The past six months have seen increasingly hostile sniping between pro-Duterte netizens and Liberal party members, affiliates and sympathizers. This online “war” had its beginnings in the campaign for the presidency and has not waned since. Netizens allied with then administration candidate Mar Roxas complained that their walls or posts would be swarmed by angry supporters of the Davao mayor that it had a chilling effect.
Duterte supporters received the tag, “Dutertards” and from there, matters intensified.
The proclamation of President Rodrigo Duterte did nothing to calm the hostilities. It did not help that some politicians allied with the Liberal party acted as though they were still on the campaign trail. Notable among these, the vice president herself.
It isn’t clear at what point it became obvious that there was more to the matter than what was being pushed and counter pushed in the online discussions. But articles began to emerge about online “trolls” in the payroll of Malacanang, of armies of bots and “weaponizing the internet.” The gauntlet was tossed. Duterte supporters were painted as “uncouth” and “irresponsible.” What these statements failed to consider, was that there were several individuals rising in popularity on Facebook, who took up the cudgels for the president.
These were a different breed of writers. Intelligent and articulate, they uncovered and identified media biases, clarified major controversies and generally turned nearly every possible Duterte scandal into an acceptable and generally reasonable situation. And these people were armed with an ability to connect to Duterte’s mass base while explaining some complex issues involving international relations, law, medicine and internet technology. They also schooled many a columnist on an alarming ability to do research on the web.
Thus it could only have been a matter of time when evidence of a conspiracy to oust President Duterte began to emerge. There are, after all, no secrets on the internet.
And what a doozy this one has been. A restricted but not private Yahoo group called Global Filipino Diaspora Council was in receipt of an email from the Office of the Vice President outlining a social media strategy to protect the VP, discredit the supporters of President Duterte, and to discredit Bong Bong Marcos, Ms. Robredo’s adversary in their election contest and now before the Supreme Court. The members of that group are, Loida Nicholas Lewis, by now a familiar name. Her sister Imelda Nicholas, Chairman of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas, CFO Commissioner Jose Molano, Jr., Inquirer US Bureau columnist Ted Laguatan, ABS CBN Europe News Bureau Correspondent Gene Alcantra, Northern Europe civil society leader, Filomenita Mongaya Hogsholm.
Philippine law penalizes with imprisonment and fine, the mere conspiracy to commit sedition. Sedition is is committed by persons who rise publicly and tumultuously in order to attain by force, intimidation, or by other means outside of legal methods, several objectives among them:
To prevent the National Government, or any provincial or municipal government, or any public officer thereof from freely exercising its or his functions, or prevent the execution of any administrative order;
To inflict any act of hate or revenge upon the person or property of any public officer or employee;
To commit, for any political or social end, any act of hate or revenge against private persons or any social class; and
To despoil, for any political or social end, any person, municipality or province, or the National Government of all its property or any party thereof.
Clearly, the conspirators here have been proposing the removal of the president and encouraging people to call for his ouster. The plot, is real.
This is no longer a mere acoustic war between supporters of different political groups. It has now escalated into a possible crime. And it isn’t over. More discoveries are set to be revealed including means, methods and participants. And the plot thickens.
by Trixie Cruz Angeles