- in Opinion, Philippines
Andre Gabriel Custodio Esteban, an 11-year-old Filipino boy from Fresno, California, wrote a letter to President Duterte, shared by his mother on Facebook.

You may have seen it over the last 24 hours. That oust Duterte hashtag. It’s usually accompanied by a quote from the President that threatens to shoot the public if they aren’t happy with his leadership. If that’s what he said, then the public outcry against him would be understandable. But that’s not what he said and anyone who actually listened to his full speech or even read the transcript would know it.

HERE’S WHAT HE REALLY SAID: President Duterte warned the Left to not take advantage of national crisis. He told them that they will be met with government force if they attempt to sow violence during this time of vulnerability. As Filipinos across the country are worrying over their social and economic standing, they become even more vulnerable to the influence of terrorist groups like the NPA and CPP.

Here is what he said, trust me it’s a lot longer than just the shoot them all quotes being spread:

“Remember kayong mga Left: you are not the government. Naiintindihan ninyo yan? Hindi kayo nasa gobyerno, and you cannot be a part of what we are planning to do for the nation.

Huwang niyong gamitin ang pwersa. I’m addresing the Red. Remember kayong mga Left, you are not in the government. You cannot be part of what we are trying to do. Intindihin niya ‘yan.

Wag kayong mag-gawa ng kalokohan at mag-riot riot dyan because I will order you detained at bibitawan ka kayo pagkatapos nawala na itong COVID-19.

Gulo, barilan o patayan, I will not heasitate to let my soldiers shoot you.”

President Duterte was not referring to the general public. He was definitely not referring to the hungry masses of people who may organize and demand food, especially since these same families (18 million to be exact) will soon be provided 5,000-8,000 a month to cushion them against the negative effects of the community quarantine).

President Duterte was not signing off a warrant for mass killing. He was not discouraging civil protest. He was specifically referring to an internationally identified terrorist group that has a history of taking advantage of the poor and the vulnerable. They use children as soldiers.

The full quote is shows that the President was doing one thing: preempting a very possible civil threat before it happens.

This may not have been a deliberate attempt to misinform the public, but in this time of crisis we need to be extremely careful with our handling of information. Most news outlets were live tweeting the President’s speech per sentence. This makes it easy for one part to be taken out of context and spread like wildfire.

This is what happened. This is why many Filipinos, already scared and worried, were not given reassurance. They were given one quote: Shoot them all. They were not given anything else and that is why they naturally

The obvious miscommunication by mainstream media of President Duterte’s core message has led to a huge problem. It is unforgivable that media outlets are even promoting this one phrase above another. Why, in this time of calamity, are they still promoting headlines over good content? Do they really need to sensationalize everyone, even now? What is the point of sowing needless division among the population?

Unity and speaking with one voice is the solution to COVID-19. We need to heal as one nation. This virus does not care about what political party you belong to.

Even we admin supporters are not saying that there is no fault in the government in their handling of COVID-19. Don’t think this is a cover-up. No government in the world was prepared for this, our own included. But we would like to respectfully ask everyone looking to oust the President to give legitimate criticism. Misinformation is not legitimate criticism of the administration, it is a criticism of the integrity of our nation’s media outlets. If you cannot see that this administration is pursuing one of the most aggressive containment campaigns against COVID-19 (despite its flaws) and you are deadset on painting everything as the end of our democracy, then please just stay within your echo chamber and stop victimizing people who need unity now.

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