Sara Duterte’s two-faced populism

Until this very day when the year is almost ending, Sara Duterte still has not explained how she had spent her 125M Pesos in only 11 days. Meanwhile the public waits and urges her to explain. She evades the problem by shoving it under the rug. But 125M can hardly be sneaked disguised under the rug.

Somebody has called Sara the two-faced populist in the light of raging issues of Red Chinese intrusions against Philippine sovereignty. Even senators who used to genuflect to Rodrigo Duterte’s obeisance to Xi Jin Ping have suddenly found their freedom of speech and now invoke statements against Beijing. A publicly organized convoy of ships that intended to visit Ayungin Shoal, however aborted by Red Chinese shadowing, was civilian organized. (Note: Atin Ito was a historic first, a clear sign that defense of our territories from Red Chinese hegemony is indeed top of public mind.)

But Sara Duterte remains deviant by being dissonantly silent. Her silence is seen as a noisy silence of resentment – resentment against popular Filipino revulsion of Red China, a silence articulated in the Mandarin language of the hegemon. It is a silence that has no sanctity.

Contrast that silence when she issues statements that only spite the public. Her choice of petty issues betrays her knowledge of statecraft.

About a year ago, basketball player John Amores of Jose Rizal University ran amok in court and went on a violent rampage caught by TV cameras. College of Saint Benilde players Taine Davis (knocked out after taking a punch from Amores) and Jimboy Pasturan (black-eyed by Amores) filed cases of physical injury against Amores at the San Juan Prosecutor’s Office.

The public display of violence wasn’t Amores’s first. The University of the Philippines men’s basketball team had earlier filed a criminal case against Amores. During a pre-season match in July 2022, Amores punched UP Fighting Maroons Mark Belmonte, who suffered a gum fracture, teeth dislocation and mouth lacerations from his attack.

Jose Rizal University sacked Amores from its team and the National Collegiate Athletic Association of the Philippines sanctioned him with an indefinite ban. Punish the evil and reward the good – humanity is nurtured when the laws of government have precisely such aim. The government official, moved by that truism, acts as a minister of the good.

But what did Sara do? She wrote Amores a letter that he said gave him “words of encouragement.” He said: “I will frame this as a remembrance that despite the number of bashers and negative critics, someone will be there to remind you that you’re important.” Punish the evil and reward the good. Except that what did Sara’s action reveal? Only one thing – her love of thuggery.

Just earlier this month, talk show hosts Lorraine Tablang Badoy Partosa and Jeffrey Celiz of Apollo Quiboloy’s propaganda arm Sonshine Media News International were cited in contempt and detained by the House of Representatives. The House said they were serially lying during the hearings. Badoy and Celiz are not household names for doing good – they are popularly recognized as fake news purveyors, as is Quiboloy’s SMNI.

The vice president immediately came to their rescue. Her words could have been said to honor heroes – “They are a symbol of a country that is standing for what is right. Their courage and being steadfast to fight for our rights and push our Constitution are admirable.”

As consistently as she has been, Sara’s words do not honor the good. They only confirm her selfish interests, that Badoy and Celiz (and SMNI as well) are truly part of the Duterte kingdom of troll apologists.

Sara Duterte behaves like a troll herself – a person who intentionally antagonizes others with inflammatory, irrelevant or offensive comments. She tends to disrupt popular issues with outrageous statements. By being provocative with deceit, she probably sees herself as remaining in the public discourse, in the Machiavellian mold of her autocrat father.

That kind of narcissism, so very much like her father’s Antisocial Narcissistic Personality Disorder (ANPD), is anathema to objective governing. A person afflicted at the very least with narcissism will use her position to inflict harm without remorse and to sanction her detractors. She will see her position not as public service but as self-entitlement. Which is what the 125M Pesos unconstitutional entitlement is all about.

It is a populism that the Filipino electorate has grown weary of after six years of Dutertismo deception. It may not be a ticket to the 2028 presidential elections anymore. In April this year, the Let Sara Lead – BBM Resign signature campaign filed in fizzled out to a mere 3,195 signatories, unable to meet its 5,000 target. It failed clickbait attraction big-time.

And so we do not stop the pressure by waiting for her answer – what did she do with the 125M Pesos in just 11 days? And finally – when will she stand up to the Philippines against Red China?

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