In August 2010, I tried my hand at classifying the types of criticism directed at President Aquino, then a mere six weeks in office. In “‘Politico,’ ‘Inglisero,’ ‘hacendero,’” I identified three emerging patterns in the criticism. Either the new President was “merely another politician” despite “the moral character of the mandate [he] sees himself as having received at the polls last May”; or he was an English-speaking personality “essentially alienated from his constituency”; or he was the “fundamentally class-determined” heir of a large landowning family.
In July 2011, I tried again, offering a different classification of the growing body of criticism. In “Lost boy, playboy, bad boy,” I pointed to three new patterns that seemed to replace the first three. Either President Aquino was an amateur in politics, “out of his league, in over his head, or sinking under the weight of the presidency”; or he was a slacker addicted to play, whether as “a serial boyfriend” in perpetual search of “female companionship” or as an avid player of video or computer games; or he was “a vengeful man, out to ‘get’ his enemies.”
Feedback has been instructive, and encourages me to keep at it. (To be completely candid, I hardly needed convincing; this is the sort of analytical grunt work I like to do.) I will try my hand at classifying the types of anti-Aquino criticism a third time then, partly to indulge a documentation instinct, and partly as an aid to understanding the state of things, two years and three months after President Aquino took his oath of office.
The blowback against the new Cybercrime Prevention Act that President Aquino signed into law on Sept. 12 makes for a good point of reference; among the hundreds of comments posted mainly by pseudonymous readers on Inquirer.net after the newspaper ran a rare front-page editorial on Sept. 20 (“A blow against free speech”), we can find examples of three patterns in anti-Aquino criticism that I see firmly taking hold in the political imagination. (There must be many others, but these are what I see; the first two are somewhat similar, different only in degree, while the third is the polar opposite of the first two.) The readers’ comments I will quote are as they appear in the editorial’s comment thread.
Clueless. This type of criticism is an extension of the amateur-hour put-down leveled, quite memorably, at the President at the beginning of his term by Sen. Joker Arroyo. But it has expanded into a wholesale insult, a denial of Mr. Aquino’s basic intelligence. Perhaps reader AllaMo’s comment, whose elaborate language I must say rises to the occasion, is a good example: “Oh, what dizzying heights of stupidity. To sign a thing into law, sans perusal and cogitation. Shame, pnoy. Shame and a pox on your inanity.”
More worrying for the President’s supporters is the lament of sympathetic readers. Reader Political Jaywalker, for instance, unburdened himself in a plaintive note. “What an ironic turn of events, the son of the hero Ninoy Aquino who gave his life for the cause of freedom … will be the one to sign a law where the criminalized libel is extended all the way to cyberspace is just unthinkable, but then again sometimes we wonder if he even thinks [of] what he is doing?”
Couldn’t-care-less. My own understanding of the “Noynoying” meme is that it purports to portray, or is raised as a protest against, a President who is indifferent, rather than one who is indolent. Some of the reactions to the Inquirer position on the “cyberlibel” issue certainly drag “Noynoying” into it.
The following comment by a “Guest” is meant to describe the lawmakers who passed the bill, but I think it can also be used to apply to a signer-into-law perceived as one who couldn’t care less: “magbulag bulagan, magbingi bingihan at ‘wala akong pakialam’ ang nais ipahiwatig ng batas na ito” (act blind, play deaf and ‘I don’t care’ is what [the passage of] this law means).
Unscrupulous. The third pattern of criticism goes directly against the first two, and have gained in traction ever since the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona. The President, the critique goes, has no qualms or scruples about consolidating power, whether it is in the Supreme Court, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or (the issue of the day) the Senate itself.
Reader Nimrod Suaez suggested a devious tactical motive behind the new law. “PNoy is under attack in cyber space, therefore, he railroaded in passing the Cyber Prevention Act but put on hold the Freedom of Information Act.” Reader Robrano proposed (with tongue soaked in sarcasm) a strategic objective behind all that tactical maneuvering. “No, it is not a blow against freedom of speech. It is just part of the ‘straight path’ to a distatorship like in Russia during the Stalin time.”
What do we make of all this? I do not have a complete answer, just yet, especially in the light of President Aquino’s strong surge in the latest surveys. But I must say I’ve noticed more such comments as these, from Mr. Aquino’s own supporters: “Let’s admit it. For those of us who voted for PNoy and LP, it is time to lower our expectations. For those of us who thought the ouster of Corona is the beginning of real change, we should know better by now. All things considered, I’m still very much for PNoy, the lesser evil of them all. But I can’t shake off the feeling that we’ve been punked.”
That’s reader Pia Pilar Francisco writing. From hope to the lesser evil—that tells us something about the state of things.
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