On Tuesday, Nov. 24, leftist leaders and activists from the Makabayan bloc challenged the Duterte government to back their claims of red-tagging with “credible and admissible proof,” in response to the recent Senate hearing on the government’s red-tagging practices. Three weeks ago, the bloc has refuted allegations accusing their members of being front organizations for the CPP and called for the Senate to not be “used to endanger our lives” and disparage members of progressive groups like them.
Former Bayan Muna congressman Neri Colmenares and National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) founding member and Sentra executive director Jobert Pahilga highlighted the inconsistencies in Jeffrey Celiz, the government’s star witness’ statement that is meant to incriminate them. In Celiz’s and the military’s failure to present any “competent evidence” that would stand in the count, they are only resorting to trial by publicity after the Department of Justice panel scrapped a case against Leftists after failure to link armed communists with activists.
Amidst the Duterte administration’s intensifying red-tagging spree, fear and danger indiscriminately haunt the country – artists, schools, priests, critics, activists, and even students are not spared. A number of these red-tagging incidents have led to killings and forced disappearances. Cristina Palabay, human rights group Karapatan’s secretary-general, stated that ‘practically any thought, dissent, watchdog role, and protest on government policies are susceptible to and has been met with red-tagging.’
We see a country stricken by the plague of post-truth, in a stage where a nationalist trickster dictates the narrative as he pleases. In the public sphere and the realm of socio-political deliberation, the value of the truth has deteriorated. Rationality holds no meaning as emotion and loyalties cast a spell on people. What does post-truth mean in our advocacy for freedom of speech and expression?
We are consumers of media and of Duterte’s improvised speeches, standing in this backdrop of simulacra-controlled social consciousness monopolized by a few but sold to the majority. When untruths are propagated by government officials tasked to uphold factual record, when people in power choose to traffic nonsense to advance their own agenda when trolls who invent data and facts are rampant not only in social media but news commentaries when the President himself goes through such lengths to spin-statistics and abuse the power of labels – where do we consumers stand?
The poison of post-truth has already seeped in. Duterte’s “narco-state” label of the Philippines couldn’t have been convincing without influential bloggers and loyalists or his boycotts of mainstream media. Words are far from powerless – reports and accounts and journalism has never been more vital in this weaponized post-truth era.
With many Filipinos resigned to the conviction that extra-judicial killings are the only way around the impotent criminal justice system, Duterte’s post-truth stage was already set, spawning this current culture of complacency and resignation – of normalized killings. The mirage of a narco-state, seemingly-“necessary” EJKs, targeted public figures, and an anti-terrorism bill aimed at critics – the list of agendas that Duterte will advance only increases from here. It will only increase from here if we do not collectively awaken our social imaginary.
Disaster after disaster – after the devastation of a once-in-a-lifetime typhoon, the government’s ineptitude in dealing with the pandemic – all on top of the EJK issue, jarring economic inequality and normalized corruption, and hundreds of other dilemmas plaguing the Philippines, we must muster the strength to wake up to this surreptitious state of affairs.
When a journalist reports on the government’s ineptitude, we must not shrug our shoulders – we must not resign with a “bahala na, ganyan talaga [whatever, it’s really just like that].” We must stand strong and smart against the propagators of untruth weaponizing ignorance and complacency. We must fight against their agenda to confuse, divide, and numb our consciousnesses to servility and resignation. It is no longer enough to ask, “is this good,” or “is this true?” We must ask – who is this good for? Who will this benefit?
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