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An orgy of name-calling against Sara

In 1976 an unheard-of Soviet propagandist named Yuri Gavrilov called Margaret Thatcher the Iron Lady. It was meant as a derogatory nickname for one who was determinedly against communist Russia. One week later, Thatcher turned the tables. In a speech at London’s Selborne Hall, she herself championed the new name, and declared amidst cheers, “Yes, I am an iron lady.” And the name stuck.

A public that engages in name-calling of its political leaders uses a valid form of political engagement. Names can be an expression of ascribing charisma or repulsion. It is a form of public agency. By creating political identities, they tell us about how their individual choices are made.

Anthropologists and sociologists have studied this phenomena and their conclusion may astound political fans: name-calling is not necessarily ad hominem. A public infuriated at Sara Duterte’s secret flexibility funds is a statement of how many have a keen understanding of public accountability. There simply is public fatigue against government corruption and entitlement.

If Sara is not heeding the warning, she already is a damaged political goods at this point in time. Her pikon character (short-tempered, touchy) is far from a Thatcherist astuteness and which she simply does not have the intellect for.

The extended drama (which has no end in sight) could have been her opportunity to manifest an uncompromising politics for good governance. What she shows instead is an uncompromising adoration for public money not subject to audit. It is no surprise that she is now branded with variations of names associated with greed, corruption and hubris. That is putting it mildly. In fact, there is now an orgy of bad name-calling Sara Duterte. That means public anger levels are at their high.

When Sara made the astonishing statement in 2019 that honesty and good moral character are not requirements for public office, she immediately gained her first repulsive name; she was called Sara Without an H. Notice the consistency name-callers used with the actual spelling of her name. The nickname stuck because of that. That name has since morphed in social media. Today, writing SWOH immediately brings to mind who is being referred to.

But even SWOH has mutated. It has been used in SWOH-pang, a play on the Tagalog swapang (oppressively opportunistic).

Samples of current Sara Duterte name-calling (the list may not be exhaustive; new names appear everyday): Kleptopatra, Reyna ng Confidential Funds (“mag bow kayo uy!”), Reyna ng Palusot, Queen of Money, Ang Masiba na Taga-Davao City. For the last, I had to look up the meaning of masiba (my first language is Cebuano); its synonym helped me – matakaw (gluttonous).

There was a take on Sara’s former supporters now dissatisfied with her – Confidential Fans. It was also used in another context – “Kung aprub ka sa pagwaldas ng P125M in just 11 days, ang tawag daw sa ‘yo ay Confidential Fan!” Digital creators designed an ad that mimicked the brand Pond’s Cold Cream. This time it was for a facial cream that claims to make skin thicker – Confidential Pond’s, a take on the Tagalog makapal na mukha (baga og nawong, Cebuano).

More: Feeling Prinsesa, with the meme of an extremely obese crocodilian lady dressed in green riding atop a limousine and crossing an avenue called Common Wealth; Sadut Sakim (“may kapayapaan basta sundin nyo LAHAT gusto ko!”; sakim: Tagalog, greedy); Buwayang walang kabusugan (insatiable crocodile).

When her father was president, he uttered the unquotable argumentum ad hominem – “ang galit sa drug war ay adik” (those angry at the drug war are drug addicts). Sara’s, also ad hominem, is – “Kung sino man ang kumokontra sa confidential funds ay kumokontra sa kapayapaan; kung sino man ang kumokontra sa kapayapaan ay Kalaban ng Bayan” (those against confidential funds are against peace; those against peace are Enemies of the State).

Because of its utter fallacy, it immediately unleashed comic versions.

Ang kokontra sa pagkain kong Lechon ay kontra sa kapayapaan.

Kung sino man ang kumokontra sa Ungka Flyover ay kumokontra sa kapayapaan” (said by an Iloilo journalist who has an advocacy against the sub-standard flyover in Ungka, Jaro, Iloilo city).

Kung sino man ang kumokontra sa pagka-kape ko ay kumokontra sa kapayapaan.”

One lawyer posted his own: “Ang sino man kokontra sa profile pic ko ay kontra kapayapaan.”

A brave Davao city journalist posted this: “Ang kokontra sa pagkain ko ng Molo at Pan de Ciosa ay kaaway ng kapayapaan.”

“Ang tunay na kalaban ng bayan ay yung mga ninanakaw at winawaldas ang kaban ng bayan.”

“Enemy of Peso is scarier than Enemies of Peace.”

“Kung sino man ang kumokontra sa Freedom of Expression ay kalaban ng BATAS. Ang kalaban ng BATAS ay kalaban ng KAPAYAPAAN.”

From a New York-based Filipino lawyer: “Mangungurakot lang, mananakot pa.”

“Kalaban ng Bayan – Topic of the Month – authored by Abusadong Sara.”

“Kalaban ako ni Inday Sara ng confidential funds ng pagnanakaw. Hindi ng Bayan.”

“Kung may Confidential Funds yarn, matik na may Confidential Bank Accounts yarn!”

“I therefore conclude, pangungurakot is kapayapaan. Bow.”

But the name most frequently repeated is a take on her 2022 campaign image of “the Eagle of the South.” That has now mutated into the highly popular “Money-Eating Eagle of Davao” (with apologies to Pithecophaga jefferyi, albeit netizens have assigned it a new scientific name: Saraiensis kupitdentialis; kupit: colloquial Tagalog, to steal).

These levels of satirization only tell us the public is very angry and repulsed at Sara Duterte and is censuring her weaknesses – her evasiveness and restraint for accountability, her fascistic tendencies to repel public criticism by shaming/threatening her critics, her love for secret funds that belong to the Filipino public.

Can she withstand this very serious onslaught against her dreamed ambition of becoming president? She can begin by stopping to love herself and massage her own ego. But she has had no training in selfless governance in scared Davao city. And as it is, it will take a great leap of faith for the Filipino public to believe that she is suitable for the job. As it is now, the numbers are rising for those who think she is not.

The views in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of VERA Files.