Vhong and the elite

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Katrina Stuart Santiago

Katrina Stuart Santiago

It was a show in itself. Not as scandalous, not as news worthy, but certainly fascinating in its unfolding.

Too often in this country Pinoy social media reveals itself for what it actually is: a space where the privileged throw tantrums when they do not get their way. A space where judgments about individuals and the world are on overdrive, and therefore are wont to lack compassion and kindness. A space where our biases and critical limits are revealed and magnified ten-fold which is how social media and the Internet work.

These limits are revealed given the issues we cannot discuss, because it is too complex, too difficult. Say the demolition of squatters on Agham Road, or the continued violence in Hacienda Luisita and Hacienda Dolores, or the violence in Mindanao after the celebration over the Bangsamoro Agreement. These are not touched with a ten-foot pole.

But a celebrity in crisis? Ah, Pinoy social media rise to the occasion, take sides, and complete the experience with photos and memes and funny blog entries. And then so many others raise their fists and scream at us for not talking about more important things. One wonders: what are these more important things? And why are these people not talking about it either if these are so important?


Framing this narrative
When Vhong Navarro’s mauling landed on mainstream news, the Pinoy elite on social media started talking about it vis-a-vis the need for public safety. We are in a world that’s becoming more dangerous we were told, and we should all hope that the perpetrators are brought to justice. It’s a valid enough perspective, a frame that levels up the discussion to include the rest of us.

At that point we had no idea what exactly happened, and while stories floated and a police blotter was found, there was no clear sense of who was where, and how exactly this guy we saw on nationwide television every day for nine years could get this battered and bruised. But with his signature on a police blotter dated the same night he was mauled, it was only a matter of time before Vhong would do an almost tell-all on nationwide TV.

Now the choice to do it on Buzz Ng Bayan is important because that framed the narrative as a showbiz story—not a story that was in the mainstream just yet, not quite for the evening news. But Vhong named names, and more than the girl in whose condominium he was beaten black and blue, it was the man whose name and face he remembers clearly.

It was the girl and the man who made it to the evening news, while Vhong’s was merely a showbiz story. The girl and the man would be interviewed, not for the showbiz segments of mainstream news shows; they were interviewed as part of the headlines—complete with live tweeting of the girl’s first interview. I tend to think mainstream media was desperate to take control of this story, because social media was on a roll. The moment Vhong mentioned those names, people began Googling, and by the time that interview was over, photos of the girl and the man went up on social media.

The sympathy was squarely on the side of Vhong, but that is because he is comedienne and TV host now black and blue and crying; the sympathy was squarely on the side of Vhong especially for his home network ABS-CBN. I cannot imagine any of our networks handling it any differently though: this much has been obvious about Pinoy mainstream media, online and otherwise.

It is biased, it will protect its own and its interests, and its got plenty reasons to keep the Vhong story moving given TV ratings and profits. That can be said for any of the other networks, and even new media sites: money speaks, and they listen. We should know that by now.

Hear them roar
Social media meanwhile is the venue for discussions that the mainstream cannot handle. And this is really what we’ve missed about this Vhong story: while we might get angry at the way in which it took over the news, it’s entirely possible that what we are reacting to is how it has bombarded our days with dis-/information and opinion.

That is not just the work of mainstream media, as it is the work of the social media spaces we inhabit, if not the conversations we might have with strangers on the street.

That is popular culture at work. And in the case of Vhong, there is a mass following that we are now encountering in our virtual spaces, a Vhong’s mass audience that we rarely encounter, despite all claims to us being one huge Filipino community online.

Meanwhile, the educated and elite do not know Vhong from Adam, and cannot understand the time and space that’s been spent talking about his story. But that is the crisis of the elite vis-a-vis mass culture isn’t it? The elite just don’t get it.

