Of Assumptions and Support

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In reaction to last week’s column, an acquaintance of mine, who is a harsh critic of the president, wrote to me saying:

I am interested to know why you still support Duterte up to this point even if he wants CHR defunded (which just happened earlier, along with other 2 agencies)? Even his rhetoric is murderous? etc… I am really curious as to why a seemingly smart, educated, rational, and ethical person like you still supports Digong.

Just to be clear about context, the person seemed to ask this with sincerity to understand, not simply for the sake of argument or confrontation. Before I answer the main question, let me address two assumptions in these statements that hinder productive dialogue between supporters and critics.

The first assumption is found in the phrase, “why you still support Duterte up to this point even if he wants CHR defunded.”

The original text stating my continued support came out over 3 weeks ago and the follow-up articles I wrote were in reference to those. Why would you assume that support continues “up to this point” when I have made no statements regarding the current situation? In fact, I saw the question only a few minutes after I glanced at some headlines about what congress did to CHR.

Is there now this expectation that I give my opinion on social media on whatever bit of news comes out, in order to judge my support or non-support? In fact, there seems to be an expectation that I sound off every now and then about politics, otherwise I am “silent.” Is that not a tad unrealistic, not to mention unfair? Life is not social media, and there are other venues of expression after all, with some even more productive.

The second assumption is found in the second sentence and while seeming innocent is actually a veiled insult, as if the only people who would support Digong are not smart, not educated, and are neither rational or ethical. This is similar to the mistaken generalizations of some atheists that religious people are unintelligent and irrational, which is far from the case. 96% of Davao City voters supported the president last elections. Are you implying then, that 96% of Davao City voters are irrational, stupid or unethical?

Anyway, moving forward and removing these assumptions, I would rephrase your question to the following: 1) Why DID I support the president? 2) Does he still have my continued support?

The first question has actually been answered in a few articles I have written previously. To summarize, we in Davao have felt Digong’s leadership most intimately, and despite his mouth, he has shown himself to be a loving, caring father to the city. Unlike most politicians, he neither demands nor expects special treatment. I personally know at least three people whom he himself has rescued from dangerous situations — two of them kidnap-for-ransom and the other was a hostage situation by a drug-crazed person. This is apart from less sensational stories swapped around by family and friends. In other words, the person whom you know only through his TV appearances and media stories, is someone who is more real to us. He is a friend’s ninong. He is my former teacher’s neighbor. He is my cousin’s schoolmate, and so on and so forth.

Now you may roll eyes at this, and dismiss it as another person has dismissed the stories as merely being “idol worship” similar to Cavitenos love for the Revillas or Ilocos’ love for the Marcoses, and perhaps there is some truth to that but it is what it is and that would be my honest answer to #1 — that we supported him because we know him, or think we know him better than anyone else not from here (I am of course speaking for those who share similar experiences and viewpoints as mine — not necessarily for those who are expressing blind support but do not share similar experiences).

Let’s now go to #2, does he still have my continued support? I look at the question of support not simply as a black or white question. It’s as if I have an internal scale that is ever-changing depending on how the president is acting or reacting to certain issues, so while the support may be at 80% at a certain time, it can also drop down to 60% at other times.

I had hoped for the best in electing Digong as president. I thought that he would mostly reign in his tongue and not make grossly careless statements. I thought that he would show swift and just actions towards erring policemen instead of seemingly coddling them.  I had hoped that his love affair with the Marcoses would end once he got the body buried. I believed that was merely an election strategy and now it seems I believed wrong.

One of my longtime readers emailed me saying, “Isn’t it beginning to look as if the role of President Duterte is the same as that played by John the Baptist over two thousand years ago – to prepare the way for the Coming of Bongbong, the Son of the Father?” And it tragically does indeed seem that way.

I had hoped he would fight for those he appointed that seemed to be performing well — Gina Lopez, Judy Taguiwalo — and not throw them under the bus.

I had hoped that he would show his best side — a side witnessed by so many people I know — but to my eyes at least, it seems that I am chalking up more and more X’es rather than checks.

Does he still have my support? Perhaps. Maybe. Barely. I don’t know.

Again, that answer may not satisfy you, but it is what it is for now. Ask me again after some time, perhaps there will be more clarity then.

Originally published in Sunstar Davao.

Email me at andy@freethinking.me. View previous articles at www.freethinking.me.

