I STUMBLED ON THIS VIDEO in one of the Facebook groups. It originated from a pro-Duterte, pro-BBM fake news website. The video itself is authentic (it isn’t staged), but it has no backstory. Watch it and draw your own conclusions.
The violence is distressing. In fact, it’s traumatizing. But there’s laughter in the background, and there are children on the street, watching the sordid event without adult supervision. The grown-ups across them seem indifferent or afraid. They do nothing. The only one who has the grit to act is the unknown guy in white. He comes to the victim’s aid not once but twice. He walks up to the “armed” bully and waves him away with authority. Surprisingly, the bully obeys. That’s what bullies do when they’re put in their place.
Armed assault on a street corner in broad daylight. This is Rodrigo Duterte’s Philippines. In the video, the bully’s gun could be a toy. It doesn’t matter. It gives the bully power, and that’s all that counts in this thug culture.
I miss the way things used to be.
Inang Bayan was, to me, a regal grand dame, exquisite even in poverty. Bejeweled she was not, but flush she was in natural splendor and her children’s ardent love. I believed we Pinoys were family, fondly huddling in her copious skirts. Its folds may have parted and at times hidden us, but we sheltered there together, and thereby sealed our kinship.
I am a Manileña, but primarily I am a Filipina. I embrace all Pinoys as ‘‘tayo,‘‘ wherever they might be. I thought I was likewise held; but when Duterte happened, I was brusquely disabused. The animus seething from the South and, later, from the DDS, perplexed me. I had heard of it but I never guessed its magnitude. The siblings I’d clasped in solidarity had shaken loose and unleashed hell. The resentment was overwhelming; it had the force of repulsion and expulsion.
I thought we were “tayo;” suddenly I was ‘‘kayo.” Had I been so wrong? Were we not family, after all? I know the ache of bereavement, of losing what was. But worse is the pain of learning that “what was” had never been.
Is their bitterness as malevolent as it seems, or has Duterte amplified it? He stokes their umbrage and deepens the rift; but was it irreparable to begin with? Is there room for healing?
This is mainly why I reject Duterte’s federalism, because it will solidify the chasm. Rapacious Duterte has gerrymandered Inang Bayan, and we are falling through the clefts. Despoiled, she languishes, grieving for her children.
And so it is that in Duterte’s Philippines, armed assault on street corners in broad daylight is…expected. Social fissures enable social apathy. The wider the crack, the greater the indifference. It is easier to ignore a stranger. It is easier to blame a stranger. It is easier to hurt a stranger.
Duterte’s rhetoric, echoed by his minions, his bloggers, and his blind followers, resonates with rage and malice. They have, all of them, mastered the craft of duplicity. In the hands of Duterte and his spinmeisters, truth doesn’t stand a chance.
They paint a target and the DDS blast it with a howitzer. Hence, the poor in the War on Drugs; Leila de Lima; Antonio Trillanes; Leni Robredo; Ma. Lourdes Sereno; Maria Ressa; Conchita Carpio Morales; Arthur Carandang; Noynoy Aquino; Risa Hontiveros; Jover Laurio; “imperial” Manila; the LP; Dilawan; Dengvaxia; ad infinitum. There is no reason to this; no logic or sense. Any critic, any rival, any nuisance, anyone who waylays the Duterte juggernaut is fair game. This is nothing but unadulterated powerlust, turbo-boosted by a hefty dose of Sara Duterte’s schadenfreude.
They have succeeded to fracture us. Behold: I now say “they” and ‘‘we.”
“We” are Pinoys who are as bewildered as I am, who are nauseated by the rapidity of our descent, and who lament our lost gentility. Perhaps we misapprehended matters and overestimated the state of the union. Perhaps there is really no kinship to restore. Perhaps the family never was. Yet there is hope.
We can rebuild our moral moorings and find the courage to choose right from wrong. We can insist on truth and shoot down a lie so it will not be told 10 million times. We can demand integrity so that we need not engage in fruitless attempts to legislate character. With these we may find common cause and revive our ailing Inang Bayan.
People ask what must be done to defeat this noxious regime. The answer is simple enough: do what it isn’t doing. Have faith. Tell the truth. Act honorably. Respect one another. Live decently. Make moral choices. Obey the law. Don’t let bullies have their way. Be different.
It was interesting to watch the onlookers in the video: a woman winced; a teenager feigned ignorance; a man watched with obscene curiosity. Only one person acted. The guy in white got into the fray, stood up to a bully, and saved a life.
Don’t be afraid to engage. Speak up. Speak out. Resist. Stand up to the bully. Save lives. Be the guy in white.
Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. – Isaiah 1:17
If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. – James 4:17