But also they cannot level up. They can talk about bringing perpetrators to justice and safety in these dangerous times, but cannot engage in a discussion about the powerful thinking they can get away with beating a guy black and blue. This elite can engage on the level of memes and laughter, but will disengage the moment the discussion levels-up to class struggle, discrimination, tolerance. The educated will make fun of the ways Vhong’s name is spelled, and then dismiss what has happened to him and the media frenzy about it to be a passing fancy.

This is really the undoing of the Pinoy elite—and suddenly we know who they are, as they ask questions like “Vhong who?” The assertion that we must talk about more important things reeks of their own privilege, as they throw their weight around and tell the rest of us what to do. As if they themselves discuss the more complex socio-political issues when it is timely and urgent. As if doing the latter should mean disengaging from other issues in the realm of popular culture.

Instead of seeing this as an opportunity to engage with the mass audience that is rallying behind Vhong, and is suddenly interested in discussing rape charges, violence and extortion, our social media elite— which is to say our Pinoy elite —has decided to disengage. And I have a sinking feeling it’s not because of some larger issues that they would like to discuss (because you know, they have yet to), but really because of this: it’s showbiz, it’s baduy, and that’s ewww.

How’s that for nothing new.

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17 Comments

  1. Do you think the mauling is not justified? – Nestor G. Dizon
    ==========
    Based on Cedric Lee’s statement that they made a citizen arrest, the mauling was not justified. You already arrested the guy e, you still have to maul him? Further, if you made a citizen arrest and mauled the guy, why set him free? Why let go of the guy you are now charging rape the first time you arrested him? Doesn’t make sense.

  2. Cedric, Denise, and 6 others involved n the mauling should be jailed without bail ASAP for the sake of Justice and Decency. Kailangan pa ba i memorize yan?

  3. If only Philippine social media and mainstream media would discuss better ways to contain the aggression of China than idiotic discussion of the bully and the oversexed, then we Filipinos, or if my sentiment is not share by the majority, then I would say, I would be prouder as a Filipino never mind what the majority thinks.

  4. Have you seen the CCTV video that was presented by the NBI? I can’t help but think that Vhong Navarro was set-up. I had doubts at first but when I saw the CCTV video, it was impossible for Vhong to have tried to rape Ms. Cornejo in just a span of 2 minutes. Vhong maybe a womanizer but a rapist he is not. I pray that the truth will come out and the guilty be punished.

  5. I think the elite is not really black and white when it comes to things that are for them baduys, masa, showbiz, etc. They just conveniently practice selective memory when it comes to issues involving the hoi polloi. It is not really a question whether or not the they know and care about the Vhong Navarro case. Media progress and technology has already broken down the dividing walls of social hypocrisy for elites to pretend ignorance of mass culture. I think, if not most, the elites do engage and take sides on the issue just like what the masa does.

  6. Vhong’s cry on TV was more touching than the cries of Kris who even brought her sisters with her during the interview. If Kris Aquino is raped, I don’t think many would pity her. Instead, they would pity the man who rapes her.

  7. ILVING T. ZAMORA on

    Somehow the news about Vhong is buried the fact that he visited Deniece for a sexual tryst. All you read now is Deniece invited Vhong to her place and Vhong brought food and wine for them to share..
    .

  8. victor hernandez on

    Ang kay Pedro, ay kay Pedro; at ang kay Juan, ay kay Juan. Ngunit kung si Eba ay tinukso si Adan na kumain ng bawal na pruta, di naman siguro kakain si Adan. Ngayon nagkabistuhan na, at naiiyak si Eba, pero gusto pa rin na Pedro na kanya si Eba. Papano ngayon si Juan? Ika nga: they deserve each other, and they deserve what they got. Ang buhay ay parang Champoy, walang sisihan!