Neutrality Helps the Oppressor, But So Does Infighting

At first, there was Kian delos Santos, then there was Carl Arnaiz. Now there is Reynaldo de Guzman, a 14-year old boy found in Nueva Ecija whose body was found floating in a creek and bearing 30 stab wounds.

I am one with those feeling outrage and anger at these events. I am one with those who speak out that justice be done and  those responsible be brought to answer for their actions. I know that many share these sentiments, whatever their political color or allegiances might be.

Yet, I see a disturbing trend happening in social media. Instead of seeking ways for justice to really be done, many resort to fighting and blaming each other. The pro-Duterte will blame the anti-Duterte for sensationalizing and politicizing the tragedy. The antis will blame the pros for having a hand in these murders. There will be cries of “Yellowturds” and “Dutertards” all over again. The bickering will go back and forth and so much time and energy will be expended defending one’s position in all these things, and at the end of the day, we will still lack what we all have been desiring all along – justice for the victims, action and answers from those responsible.

It is no secret that as of this writing, the president still has my support — something that galls to no end some of my contacts who are vehemently against the president and see him as evil incarnate. They tag me in this post and that, mentioning my name, and ever wanting to remind me that I have “blood on my hands.” One even expressed approval when I asked, “So what do you want me to do? Slash my wrists because I voted for Duterte?”

One of them recently sent me a quote saying “neutrality helps the oppressor, never the oppressed,” and I agree to a certain extent. And though I seldom write about politics in my column because it is not my forte, I will express what I feel needs to be expressed at this time, but not necessarily what my detractors want to hear. Let me make this clear. My thoughts are my own and they are not intended to please anybody, so agree with me or go ballistic on me. I respect your reaction, but this is my opinion.

To those who ultimately blame Duterte (and/or all his voters) for these killings, I hope you understand that it is not necessary for us to share your hatred of the man in order to demand accountability and transparency. It is not even necessary for us to voice outrage on social media, as if that is the only valid venue for expressing such. There are many people I know who support the president but are angered at the recent spate of killings of these teenagers. I have many friends older than me who marched against Marcos at EDSA in 1985 (I was in fifth grade then), yet they still support Duterte, even to this minute.

Do you even bother to find out why? Do you bother talking to these people? Yes, these are people — human beings — as much as you are, not avatars of ideology, not some nameless faces you can demonize and knock down just like that.

Or is your rage such that anyone who does not share 100% of your convictions, or your brand of activism, is automatically worthy of your scorn and derision? Because if that is so, then you would be alienating many who otherwise might be moved to join hands with you  in the collective shout for justice.

I believe that many Filipinos are troubled by what has happened to Kian, to Carl and to Reynaldo, but instead of coming together as one to demand answers, we fall apart pointing fingers and asserting our own solutions as the only rational and valid ones. We jeer and lambast those opposed to us as if we alone hold all the right answers.

From personal experience, I know that bashing someone else’s religion won’t endear that person to change his beliefs or even to listen to me. I guess the same holds true for someone’s politics. It is very difficult to tear someone out of deep-seated beliefs and if this is your immediate goal, you will be quite frustrated indeed.

But whether you are pro or anti, perhaps we can agree that instead of wasting too much time on infighting, and on the blame game, and on how to “burn” others in social media, we could instead be proactively discussing how we can go about getting the justice we, and these kids, deserve.

Originally published in Sunstar Davao.

Email me at andy@freethinking.me. View previous articles at www.freethinking.me.

Reactions and Reflections

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Last week, I published a piece I originally posted on Facebook that I said had “garnered more attention” than my other posts. To be exact, as of this writing, 1000 liked it, 63 loved it, 44 were sad, 10 were mad, 15 laughed, and 2 wow-ed. The usual critics turned up on the sad, mad, and laughing icons but I was surprised to see some vocal oppositionists “loving” it. It has been shared 323 times, and the original post has 111 comments.

It has taken me some time to go through the comments and reflect on them, with work and real life in the way. I wrote the post on a holiday, after all, and while I usually have work even on holidays, that was a rare occasion when I didn’t and had the luxury of a few hours.

I also wanted to process the comments without making knee-jerk reactions, without responding in kind to anger and sarcasm, which only tends to breed more of the same — and I am done with that phase of my life when I have to argue every statement and decision I make.

I go with what Frank A. Clark said so many years ago, “We find comfort among those who agree with us, growth among those who don’t.”

