#VoxPopuli: The Machine

by Vaughn Ramos

President Rodrigo Duterte. The biggest scammer, liar, and the most foulmouthed person in the Philippines. He’s all these things and more, but there’s something about him the media probably won’t tell you, something almost nobody in their right mind would say:

that Duterte is also one of the most genius people to run for Philippine office.

Now this might sound like the most absurd thing you’ve ever heard, but hear me out. Social media has been around since the early 2000s (Facebook was established on February 2004), and since then, there have been three presidents and three presidential elections. Neither of the first two even considered social media as a viable platform for campaigning, but Duterte ate it up, and so voters ate his campaign up just as eagerly.

Duterte’s former advertising executive Nic Gabunada claimed that during the 2016 presidential elections, Duterte and his team didn’t have enough money to afford television commercials, billboards, print ads and the like, so they resorted to social media. They reached out to several people to help organize their push into the digital domain. They assigned coordinators within groups to facilitate the spread of messages and propaganda for particular geographic regions of the Philippines — one group was even assigned to handle OFW’s.

He further explains that they had a “message of the week”, and it was up to the groups and their coordinators to modify the message to best fit the experiences of those within their network. With the added support of the OFW’s, they were able to make the “Duterte machine” work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for however long the campaign period lasted.

This was beneficial, and most importantly, crucial to the success of his campaign, but, unluckily for us, the Duterte machine was just that — a machine bent on propagating his image. The Duterte machine did not stop after the campaign period had ended. It did not stop after he had won the elections. It did not stop when he started killing people. It did not stop when the deaths racked up by the tens. Hundreds. Thousands.

It. Did. Not. Stop.

It has been approximately two and a half years since Duterte won the 2016 elections. More than 4,500 people have been killed as of July 23, 2018, and the numbers have surely gone up since then. The Duterte machine has not for one day stopped spewing propaganda for the president, trying to have the people remain under his bloody iron fist, and it seems it was not content with simply this.

Quickly following her resignation on October the 3rd, former Communications Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson arrived at the Commission on Elections to file her certificate of candidacy. The blogger famous for her spread of fake news now threatens us by being a legitimate candidate for senatorial office. I’m sure the Duterte machine will stop at nothing to spread fake news and get her a position. Are we really going to give someone like her the power the change the Philippines?

As the youth of the country, most of us do not yet have the capacity to directly secure her a spot as an ordinary citizen. We do not yet have the power to vote for aspiring senators who have better credentials and values than her. We do, however, have the power to control what happens in our world, albeit virtually.

We younger generations usually have a reputation of being technological geeks and geniuses. We spend most of our time on our devices, and us slightly older kids (starting at around age 14) usually spend this time on the internet, or more importantly, on social media.

We know the ins and outs of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. probably better than most parents know their children — and this is our true power.

Instead of mindlessly scrolling, liking, retweeting, commenting, and upvoting posts and memes, we can look out for and actively seek out things like political propaganda and fake news. We should learn to fact check everything that claims to give us valuable and truthful information. We should learn to recognize and boycott sites known for their spread of fake news.

The fight against the machine doesn’t end there though. What good will it do if only individuals knew how to counter and identify fake news? What about those who don’t have access to sites or other resources for fact-checking? What about those who only receive news as hearsay? It’s still our responsibility to ensure that these good citizens know exactly what is being fed to them.

We can speak out against the tools of fake news not only on social media and online, but also in the real world. What good are the flame wars we start against virtual trolls if we cannot help other Filipinos distinguish the truth in real life? Share your knowledge of things to the world, and make sure that it’s true. Tell everyone the things that you’ve learned, and give them good reasons to believe you.

Become an instrument of truth in a world where lies are the song. Have the courage to share, retweet, and upvote what is true if you cannot do it in real life. Don’t stand aside and think that whatever you do isn’t going to make a difference, because it can and will make a difference. You don’t know the power you hold in the palm of your hand, in the swipe of your finger, in the tap of your thumb.

Maybe because of you, the machine can be defeated after all.

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The Science Scholar

The Science Scholar

The official English publication of the Philippine Science High School–Main Campus. Views are representative of the entire paper.