Downgrading the quality of public discourse

A few months ago, an article by a journalist led me to write about changing the way we discuss issues by veering away from personality-oriented politics.

Elevating the quality of public discourse

At that time I argued that we should discuss issues that are facing the country, and what are the candidates’ plans to address these issues. There hasn’t been much change since then. Senator Grace Poe was busy with all the disqualification cases filed against her (both in the Senate Electoral Tribunal and Comelec), and if she had time to share her vision, she made mostly motherhood statements and nothing concrete. She and Senator Chiz Escudero have yet to unveil their complete platform. Recently, she’s been conflating her case as a case against foundlings and OFWs, something that is clearly an appeal to emotions, a fallacy that attempts to subtly (or not) hide the residency eligibility problem that she’s facing.

Vice President Jejomar Binay is busy going around the country to campaign and activate his local network (painstakingly cultivated since his years as mayor of Makati through the sister city program) while ignoring his corruption cases. It is a move praised by some self-declared “unbiased” political analysts, as keeping his silence means he is largely ignored by the news organizations, leading the people to forget that the vice president has pending corruption cases.

Senator Miriam Santiago is rarely seen and heard.

Former DILG Secretary Mar Roxas is also busy touring the country alone or together with Liberal Party candidate for Vice President Representative Leni Robredo. There isn’t much criticism of Roxas’ plans as president except on his stance on DICT. Much criticism on Roxas are on… him lying on an ice block, eating on a mug, saying “istip by istip” instead of “step by step” in a forum in Cebu.

Yep, still personality-oriented politics.

Rodrigo Duterte’s announcement of his candidacy for the position of president further lowered the quality of public discourse.

The social media milieu prior to his candidacy was already close to toxic levels, but the entry of Duterte unleashed a congress of angry and hard headed fanatics who, imitating their idol unleashed coarse, uncouth, and terrifyingly threatening messages on hapless people who dared oppose Duterte’s candidacy. The sheer idiocy of some of the supporters led to a social media of demagoguery and stupidity.

Duterte contributed to this malaise by calling into question Roxas’ Wharton degree. The resulting conflagration was unfortunate. The sheer ignorance of both so-called social and political elites and the poor masses was astoundingly shocking, and I am being charitable about this observation. It led to Roxas taking on the slapping challenge, with Duterte daring to call for a gun duel only to back down (when it was pointed out that challenging someone to a gun duel is actually a crime). Duterte then said he is ready for a debate, and Roxas challenged him, only for Duterte to retort that number 4 cannot challenge a number 1 in the surveys (the recent surveys showed Duterte as number 3 or 4, so the retort was rather flat and weak).

That’s just one recent example. Heaven knows how bad it will be when the campaign period starts.

We as a people have a choice – we can discuss the candidates’ plans for the country or discuss how ugly a candidate’s face is. If we want an end to personality-oriented politics, we must want it hard. We support a candidate for his or her plans and vision, not because he or she is charismatic or for orphans or tough-acting. Otherwise, by all means engage in stupidity – and don’t blame us if in the end we end up in the figurative “kangkungan.” After all, that’s where pigs wallow with glee.