Most of the negative reactions to my post accused me of hand-washing the blood supposedly on my hands and of their disappointment that I only felt disappointment but did not regret my decision. To those who felt and still feel that way, let me just say this. I respect your right to feel however you do with me or with the president or with the government, but you simply cannot dictate to me how I am supposed to feel, any more than I can dictate to you to feel as I do.

It is funny how many who preach respect, freedom and tolerance are those who cannot respect, and are intolerant of those who do not align with their way of thinking.

One of the greatest modern thinkers of our time, Bertrand Russell, gave this nugget of wisdom in his old age: “Love is wise, hatred is foolish. In this world which is getting more and more closely interconnected, we have to learn to tolerate each other, we have to learn to put up with the fact that some people say things that we don’t like. We can only live together in that way — and if we are to live together and not die together, we must learn a kind of charity and a kind of tolerance, which is absolutely vital to the continuation of human life on this planet.”

In other words, yes, you might have the facts, and you might even be right, but if you are an insufferable prick about it, you won’t win over much to your side. And like it or not, any sort of collective outrage or movement ultimately needs the numbers to back it up.

To be fair, there were also those who welcomed my post in this light. They may not fully agree with how I felt but respected that anyway, and saw it as part of a process, and they likewise have my respect and thanks in return.

The buddha was once criticized for not being consistent with what he said. A critic confronted him saying that what he said recently flatly contradicted what he claimed over a year ago, and the critic revealed himself as having been the same person to ask him the same question a year ago, and had gotten a different answer.

The buddha brought the man to the riverbank and said, “Look at this river. It looks like it is the same river, but it is not. Every moment it is changing. The water that passes through it passes but once. It is the same with people. We may look the same, but we are ever changing in every moment. The person who asked the question a year ago is no longer the same. The person who answered that question is no longer the same.”

In the same way, the person who wrote that post is not necessarily the person writing this article. Many things have moved along the way, but you will never know if all you do is judge the river by its surface.


Originally published in Sunstar Davao.

Email me at andy@freethinking.me. View previous articles at www.freethinking.me.

No Regrets

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Last Monday, I wrote a short piece on Facebook which garnered more attention than my usual posts. Some liked it and some did not. Some welcomed it, while others called me colorful names because of it. A few people suggested in private that I should publish it in my regular column and I have been wrestling with myself for the past hour or so if I should incorporate some realizations into the piece or just publish it as is.

I have decided to just publish it in its original form and deal with the reactions and my subsequent reflections on them in the next article:


I have been asked if I regretted voting for Duterte in 2016, with some even implying that an apology was in order for doing so.

The answer is no.

My vote in 2016 was a vote against the establishment, against the business-as-usual practices of government, against crime and corruption, and against smiling politicians posing for a photo-op with relief goods while secretly siphoning billions away of the people’s money.

My vote was a vote for federalism, for decentralization of power, and what I considered a better form of government. My vote was for a leader who could back words with action, who had tangible results to show from all his years in leadership.

So presented with the choices for president, though there wasn’t really much to like about the choices, I made a choice anyway and cast my vote.

So no, I do not regret voting for Duterte, and no apologies are forthcoming for exercising my right and making a judgement call based on what I thought was the best (as is anybody else’s right). Were I to travel back in time, I don’t think I would have voted any other way.

I will, however, express disappointment on several things going on in this administration. I am saddened by the needless loss of lives in this drug war. While I am all for conducting legitimate police operations, backing them up with proper training and equipment, I am against planting evidence and inciting suspects to “fight back” just to bury a bullet in their heads.

Unfortunately, the president did not live up to his promise to be “more presidentiable” once he assumed the mantle, and instead uttered careless words that many take as a justification for police to act with impunity. It does not matter if the words were said in jest, in hyperbole, or whatever spin they concoct. What matters is they were indeed uttered and lives have been lost in their utterance, and for that he is accountable and answerable to the people.

This is no longer election time when you have to regale voters with humor, double-speak, street slang and exaggerated promises. Now is the time for clear communication, to say what you mean and mean what you say. After all, you leave a very confused public when on the one hand you tell us that you will not tolerate police abuse while on the other, you encourage the police to give the alleged pushers guns so they can fight back and provide a reason for being shot down.

I am disappointed that General de la Rosa did not take seriously the suggestion that police should wear body cameras. If we are to be serious about transparency and accountability in operations, then he should not dismiss this for mere lack of funds but find ways in order to implement it. If there is indeed nothing to hide and operations are above-board, then why not? This will even aid in going after those cops who are indeed scalawags.

