I seldom mind criticism of my writing, whether of its form or of its substance. Who was it who said: “I may not agree with what you say but I will defend your right to say it.”? Readers’ comments about my column are to be taken in this context, never to be contested. They are an exercise of their right to speak. In fact, in this case it is a right a lot more absolute than that enjoyed by writers of opinion who must observe restraint in their writing owing to a number of reasons.
One reason is that opinion writers seek to mould public opinion, a responsibility that if allowed to go unbridled can lead to disastrous results. Another reason is that writers in the media on the whole are subject to restraints provided under the law, for instance, a prohibition on libel. Violation of the libel law brings about dire consequences not only upon the writer himself but also upon the publisher, the editor, the entire paper that carries the written piece.
And still another reason is journalistic ethics which provides, albeit unworded, standards for practice of the craft. One popular columnist got kicked out of his column for publishing a plagiarized article. And lastly, for the present purpose, is the pragmatic need to sustain the life of the publication. One columnist lost his space in a leading daily for persisting in a line of writing inimical to the business interest of the publisher, and the managing editor of another leading daily just won’t take up my campaign for getting Henry Sy lift his ban on adult movies, which ban has caused the demise of the entire Philippine cinema but for the products of the leading networks ABS-CBN and GMA 7: SM movie theaters constitute 80% of the outlets for films in the Philippines. “Henry Sy is our major advertiser,” said the managing editor unabashedly.
So I regard readers criticism with utmost tolerance: take it with a grain of salt so to speak, learn from its positive aspects, discard the negative ones.
Of my recent column, however, a reader raised a challenge which I find worthy of serious consideration. The reader, a certain Roberto Saguing, propounded issues in regard to my column “Sizing Up Duterte’s Policy Shift And The Laurel Wartime Dilemma” in the October 22 issue of the Manila Times.
Reader Roberto Saguing commented, quoted (uncorrected) as received:
“So what is your opinion aside from lambasting that of the other panelist’s? How can you improved the lot of the Filipino people – if you are in the position of the President? The problem with you is ever since nagmamagaling galingan ka.
“– How do you break free from the clutches of the oligarchy?
“– How do you break free from the neo-colonialism of the west in all aspects of our society?
“– How do you infused a high sense of national identity, and patriotism to our people who has been thoroughly infused with colonial mentality?
“– How do you extricate yourself from the danger of being in nuclear crosshairs of China and Russia in case the Syrian conflict goes out of hand?
“– How do you do all of this things in the face of our broken politics, Amboy leaders, and biased media?
“– How can you do this in the midst of internal strife (NPA,MILF,MNLF)
“Since you are very good, and constantly is critical of Duterte, and present yourself as a superior being and know-it-all, tell us Mr. Samonte how, and I that may yet vote for you as the next President”
The reader puts the proposition quite clearly: “…if you are in the position of the President.” A hypothesis really, which seems in order. But hypothetical propositions do not float in limbo. They must be founded on solid ground for them to be practicable. In the case at bar, I just cannot be made to assume I can do anything about the various issues raised for the simple reason that I am not in a position to address them.
In other words, I am not president of the republic, I don’t have the power to do anything about the various issues raised. If I accept the proposition, I would end up in the ridiculous situation of acting as if I were Duterte. And if I were, I would tackle the issues raised exactly as Duterte has been tackling it since Day One of his administration: going on a binge of extra judicial killings, hobnobbing with the remnants of a discredited revolution, badmouthing Obama, the US, the EU and the United Nations, ending up in the Guinness Book of World Records as the guy who has cussed the most number of world dignitaries, then practically dropping on his knees in seeking assistance from China in the guise of shifting Philippine alliances in foreign relations.
As to the other concerns raised, like breaking free of the clutches of the oligarchy, free of neo-colonialism, infusion of a deep sense of nationalism and patriotism among the people, etc., nothing yet, nothing more, perhaps never more.
That’s me being Duterte, right? I’d be doing things exactly as Duterte has been doing them.
The fault in the reader’s propositions really is one of misplaced hypothesis. For it to be valid, the hypothesis should be grounded on a practicable foundation, i.e., me being placed in the concrete reality of the President of the Philippines. So the hypothesis should read: If President Rodrigo Duterte were Mauro Gia Samonte, what would he be doing by way of addressing the various issues raised. That makes Duterte assume he were I instead of the other way around. Assuming thus, he would then proceed to do the following:
Ensure, as the first priority, the loyalty of the main armed powers of the State: the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National :Police (PNP) both of which have been honed on principles subservient to the imperialist interests of America; such ensuring of loyalty being conditioned on:
Bolshevization of the AFP and the PNP through appropriate socialist education throughout their entire ranks;
Establishment of Armed People’s Militia (APM) for effective genuine and direct service to and protection of the people, as well as a neutralizer for any reaction resulting from the implementation of (a);
Dismantle all armed groups opposed to the State as a requisite for laying the groundwork for wide-ranging economic development, using the Bolshevized AFP and PNP in accomplishing this;
Immediately set up KOMUNS nationwide as urgent concrete and immediate response to widespread people’s poverty, recognizing such as the one single cause of all crimes and social abominations such as prostitution and drug abuse;
Impose state control of public utilities and social services such as transport, power, telecommunications, health and education;
Institute a rigid state policy of self-reliance in all aspects of social living, i.e., economically, militarily, culturally, and otherwise;
Pursue in foreign relations a policy of “winning friends, creating no enemies”
Renounce war as a state policy
Ensure the continuity of all reforms and changes attained through all of the above.
Steep the workers in each and every aspect of proletarian ideals by way of enabling them to assert their role as the prime mover in social development.
Set the nation on the road to attaining a truly just, happy, peaceful and humane society.
By the foregoing, I hope I have addressed the concerns raised by reader Saguing.