If there’s anything we might all agree on in relation to how the Duterte government operates, it’s that it has taken spin and distractions, smoke and mirrors, to a whole different level. Sometimes it’s like they’re throwing in the kitchen sink for good measure, often enough there’s some sacrificial lamb.

It is of course the President’s big mouth which does the best job of disengaging us from what matters. Take all those instances when we should be talking about something important like the killing of farmers and peasants, the failed drug war, inflation, the excise tax on oil, China’s takeover of our seas, the entry of an unbelievable number of Chinese migrant workers, the militarization of government, and count the number of times instead that the president decides to drop a misogynistic statement here, or an expletive there directed at (a) the Church, (b) activists, (c) the poor, (d) human rights advocates and organizations, (e) “terrorists” (f) critics (g) all of the above.

Which is to say that at a time like this when we have so much on our plate of things to think about given the aforementioned urgent issues, it is also pretty clear that this government, along with its puppet (or puppeteer) Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, is banking on precisely these overwhelming, exhausting times so they can continue with their ChaCha moves.  (more…)

Nora Aunor, National Artist

Note: The list of 2018 National Artists are awaiting proclamation by Malacañang, so here’s an essay from 2014, a reminder, a throwback, an insistence still, that Nora Aunor deserves it. She deserved it in 2014, she deserves it now. —  KSS. 

In the middle of writing today’s column, sad sad news stopped me in my tracks. Nora Aunor is not included in tonight’s announced National Artist Presidential proclamations.

And while I’m glad that Alice Reyes (Dance), Francisco Coching (Visual Arts), Francisco Feliciano (Music), Ramon Santos (Music), Cirilo Bautista (Literature), and Jose Ma. Zaragoza (Architecture) have finally been proclaimed National Artists, there is a real sadness about not seeing Ate Guy on that list.

It’s because this exclusion tells of how government treats culture in this country, and what exactly it holds in such high regard relative to actual creativity and artistry. (more…)

I did not vote for Mar Roxas in 2016, not even for VP Leni, though I did vote for Kiko Pangilinan, Risa Hontiveros, and Leila de Lima, as I did for Bam Aquino in 2013. I didn’t campaign publicly for any of them. In fact the only person I publicly campaigned for in 2016 was Neri Colmenares. Given short memories, it bears repeating that I was heavily critical of the Liberal Party government of Noynoy Aquino. I thought that there was an undercurrent of elitism with which the governance operated, and this revealed itself slowly but surely throughout the six years, in policies, in actions (or lack thereof), and often from the mouth of PNoy himself, sometimes of his Cabinet members. I thought it problematic that they equated social media noise and traction with public opinion; I thought they enabled entities like Rappler to earn from, build upon, false notions of wisdom-of-the-crowd. Information dissemination and transparency were fantastic though, and I miss it terribly now.

It seems like years ago, doesn’t it? An administration like Duterte’s can make us feel this way, with just a little over two years of suffering. This is a governance of chaos-by-design, of disinformation and lies, of destruction and distractions, of literal and figurative violence. It’s exhausting to be critical because nothing is going right, and we are kept in the dark about what exactly is going on. Two years in and there’s still no clear platform for governance, and certainly no clear vision. A constant: Duterte’s rhetoric of violence and vitriol, half the time hyperbole, the other half lies, which we’re told by his men we shouldn’t take seriously. Other constants: incompetence from inflation to traffic to food crises; and Duterte’s threats to leave his post, from letting a military junta take over to declaring a revolutionary government, to railroading charter change and federalism in Congress.

The current state of the nation is enough to build a campaign versus Duterte in the 2019 elections. We know that the more non-Duterte Senators and House Reps there are, the bigger the chances that the people will be represented instead of silenced in Congress, the lesser the chances of any anti-people Duterte law being railroaded. Those of us who might be critical of LP should know it’s time to set those concerns aside for the bigger picture, the more urgent task.    (more…)

It seems obvious enough that there’s a mad scramble to try and control ALL possible outcomes of whatever current situation Duterte is in. So much lying going on, yes? And so much more being kept from us deliberately, i.e., the state of President’s health. This lack of transparency is alarming because it cuts across everything, and as with all corrupt governments, it comes with the requisite bushel of lies.

But that’s stuff for another day. Right now, there’s a need to keep track of where we are, given the fact that it looks and feels like one of those instances when Duterte and his people are working overtime to ensure that they can keep the people under control, as they figure out how to handle what seems like a certainty: that Duterte will be unable to finish his term (just look at his face), or at least will want to get his term over with (just listen to what he says, over and over).

How many exits does Duterte need, or require, and who’s holding the door for him as he bids the Presidency goodbye?

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It’s become more and more unbelievable, more and more absurd, as Duterte’s military men try to build a narrative plot for what they insist is a destabilization project against the government, one that is also about ousting the President.

Interestingly enough, while they get media mileage for this equally hilarious and dangerous exercise, the nation is falling deeper into crisis — and it’s forecast to get worse. But instead of actually working on this crisis, government is using media mileage to talk about the purported Red October plot. On the surface, this is nothing but the Duterte government trying (and failing!) to use Marcos era tactics to sow fear, insisting that the Left and <insert government enemies here> are about to take over, so that at some point, government can create its own staged proof of destabilization, i.e., a car ambush ala Enrile, a bombing here, a bombing there, and what-have-you.

But we know better now. And the only way we CAN keep this manufactured plot from gaining credibility with the public is to reveal it for what it is: another (failed!) Duterte strategy to create the conditions that would make his dictatorship acceptable and necessary. Certainly by listing down all these groups and people who are purportedly part of “a plot,” they also seek to discourage us all from speaking out.

An important fact about this government: we need to keep track of information that it spews out, because so much falls through the cracks, and it lives off manufactured noise. It’s only when we have a sense of how they’re spinning discourse that we can take a clear collective stance against these dictatorial moves. It’s also a way of stopping it before it escalates.

Here, what looks like the steps this government took towards its failed DIY ouster plot project.

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