The enemy from within

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ANTONIO P. CONTRERAS

WHEN Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, the President’s daughter, called for unity, it appeared as a gesture made across the aisle, to the political opposition, to join the process of building the nation towards a different path.

Honestly, hell will freeze over before the likes of Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th, or the rabidly anti-Duterte yellows and their traditional and social media enablers, would respond to the call. While Leni Robredo seemed conciliatory, appearing to be distancing herself from the Liberal Party, one can always interpret this as a tactical retreat, perhaps trying to re-energize her political capital in the face of a likely defeat at the Presidential Electoral Tribunal. The problem for Robredo is that her move may just further diminish her political standing, as I do not see the pro-Duterte crowd eagerly embracing her in an instant, even as I can see cries of betrayal from the LP camp. She will be left in the middle by her lonesome, and her small coterie of enablers and die-hard supporters.

But there is little to worry about from the political opposition. They are a spent force. Not even the machinations of their allies abroad, in the US and in EU, both in the political branches, as well as in media, can dissipate the huge political base that the President has masterfully crafted. All possible political mud has already been thrown at the President, and he has himself committed acts—some of them probably intentional just to test the limits of his support—that offended foreign leaders, countries and organizations. No other post-Marcos President of this republic has been the target of a well-coordinated media and civil society campaign abroad.

Yet President Rodrigo Roa Duterte remains standing.

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With this, it is not the political opposition that needs to be brought to the table.

Inday Sara’s call is in fact better interpreted as a call for unity among his supporters, as well as a call to translate the drums of partisan warfare into a clarion call to move forward and ignore the political noise made by the inconsequential opposition. It is a call for his social media army to unsheathe the sword of cyber-warfare against the irrelevant and immaterial noise created by the anonymous social media army of the yellows. It is an appeal to ignore being baited by the likes of Jover Laurio aka Pinoy Ako Blog.

After all, they are now just a noisy minority. Exposed, delegitimized, rendered vulnerable, and are in fact powerless and humiliated. The once mighty Liberal Party in Congress cannot even fit in a bus. Trillanes may be acting up, but he is so damaged that he has no audience.

The President has effectively provided the counter-punch to their machinations, not by silencing their dissenting voices, but through concrete development plans and policy reforms. To Leni Robredo’s incessant passive-aggressive attacks, he delivered something which we Bicolanos have been asking for a long time – the rehabilitation of the rail system that once served as the major artery to and from our region. The threat of a coup is now silenced not only by the promise to increase the salaries of our armed forces and the police, but by the recuperation of the image of our soldiers in the eyes of the people. The victory in Marawi did not just deal a blow to terrorism. It also exalted the worth of our soldiers as integral and valued elements of our nation-building project.

And in response to the criticisms against his war on drugs, the President was humble enough to admit that he underestimated the gravity of the problem as he overestimated the capacity of the Philippine National Police (PNP). He has since recalibrated by suspending Operation Tokhang and shifting the responsibility to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).

The President is on a roll despite the political opposition’s machinations.

And he needs a positive wind to make him fly higher.

Social media had a very important role to play in the electoral victory of the President. And it certainly had a significant influence in the battles with the forces who wanted to undermine the first year of his presidency.

But that battle is already won. Pinoy Ako Blog is now rendered just a “has been” who now only seeks attention to keep her alive. Cocoy Dayao is on the run. Silent No More has for all practical purposes been reduced to a mere noise.

Pro-Duterte social media has out-engaged every major media network. We have effectively shifted the epicenter of information away from mainstream towards social, that it is not useful to keep on crying why we are not being covered by TV networks and broadsheets. It is their loss, since if they keep doing this they will forever lose the people as their viewers and readers.

It is in this light that pro-Duterte social media should now consciously shift to the battle to fight our enemies from within ourselves. We should not be consumed by hubris. We should not be committing the same mistakes which the other side has inflicted on us. We should not turn on each other over petty things. We should not convert our thousands of followers into a fulcrum of power that we use to bully, intimidate and threaten those who do not agree with us.

Sara reminded us of uniting so that we can become agents of change.

And change entails a conscious effort not to become the monsters we fought, and whose remnants we continue to fight, that have turned us into rebels against elite oligarchic politics.

Otherwise, if we commit the same acts of bullying, and if we abuse our power, then we are not in any way better than them.

“Tapang at malasakit” after all is not just about “tapang” or courage to fight. It is also about “malasakit” or empathy not only with those who are like us, but even more with those who are politically different.

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