The pen is mightier than the strongman

How did you wake up today? I woke up today, thinking about how this is another day of my life that I have to put up with the stupidity of President Rodrigo Duterte and his ridiculous government.

To experience such a daily pain in the ass is, interestingly, such a wonderful time to reflect and ponder on many little things in life. Today, I am lucky that I am writing this article in the democratic space of my university and not in a jail cell, just like many dissenters and journalists who are detained and silenced around the world by their own governments. Many of them, as veteran journalist Maria Ressa puts it, “Their only crime is to be a journalist.”

Amongst these journalists is Altermidya correspondent Frenchiemae Cupio, who was arrested in February for alleged illegal possession of firearms. She was arrested together with four more human rights defenders in Tacloban.

But unlike the lunatic, Duterte, his ridiculous army of trolls—the DDS cult and berdugo state forces—we know exactly what is our most strategic weapon against this fascist regime. Unfortunately, Mr. President, sorry to disappoint, but we are not holding bombs and AK-47s; rather, it is our words against your words. Only that for us, and for many journalists around the world, we are speaking truth to power.

For a government who seems to think that journalists are burdening their grip on power, I am not surprised when this administration announced its newest oppressive venture: to close down ABSCBN, the biggest media company in the country, by not renewing their legislative franchise. Solicitor General Jose Calida even garnished it with a quo warranto case. This is, once again, an attempt by Duterte to assert his manhood and stick it to the face of every media company critical of his government.

Analyzing the politically motivated closure of the network, one can only do a hands-down to Duterte and his cronies for coming up with a grand master plan of legitimizing his dictatorship. In fact, I find this authoritarian-like move as very strategic for many reasons: one, Duterte’s cronies now have an incentive to acquire the television network; second, Duterte can now finally sleep well with his kulambo and end his personal vendetta against ABS-CBN for apparently not airing his 2016 campaign propaganda; and ultimately, he can send a chilling message to every media outlet in the country not to fuck with him. Because if he can do it to ABS-CBN, then he can probably do it again and again.

Well, if it sounds familiar, this is exactly what the late dictator and mass murderer Ferdinand Marcos did (because it is what dictators do) when he declared martial law. Duterte’s idol closed down every media company in the country to guarantee media blackout and control narratives.

Ultimately, I think that the long history of the Philippine press is proof that when shit happens, all the more that it would inspire more movements to thrive. When policymakers like Oplan Tokhang architect Senator Bato Dela Rosa, an outspoken lapdog of Duterte (who will sink and swim with him) have been a rubber stamp in the Senate, all the more that publications are forced to militantly resist.

We have come to a point where journalists are not only watchdogs of breaking news but more than that, the guardians of democracy. Newsrooms will soon turn the ink of printing presses into revolt pigment; pick up the placards, and paint the banners to call for a free press. After all, the era of another strongman compels us to go out in the streets and fight beyond the ink and pages of our papers. [P]

Graphics by Jermaine Valerio

This opinion piece was originally published for UPLB Perspective Volume 46 Issue 3.

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