I’m going back to school

Published August 21, 2021, 12:02 AM

by Rj Nieto


RJ Nieto

I entered the political scene in 2015 when I started the blog Thinking Pinoy. It was just another personal blog back then, and I never expected it to become as big as it is right now. Over the years, I branched out to traditional media through my column here in Manila Bulletin and TV/Radio show #TPonSMNI at SMNI News, survived a costly libel case filed by opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes, and stomached everything else that the political world has thrown at me.

Unlike the whiny Maria Ressa, I am not complaining. I’m just stating these things matter-of-factly. As my late mentor and former Manila Standard editor-in-chief Jojo Robles repeatedly told me, all these are “par for the course.” Jojo, upon discovering in 2018 that Trillanes sued me, even jokingly said, “Hey TP, you finally got a libel case. You’ve made it!”

Pasay RTC Judge Wilhelmina Jorge-Wagan eventually acquitted me in June this year, four years after the case was filed. I can’t really blame the legal system for the protracted legal battle between a private citizen (that’s me) and a then-sitting opposition senator. Aside from the pandemic, which delayed all court proceedings, the reality is that most judges, from municipal trial courts all the way up to Padre Faura, are swamped with cases and have no other choice but to hear them using meager resources.

Instead of feeling emboldened by the acquittal, I cannot help revisit everything I’ve been through since I became a public figure. Did I do the right thing, or didn’t I? I don’t know. I guess I’ll just let history be the judge, even if the judgment will be found in a tiny footnote in some obscure book, if at all.

What I’m sure of, however, is that I never went against my conscience, a conscience honed not only by some formal education but also by experiencing first-hand the struggles of the Common Tao, the same struggles that created the once angsty Thinking Pinoy.

A lot of my friends tell me that, despite my still occasionally acerbic rhetoric, I have mellowed a lot over the years, that I don’t pick fights as much anymore, that I have started talking less. I guess it’s because I think I’ve already done my part as a citizen: Sticking my neck out more often than necessary has become not only redundant, but also boring.

I think I want to do something more than just spew political opinions left and right. Anyone, after all, can have an opinion. I want to do something greater than what I’m already doing. And I guess that’s why I decided to go back to school and finish my studies. Hopefully, I can get a Ph.D. before my mid-life crisis, then see how it can be used to help others. I’ll eventually figure it out.

I am happy that President Duterte was somehow able to significantly fulfill two of his three campaign promises: To fight drugs and criminality. I can see that my hometown in Bulacan has become a lot more peaceful, and my neighbors who were once addicts or drug pushers have become more responsible members of society. I’m happy with that.

Just because my followers stopped seeing exposé-after-exposé from Thinking Pinoy doesn’t mean I’ve stopped writing any. I actually research and write exposés all the time. Unlike before, however, I decided to keep them hidden somewhere and publish them only when necessary. After having stepped on so many feet for over half a decade, I need some insurance, in case any of them will decide to get back at me at some point.

I have no plans of totally retiring from journalism anytime soon, but I learned over the years the value of restraint. I have ceased to be the loose cannon that I once was, for I have finally realized what Nietzsche meant when he wrote that “whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”

I have no megalomanic delusions. I’m just a regular college dropout with a talent for digging dirt. I am no messiah. I just a regular Pinoy who wants a better Philippines for Filipinos. Yes, we might have disagreements on what “better” means, but I think we will all agree that, regardless of what side of the political fence we’re on, most of us want nothing but the best for this nation.

I think the Angry Blogger Era of Philippine politics is over. It’s time to be something more, something better.

I’ll get a bachelor’s in Data Analytics, then a Ph.D. in Data Science.

But for that to happen, I gotta go back to school. And that’s what I’ll do.

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