  9. I think there is plenty of evidence here. Both parties made statements very soon after the incident & thats very important because the liars wont have a chance to get it totaly right. Look at what each said then look at the cctv. Now the woman ( im not a pinoy so dont remember her name ) said he raped her & her friends passing heard her cries for help & went into the house saw him on top of her & attacked him. He said he went into the house with her & shortly after she went out & these guys came in & attacked him, well the ctv shows he is telling the truth,. Now he didnt live in that appartment but she did but i think she isnt to bright & forgot about the cctv. Thank god for cctv as it will clear his name & show her & her so horts for the lying scum they are. I couldnt really care less about any of them as im not a celebrity person but this country is celebrity barmy & that & all about it is more important to the average pinoy than anything. Its a shame.

  10. The group of Cedric are a menace to our society. If they get away with it this time the will do it again. It is common knowledge in the elite that these group are notorious and it’s time for them to be in jail.

  11. Money, Power, Sex are the ingredients of a Harold Robbins Novel which were entertaining and educating.. Cedric has the power and Money, Deniece the Sex and Vhong the manyakis celebrity Victim. The elites are very interested not because of Vhong but because of Cedric and Deniece who denies any sexual relations insulting everybody. The 22 year old high living beauty without believable means of income to sustain her lifestyle on her own. Conclusion- all 3 are losers only the Lawyers as usual are the winners in millions pa. Cedric “business” associates will shy away, Deniece “clients” will diminish and Vhong’s career in danger. By the way manyakis din si Cedric naanakan si Vina Morales among others.

  12. I am not an elite nor am I masa and I don’t take sides in this sordid affair but I cannot help but be exposed to the coverage of the “crimes” allegedly committed by all parties involved which is in all the news these past days. I can only express my own disgust at the brazenness of The people involved who give accounts of what happened without considering reasonableness and sanity in what they say. It is as if we the unwilling captive of media are idiots who will swallow what we are told no matter how inane and incredible these are. I have very little hope that this situation will improve so mostly I just skim the news to be informed at whats trending and intentionally suppress my impressions then switch to another activity like reading a good novel from my Kindle. Good luck Philippines I will still pray for my country because I believe that God in His almighty wisdom and mercy will someday bring us out of this morass.

  13. In this whole saga, it is regrettable that Vhong is soley being pictured as the aggrieved party. To me, and I hope to many others too, he is not the sole aggrieved party here. His g.f., his children adults as they are –they are all aggrieved parties. Vhong speaks as though he is a “clean” God-loving person. Yet, look at his reputation: children by different women, unmarried at that..with a current girlfriend yet still keeps on playing around with other women. Would anyone believe that he went to the condo of Deniece simply to have a drink? Would it not also be a case of him expecting to bed Deniece and then say that he did not force her, but rather she was a willing party? I would rather believe that he was caught “red-handed” in the act of having sex with Deniece who probably agreed, then changed her mind remembering Cedric and company were to arrive to fetch her. Cedric and company may not be saints as his past troubles now show. But Vhong is no saint either. He certainly cannot be a model for young kids and adults alike. Many are like him…but sorry for him, because he chose to be a celebrity!

    • I don’t think Vhong spoke of being clean. In fact, he asked for forgiveness from his girlfriend.

  14. Nestor G. Dizon on

    The elite are just as interested in this case as everybody. It involves a girl who is living on her own and trying to make a career as an actress when a well known actor pursued her. With respect, he treated the guy well but was instead rape. Why is it that you do not arouse the masses to speak against sexual predator who victimizes young beautiful girls? Why is it you condone the behavior of Vhong Navarro who already have 2 wives and a girlfriend but continues to prowl the mall for more victims. Do you think the mauling is not justified? He was caught raping a girl. Do you think the behavior of the NBI, DOJ and DILG to cow the girl in pursuing the case is correct?
    The people are watching and aghast at the conspiracy of media to side with vhong.

    • did you see the cctv. so stop talking non sense. you must base your statement to the truth.

      who said vhong is right. he is wrong but he is not a rapist. as far as the cctv is concerned he cannot rape the woman in 2 minutes. she even look at her face delightfully when she went to the elevator. if she is really raped, she could have made a commotion. BUT NO.