- in Opinion, Philippines

A dance troupe from the University of the Philippines – Visayas angered netizens with their number that cheerily features the lyrics “Let’s kill this President”. Now, an opinion piece published by Inquirer is crying over the supposedly thin-skinned and hypocritical nature of President Duterte’s supporters. But instead, they’ve only revealed their own weaknesses – that the only “right” opinion is theirs and everyone else must be a troll.

So, here’s our hot take: The Inquirer editors do not want to protect free speech. They want to protect the freedom of some and disregard the opposite voices – which isn’t very free at all. It’s actually pretty manipulative. They want the ability to voice their opinions against the administration and deprive anyone who disagrees with them the voice to do so. 

Let’s not forget – these students are still enjoying their scholarships and were not in any way penalized for their performance. They received both criticism and praise, with the former just being the overwhelmingly popular response. They are as free as the netizens who think they don’t deserve a scholarship. 

Inquirer’s piece suggested that the supporters of President Duterte have weaponized their power to silence their staunchest critics. But is it really an abuse of power to not block investigations into the shady Vice-Presidential elections which placed Leni Robredo into her office? Is it out of the ordinary to be skeptical of the intentions of former Senator Trillanes, who literally staged a coup to overthrow the government? Is it oppressive to forfeit his pardon, which was given on the basis that he would reform and be a functioning citizen of the Philippine nation, when he began to once again work to undermine the authority of the rightfully elected President? And lastly, is the government not supposed to investigate the biggest drug-related scandal in Philippine penal history, just because the alleged kingpin is a staunch anti-admin voice? 

Yes, President Duterte has said many things that have offended people. He’s said things about the Pope, the traffic, his critics, his friends, and his family with colorful language that not everyone has a taste for. And Inquirer, as is their right, has made a pretty penny off covering these stories and being professionally offended. They were even free to twist quotes to intentionally mislead people away from the President’s actual message. If three years into this administration they can still make a headline based on the absolute shocker that President Duterte cursed at something and still keep their journalistic credentials, I would say that they have nothing to worry about.

Free speech is not synonymous with any one political party or administration. So long as there is democracy, there is free speech. But where was the suppression here in this issue? Does Inquirer want the students of UP Visayas to have the authority to escape criticism? That’s not free speech and that’s not democratic. Inquirer wants to suppress the rights of supporters of President Duterte because they do not think they deserve to speak. They do not care about democracy or the Filipino people – they care about themselves and they are sore losers because none of their horses have been winning the races lately.

The beauty of this all is that the editors, readers, and investors of Inquirer are free to disagree with my opinion. I welcome it. This doesn’t mean I am going to change my mind, but I understand that a democracy involves differing opinions. Sometimes you are on the popular side and sometimes you aren’t. That’s just the way the wheel turns. This same process is what the editors of Inquirer are so upset about. Only one opinion can exist, and that opinion is theirs.

But if you dish it out, you need to be prepared to get it back. Sometimes feedback is negative. Sometimes nearly 90% of Filipinos agree with a President that you personally did not vote for. However, do not get free speech confused with monopolizing the conversation. I’d say that it isn’t the administration that’s stamping out dissent with an iron fist – it’s “mainstream” media channels who cannot allow for differing opinions. If Inquirer would have their way, we all must either put up or shut up so that they can continue believing that their opinion is the right one. 

This entire exercise proves that free speech is alive and well in the Philippines. Those students were able to express their undeniably controversial opinion. People were free to disagree or encourage. Inquirer was free to pick their own version of the narrative. And now, we are free to criticize Inquirer’s obvious agenda. Because now, unlike when only mainstream media could choose what was “newsworthy”, every Filipino has a voice.

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