already got a tamer version of being attacked. However, I must admit that the Duterte followers were more committed, and more verbally violent compared to the Grace Poe crowd.

But even then, what I saw in the Dutertards was the sincerity to fight for their presidential candidate. These are people who were from the ordinary and the everyday, orphaned by an elitist state, denied comfort and pleasure by oligarchic privilege. The anger that emanated from the Duterte crowd was an authentic one, and they did not stem from righteous privilege but from sincere defiance of the powers that be.

But another trait of the Duterte crowd impressed me, in addition to their sincerity and commitment.

They become the articulators of what I could not say.

Even from an adversarial position, I saw in them the vulgar manifestation of what could have been my own discourse, except that I am still living within the life of a polite academic. I wished then, and even now, that I could have their audacity to curse, and not just rant, against power. They reminded me of my frustration, that in the end I had to be contented just watching how they skewer and maul elite privilege, envious that all I could muster were the critical words I used in my FB posts and tweets, in my columns and on radio.

Until now, I cannot bring myself to call Leni Robredo a cheat. I can only afford to call her a beneficiary of the biggest electoral fraud our republic has experienced.

The Dutertards are people who never used the word decent to project their virtues.

This is precisely why it was not difficult for me to embrace the world of the Dutertards, and even take pride in being associated with them, for they embodied my inner politics. They are the verbal articulation of the expletives I wanted to say, but couldn’t.

This is in stark contrast to the vitriol I had to endure from the LP and Leni Robredo partisans, whose vulgarity lies in their hypocrisy and holier-than-thou attitudes, as protectors of morality, guardians of human rights, and as owners of democracy and history. These are people who flaunted their decency.

It is true that I was also trolled by Duterte supporters during the campaign, but it was the LP cabal, and Leni Robredo supporters, who turned it into an indecent vulgarity, where even the legal problems of a relative who did not have anything to do with my politics, were made public. It was from the hands of anti-Duterte friends and colleagues that I have experienced the worst betrayal. It was the defenders of Leni Robredo, using anonymous accounts, who subjected me to the worst insults, and who dared question my credentials, and my commitment to my vocation as a teacher and an academic.

The Duterte supporters during the election campaign insulted me as a faceless adversary. But it was the Leni supporters who heaped insults on me even if many of them knew me and some were even close enough to know who I truly am. Former students who openly idolized me now joined the mob that excoriated me in social media. Colleagues in the academic profession maligned me behind my back and questioned my credentials. Friends called me a member of “Kultong Duterte” suggesting that I am a mindless drone.

These are supposed to be decent people. These are from the cohort that I live with everyday that prevents me from cursing them, because I too would like to feel decent.

In the end, the world of the Dutertards has become my preferred political home. It is ruthless and uncouth. And it has problematic sides that challenge my principled stance on human rights, the death penalty and my being a progressive.

But it is in this world where I would never be labeled as a threat to the education of my students. And as a teacher, this means a lot to me.

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