The Manila Times : Pink-bashed, trolled and trashed

9 November 2021

By Antonio Contreras | The Manila Times

SMARTING from being rebuked in an article labeling them as akin to fanatic, cultish believers that had turned viral — after it was reported and which got me banned in Facebook — the pink army of loyalists of Vice President and presidential candidate Maria Leonor "Leni" Robredo are at it again. They pounced on me in practically all platforms, even in those that are inhabited by people from my university, mainly our students, whose rights I have fought for as we crafted a more liberal and progressive student handbook for them, in my capacity as president of the faculty association, where my term ended last month.

This is the irony of this election campaign. As a citizen and analyst, I have a right to comment on anyone running for public office. And yet, when I do so I earn the vitriolic ire even of people whose rights I have pushed for and protected, including even some of my faculty colleagues. And worse, even people I personally know, people I call friends because I thought they were, are not content with merely disagreeing with me, they even silently and approvingly watch as I am being savaged, some even actively participating in it.

All of these because I simply responded to a social media comment which boldly claimed that Robredo has not violated any rule or law. To this, I raised the issue, framed as a question which I posted in my Facebook wall, which I quote: "Are you really sure that Leni has never violated a law or asked someone to violate it on her behalf? What about when she waited for a bus in a spot in Magallanes where buses are prohibited from picking up passengers?"

To shed light on the issue, let me quote the account of a relative who was a regular commuter from Naga to Manila and back for 13 years which he posted in Facebook in March 2017:

"… for 13 years and counting I [have been] a regular passenger of the said bus company which has a terminal along EDSA-Cubao. With a 13-year experience as a weekly passenger commuting to and from Naga, I possess the knowledge where and when the bus loads and unloads its passengers. Airconditioned luxury (2x1) buses which leave in the evening in Naga unload its [sic] passengers in Turbina, Laguna; Alabang, Muntinlupa; Mantrade, Makati; Pioneer, Mandaluyong (the unloading place in front of Robinsons Forum was closed by the owner, so buses no longer unload here for fear of getting a TCT ticket from MMDA personnel); and EDSA-Cubao bus terminal. For the same buses leaving at night going to Naga City, they can only load passengers at the EDSA-Cubao bus terminal, in Alabang and in Turbina. Provincial buses (airconditioned and ordinary), including those of said bus company, are prohibited to pick up passengers along EDSA and in Magallanes or else the drivers will get a TCT ticket from MMDA personnel. So how could former congresswoman now VP Robredo be picked up in that place in Magallanes, Makati when it was and until now is a prohibited place of pick-up or else the bus driver would merit a TCT ticket? Being a 13-year regular passenger of the said bus, I tried requesting several times from the drivers to pick us up at a Caltex gas station along EDSA in Mandaluyong when traveling to Naga because it's always heavy traffic if we would go to its terminal. But I was always turned down, explaining to me that it was prohibited and if they would be given a TCT ticket, they would undergo a seminar, and they would pay the fine with their own money and not shouldered by the bus company."

And all hell broke loose. That question I posted became viral and was memed and ridiculed. Unprintable words were used against me. Ad hominem labels flowed as if they were on sale. People challenged the factuality behind the suggestion that Robredo actually violated norms. Others made light of it, insulting me for being a nitpicker, as if asking a bus driver to stop in a prohibited area is not a violation for which ordinary people face consequences. Others even rationalized that it was the driver who told Robredo to wait in the gasoline station in Magallanes, as if it is the driver who has the authority. The savaging I received could make someone of lesser character crumble.

It is the duty of anyone to hold accountable their elected officials. And it is my right to speak up and raise the issue of accountability when loyal defenders of Robredo make a bold claim that their principal has never violated any rule. "Never" is such an absolute claim, and it is my duty to show that at least once, Robredo used her privilege to, at best, seek exemption from a rule, or at worst, make other people violate that rule for her.

People are indeed correct to point out that this is not on the same level as the conviction of former senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. for failure to file his income tax returns. But Robredo's actions still amounted to a violation. She even exposed a driver to the risk of being apprehended by authorities if only to give in to her privilege, something which no ordinary passenger can enjoy. And she was a member of Congress at the time, and now she is a vice president who is running for president.

It is most unfortunate that I was bashed, trolled and trashed for calling out an erring public servant, and for pointing out the lie that she has not violated any rule. This is a duty that every taxpayer must exercise. It may be challenging, but as a veteran of skirmishes in social media, this is a risk that comes with that duty. And these self-righteous Robredo fanatics cannot be allowed to stand in the way of revealing the truth about her false claims to virtue.