The Mindanao earthquakes

Published November 9, 2019, 12:08 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat



RJ Nieto

I, Thinking Pinoy, am no stranger to online word wars. Being a politically inclined blogger, some may even say that I specialize in them. Over the past three years, I have traded barbs with senators, members of Congress, cabinet members, and pretty much the entire Liberal Party of the Philippines.

Political conversations usually turn toxic, and engaging in such for extended periods can make someone forget his humanity and turn into a mere bundle of unabashed hate.

I think that happened to public relations (PR) operator Yolanda “Yolly” Villanueva Ong who, right after the Mindanao Earthquakes, tweeted in a mix of English and Filipino:

“DDS: Davao Disaster Survivors. You still don’t get it? The Earth wants to swallow you whole. Pray and ask for forgiveness. Quiboloy can’t stop earthquakes. He can only stop Kappa (sic). Duterte should prepare for the afterlife. It’s getting hot, hotter, hottest.”

Ong is a founder of the prestigious PR firm Campaigns and Grey Philippines, an adviser to the 2016 Roxas-Robredo Campaign, and, news reports say, is the mastermind behind the Aquino-Era “Daang Matuwid” PR campaign.

As expected, Ong’s distasteful statement was met with criticism not only from Duterte supporters but also from no less than Vice president Leni Robredo.

Ong, belatedly realizing her folly, deleted the tweet. The PR professional then attempted to do some PR damage control via a series of subsequent tweets, albeit with little success and with little professionalism.

In another tweet, she said she was referring only to Duterte Diehard Supporters and not Davao residents. In another, she said we should just help the victims and stop bickering as if she didn’t initiate the bickering herself.

And in a lengthy official statement, she complained about the continued bashing despite her earlier apology. She even accused bashers of being part of a well-oiled propaganda machinery (sounds familiar?) that’s hell-bent on destroying her.

As if she did no wrong.

I can’t help but observe that this PR professional knows how to do everyone’s PR except that of herself. It seems that Ong hates Duterte supporters so much so that she forgot her humanity and turned into a bundle of unabashed hate.

With that said, let me share the several ground rules that I try to follow since I publicly engaged in political discourse in 2015. I hope Miss Ong will find these useful in saving whatever’s left of her PR career after this self-inflicted debacle.

First, do not politicize the recently departed.

Politicizing calamities is risky in itself, but gloating on recent casualties of natural disasters, disease, and fatal accidents is downright stupid. Public expressions of schadenfreude hurt not the casualties but the loved ones they left behind, and those loved ones likely have little to do with the political squabble.

For example, we know that a certain Liberal Party supporter, who wished death upon President Duterte, died a couple of days after doing so. While it would be tempting to revel in his demise, I told myself that it’s best to let this one go. Her loved ones are miserable enough over his loss, so that me adding insult to injury would be hands down diabolical.

Second, sincerely apologize, then patiently wait for forgiveness.

Apologize with every fiber of your being, or don’t bother at all. Don’t say sorry but in the same breath blame others for coaxing you in doing what you did. You doing what you did is your own decision. Even if hordes of people are encouraging you to do it, it was you who decided to take action on that encouragement.

No matter what political differences I have with others, never in Thinking Pinoy’s entire existence have I wished death to befall others. I may have, in a few occasions, wished death upon their toenails and their political careers, but nothing more than that.

Third, throw the victim card away.

Respect the aggrieved’s right to react. You had your turn to express yourself, and those who were offended have the right to react. If you offended millions of people, then expect millions of people to react to you. You can’t be the one apologizing yet still be the hero of the story.

Social media democratized public discourse. Gone are the days when public figures can say whatever they want without fear of verbal reprisal. Today, where pretty much every adult has a life inside a social network, public figures cannot anymore avoid the verbal repercussions of whatever they openly do.

Many public figures mistake this kind of democratization for bullying, and they’re quick to whip out their victim card in response. No, that’s not bullying. That’s called “You get what you give.”

Case in point, two Liberal Party stalwarts filed court cases against me but never did I use the victim card.

PR operators, euphemistically called PR professionals or publicists, should know all of these by heart. I bet Miss Ong knows this as well as any other PR operator out there. Unfortunately, it seems that Ong has allowed her political convictions (or least, the political convictions of her PR clients), to get the better of her.

I guess that why we shouldn’t mix business with personal.

We’re all Filipinos before we became pro- or anti-Duterte, and we’re all humans before we even knew we’re Filipino.

Even I forget that sometimes, but I try my best to put it into heart because I don’t want to lose my humanity… and because I don’t want to turn into a Yolly Ong.

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