I am disappointed at how the CHR has been demonized and painted as a useless entity. As has been pointed out time and again, the CHR exists to protect us from government abuses. Despite the general term “human rights,” it is not their job to go after kidnappers or those killed by drug addicts (that’s what the police are for). The office was created with a specific mandate and that is what they are doing. For example, if the police are the ones abusing you, you understandably do not want to run to the police for help. You go to the CHR. That is not so difficult to understand.

I am disappointed as well in how “mainstream media” has been painted as evil and bloggers as a better alternative (especially if they are remunerated for their services by the Office of the President). While there are indeed dishonest media practitioners, the same can be said of bloggers. This does not warrant any sort of blanket generalization for either group.

So there, no apologies, but sadness and anger for the lack of due process, and a deep desire for this administration to step up and do better.


Email me at andy@freethinking.me. View previous articles at www.freethinking.me.

Too Understanding

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I received an interesting reaction to last week’s article and would like to address it here:

We had email exchanges before about religion/God-related topic. I’m not sure if you will remember me. After that instance, I still continued to read your articles and remained subscribed.

Anyway, I have read today’s article about understanding people. Not bragging but I think have always been understanding. I listen and take a moment before reacting. I learned to put myself in the other person’s shoes several times in order to better understand situations.  There are times though that I need to vent so as to keep my sanity as well, especially, after hearing something that I do not agree with or something that makes me furious (I am human after all). It helps me “think out loud” and analyze what triggered that reaction from me.

However, now I have difficulty drawing the line between extending my patience to understand the context of the other person’s situation, and to categorize the other person as being plain jerk. I know doing things to the extreme is never good (is there such thing as being too understanding?) But honestly, I sometimes fear that the other person is probably taking me for a ride. I cannot always rely on gut feel because, as you know, not all “kutob/hinala” are true.

P.S. I am an HR Supervisor and facing this difficulty at work. Because of this behavior/ personality of mine (being understanding), I feel that it makes me look weak. Oh… striking that balance!

I will really appreciate if you’ll give me your two cents.

More power to you sir!

Hello again, and thanks for writing again. I admit not remembering at once who you were, but thank Google for well, Google, and I was able to see our last exchange which was way back in 2013.

Now, regarding your situation, let me answer that on two levels — personal and professional. First, in the context of personal relationships, yes there is such a thing as being “too understanding” and that makes you a pushover and people can take advantage of you. Part of understanding context is also discerning when the other person is indeed taking you for a ride, and then dealing with it in a manner that you see fit. Sometimes, it entails ending the relationship with the other person. Understanding does not necessarily mean condoning or even agreeing with the behavior.

For example, there have been several times when people have borrowed money from me in the past and have not paid me back. It would be easy to judge all of these people as opportunists and “unfriending” them not only in Facebook but in real life. But in trying to understand their situation, I found out that one is still struggling with finances and has a medical condition requiring constant treatment. I do not push the issue with that person and he still remains my friend. However, there is another person who borrowed from me at a time when he was in dire need of assistance, but a few years later, I saw him post in social media about being in this event, and attending this convention, and even getting married. So I figured that he already had a turnaround in finances. When I reminded him about the debt, however, it was like he had conveniently forgotten it at first, then he promised to pay, then I didn’t get any response anymore. Anyway, the amount was not that large so I decided to let it go, but I do not look at the person the same way anymore and he does not have the respect I once had for him.

Now, professionally, you say that you are an HR supervisor, and yes I understand the challenges of your job. I often have conversations with our own HR manager about cases and situations with our employees. On the one hand, you are there to implement the policies of the company but on the other hand, you also want to be on the side of the employees and not have them look at you as the enemy. You are caught between management and the workforce.

This would be my advice. Listen to the people, but do not get carried away by emotions. Be results-oriented, and implement policy based on results. What do I mean? If an employee always shows up late and explains it is because he has to help his sick mother get up every morning and accompany her to the market (because no one else is there). Yes, that is a situation we can understand, but what is the result? That he always clocks in late.

Perhaps here it becomes clearer when I say that understanding does not mean condoning the behavior. You could point out that you understand his difficulty but the result is his constant tardiness, which is against company policy. It would be unfair to give him special consideration because that would open the door for others to also ask for special consideration for whatever reason. You can then give advice based on this, like why doesn’t he wake up earlier so that he can be done with the market earlier, and so on.

Be firm, but also be fair and always be kind. Hope you find this helpful.

Originally published in Sunstar Davao.

Email me at andy@freethinking.me. View previous articles at www.freethinking.me.

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