#LENILEAKS exploded into our social imaginations. It affirmed the fact that social media is no longer just a venue for self-affirmation of people about their looks and their food. It is where you could rise and be famous through serendipity and tenacity, or fall on your stupidity.
When Sass Rogando Sasot got a tip from a social media friend about the existence of the Yahoo groups conversations of the Global Filipino Diaspora Council (GFDC), which she passed on to Thinking Pinoy—a pro-Duterte blogger who did the sleuthing and eventually posted it in his blog site, which he shared in FB and Twitter—what was unleashed were forces that revealed the reality that some of President Duterte’s enemies may have the money, but not the brains.
In the age of the Internet, and of serious threats to privacy, a failure to secure a sensitive conversation in cyberspace is beyond forgiveness. You simply do not plot to undermine a government and wage a war on social media activists who are pro-government without first ensuring that your discussions are secure. Conversations in a group that is closed could nevertheless still be accessed by the public, unless you set it to private.
But then again, some defenders of Loida Nicolas-Lewis, her sister Mely Nicolas and their anti-Duterte and anti-Marcos cabal now argue that it is precisely the innocuousness of their conversation that made them act without any consciousness of any security concerns. In other words, they simply had no malice, that they were merely engaging in harmless strategizing to help their friend Leni Robredo, which is also a perfectly legal right of any citizen, even of dual ones like Loida.
On the contrary, I would see their nonchalant, dismissive behavior as a rather offensive exercise of arrogance. Simply, they felt so self-entitled and messianic, even referring to themselves as if they are God’s gift to our political redemption from the twin evil of Duterte and Marcos. They are used to being privileged influential voices who helped in ousting and jailing Presidents, impeaching a Supreme Court Chief Justice and neutering a front-running presidential candidate, that they thought they can get away with anything. They reeked of self-entitlement, intoxicated like brats who can simply rearrange our political lives, acting as if they have a right to move us like pawns and to decide for us like we are simply their wards. They are so full of themselves that they thought they would not need the exigency of securing their conversations. They felt like they are political royalty, and therefore untouchable. They thought they owned us and our politics.
It was hubris for them to target social media netizens whom they labeled as mere trolls.
They did not realize that some of these so-called trolls happen to be not just people on a payroll in some cramped call center in Quezon City, or some home-bound conscripted unemployed netizen paid to act as Madam Claudia. They happen to be Sass RogandoSasot, a bright graduate student based in The Hague and Thinking Pinoy, a computer-savvy blogger. Both are educated, articulate and are as committed to their politics as Leni Robredo’s protectors, funders and sponsors.
They also forgot the enormous network of support that President Duterte and even Bongbong Marcos have in social media. These are people who they all derisively insult, and therefore have every reason to declare war on them.
The arrogance of Loida and her cabal is matched by the same level of arrogance of many in traditional media, when they become dismissive of the existence and value of #LeniLeaks. One of them even had the temerity to lecture Sass and Thinking Pinoy to call a press conference, and only then would they enjoy the privilege of coverage.
#LeniLeaks has exposed those in traditional media who are self-absorbed, mechanical entities, if not closet political partisans. Some of them are probably used to privilege and pampering by political operators while others are so consumed by their own personal politics, such as their advocacies on human rights and against the Marcoses, that they forget that the job of media is to bring pure unadulterated news to the public.
A plot to destabilize the presidency is newsworthy. Elite Filipinos in the diaspora, in cahoots with local remnants of the losing political side, plotting to undermine the President is as newsworthy as his cursing. A conversation revealing the Office of the Vice President as involved and supported by rich and influential expats to attack ordinary citizens is as newsworthy as the death of a dog or Mocha’s appointment to the MTRCB.
Dismissing #LeniLeaks was a breaking point that further revealed to the people that social media bloggers like Sass and Thinking Pinoy indeed deserve more of their attention, respect and protection. One should therefore not blame the people if they see these partisan media personalities in the same light that they see Loida and her cabal, as their enemies.