Is the Left needed to resist Dutertismo?
I was stunned, and bewildered, when I checked in on Twitter on Black Saturday and saw leftist activists waging all-out war on a woman named Tess Garcia, who calls herself Daughter of Mindanao. Or, in the words of Tonyo Cruz: “star-spangled @tessgarcia, self-styled Daughter of Mindanao” — a masterful touch, that. Double sets of alliteration dripping with condescension.
This was no mere social media spat; it struck me as representative of how the national-democratic influencers conduct themselves online and off, and why opposition unity remains a serious problem. Cruz, whom I have had the privilege of meeting on occasion and the pleasure of hearing serve as an emcee during a major political rally, defined the parameters of my reflection with his last two tweets in a long thread.
“Your friendly neighborhood national-democratic activists are always available for discussions on the US-Duterte regime, and on the three sources of social cancer in PH ….” And: “Activists are always ready to unite among friends on shared values and shared positions, and to struggle and debate with friends if there are disagreements. Real friends can engage in debate.”
I will return to these values and positions, but what did Garcia do to set off Cruz and other “friendly neighborhood national-democratic activists”? As far as I can reconstruct the timeline, she posted two tweets they found deeply offensive.
One was something she posted after midnight on Good Friday.
“Hello, Manila, my mother is having none of it. She is as mad as I am.”
“Taxi driver: ‘Grabe, ma’am, ang taas na talaga ng gasolina ngayon’.”
“Mom: ‘okay lang yan. Nanalo naman presidente niyo diba? Masaya naman kayo diba?’”
“Taxi driver: …..”
This went viral, but belatedly got some pushback. To use Cruz’s term, it was “matapobre” — it looked down on the poor. I do not know the exact circumstances of this now-controversial taxi ride; I do not know Garcia, have exchanged only a couple of messages with her online, and followed her only after she featured in my feed as a consistent and vigorous critic of President Duterte. But while this is something I would not write, I am not prepared to push Garcia from “real friends who can engage in debate” category to “social cancer” status.
The other controversial tweet was posted on the same day, at night. It had about one-tenth the traction of the first tweet, but seems to me to be the tweet that really provoked the neighborhood. “US-Duterte regime does not exist, friends. It’s China-Duterte-Marcos-Arroyo. Okay? Okay.”
To be sure, Garcia received flak for these two tweets from non-Left, pro-Duterte accounts. But that was only to be expected. What I did not expect was for the practitioners of united front politics, who now say they are against the President and Dutertismo, to vilify an individual actor with a reputation for Duterte criticism. This is not about the mere lack of people skills, but about national-democratic blinders—and blunders. If unity is the need of the moment (that is the context to the assertion that NDs are “always ready to unite among friends”), what was the point of isolating and then aligning Garcia with Duterte?
I mean that literally. Here is Cruz, starting one of his arguments: “Duterte and @tessgarcia are two sides of the same coin.” That would mean that Garcia has been cast beyond the pale; the values and positions she shares are those of Duterte, not those of the neighborhood activists. There isn’t even an attempt to correct and then bring Garcia into the fold. Indeed, his first tweet on the matter already rejects Garcia totally: “In fact, our pro-US friends from Duterte to @tessgarcia fail to explain why this relationship fails to stop [the] Chinese invasion…”
Wait, there’s more. “The anti-left, pro-trapo, and star-spangled crowd are as rotten as Duterte. They fight Duterte over the choice of which imperialist power should control PH.”
This is rich. Not capitalist-rich, but revisionist-history-rich. The same surveys that Cruz (rightly) quotes in his thread also show that the vast majority of Filipinos think favorably of the United States; this is the “star-spangled crowd” Cruz condemns, and which, with a pivot, presumes to speak for. Only a plurality of Filipinos wanted the US bases out, that is true, but years after the pullout, a majority of Filipinos learned to support the decision. I know of no organized Filipino group that wants the US, or the China that the national democrats took so long to criticize, to have imperialist power and control over the Philippines. I also have yet to hear any sign of pure remorse from the national democrats who enabled and even served in the calamitous Duterte regime.
This is why, despite its belated anti-Duterte rhetoric and its thoughtful positioning on the ground, the NDs as a whole remain unable to generate trust from other, more established Dutertismo resisters. Do they think they can do it all on their own?
On Twitter: @jnery_newsstand
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