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Nabudol : Understanding the political journeys of ex-DDS

Ex-DDS share their stories on how they were enlightened after experiencing the administration’s incompetence.

“Change is coming,” President Rodrigo Duterte declared on the day of his inaugural speech in 2016, quickly becoming a symbol of hope to many Filipinos. This was the beginning of a lifetime for his allies, while the beginning of a dreadful regime for many others. But throughout Duterte’s rule, there are those who have crossed sides: a result of a snowball effect unique to every individual.

Deception of the word

Erickson Dela Cruz, a freelance events photographer, looked up to the president’s confident and humanistic manner of speaking. He believed that Duterte offered something different from other politicians: a sense of familiarity, and an understanding of Filipino instincts—the underdog image. “Hindi siya nagpapaka-ipokrito,” the photographer explains.

(He didn’t seem to be a hypocrite.)

Similarly, Harold Blando describes that Duterte’s slogan, “Tapang at Malasakit” or simply courage and compassion, strongly appealed to him. Particularly, Duterte’s declaration to plant the Philippine flag at the Spratly Islands made him “fall in love—in every sense of the word.” Further, the image of Davao being an exceptionally “neat” city had attributed to Blando’s affection for the president. Having experienced living in Davao himself, Gani Dawal shares that he readily made himself a supporter of Duterte upon hearing of his presidential candidacy.

Kwentong DDS

Duterte’s tough image attracted Dela Cruz, Blando, and Dawal to become his loyalists—diehard Duterte supporters (DDS), as what society calls them. Blando even joined caravans and campaign sorties, adorning himself with pro-Duterte merchandise. Dela Cruz has done similarly, adding, “Palagi ko [pa] pinapatugtog [dati] ‘yung mga kantang ginawa para kay Duterte.”

(I even used to play the songs dedicated to Duterte.)

Dawal shares that he forcefully advocated for Duterte’s programs to others; this involved debates with his peers, all in the name of defending the president, even when he didn’t believe in the validity of his arguments himself. Meanwhile, Blando embarrassingly admits to having justified the president’s rape jokes, killings, and remarks against the Pope.

But their support for the president came to an end as Duterte crossed lines. Some, including Dela Cruz, stopped vouching for him due to his remarks against the Pope and against God himself. For others, it was because of the bigger picture: his government being riddled with countless human rights violations. After the president’s anti-poor agenda—evident in his war on drugs and extrajudicial killings (EJKs)—the president’s image and promises proved to fail the people. “Malaki ang pananagutan [niya],” Dela Cruz voices out.

(There is a lot he has to pay for.)

Blando shares that the first strike was the ruthless death of 17-year old Kian Delos Santos; the teenager was dragged and shot to death in a dark alley, a gun planted on his left hand. He admits that he initially took the EJKs for granted, an adaptation of the long-lived “nanlaban” criminals unworthy of life narrative. But as the brutal killings came into full view, Blando realized that Duterte was unable to catch the drug lords—believing that EJKs were only done for the sake of police quota. “The victims were always the defenseless,” Blando continues. “Why was an innocent [child] killed?”

Similarly, Dawal notes that EJKs and the Anti-Terrorism Law are proof of the administration’s weaponization of policies to silence government critics. He finds that this is almost undeniable after the attacks against activists, journalists, and innocent civilians. “They’re all killers,” Dawal cries out, echoing Blando’s sentiments. The two agree that giving power to non-judicial bodies for somebody’s arrest was “preposterous” in Blando’s words. Meanwhile, Dawal considers it as a scheme for a fascist regime.

This is not where the president’s word of betrayal ends. Dela Cruz, Blando, and Dawal’s frustration continue to point to Duterte’s failed pandemic response that was further mired by issues of corruption. “Look where we are now,” Blando stresses.

Ties broken, ties mended

The same disappointment also extends to Duterte’s allies. Dawal explains that Duterte’s slate has “made a mockery” of the public. One instance was when Duterte declared that his promise to ride a jetski to Spratlys in the 2016 elections campaign was just a joke, and that those who believed this promise were stupid.

These ex-DDS are now what Dawal considers “biktima ng budol-budol” and those who have fortunately “[seen] the light,” as Blando puts it. After the debates they aggressively engaged in to defend Duterte then, this shift in stance came as a surprise to their anti-Duterte friends. Nevertheless, their change has been met with joy and relief, especially as the 2022 elections draw near and as many now campaign for their chosen candidates.

Reflecting on this monumental task, these ex-DDS have realized a need for voters to rethink how they choose their bets. For DelaCruz, this means being more critical about projects, promises, and “help” offered by politicians. Moreover, he asserts that a candidate’s work should bear just as much weight as their moral stances. Dawal says that the right candidates should only be those with clean records, are ready to help the marginalized sectors, and do not lie or steal.

However, having their judgement once clouded by intense fanaticism, Blando and Dawal stress the need for voter’s education before this reevaluation becomes possible. The former laments that there is “no concrete way to really [awaken] the people. It will be a grueling…battle [between] truth [and] misinformation.”

Test of loyalty

Ultimately, Dela Cruz believes that it is also a matter of deciding where one’s loyalty lies. “Paniwala ko kasi dapat ang loyalty natin bilang isang Pilipino ay hindi sa kung sinumang pulitiko. Dapat ang loyalty natin ay sa bayan, sa mas nakararami,” he expresses.

(I believe that our loyalty as Filipinos should not be with any politician. Instead, it should be to the country, to the masses.)

Dela Cruz, Blando, and Dawal had advocated for a politician whom they thought could bring the change they wanted for the country. But in the process, they had gotten lost in defending the subject of their support and had forgotten about why they were supporting him in the first place. For a moment, they were stuck defending hopes that should have long been made a reality, and this is where the lines were blurred between faith and idolatry.

The stories of these ex-DDS tell something far more important than the failure and deception of the man they used to worship. They are stories that demand for every Filipino to clear their vision and biases to help assert our rights to democracy and advocate for better leadership.

By Arianne Joy Melendres

By Emmanuelle Castaneda

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