MANILA, Philippines – For Linn Ordidor, the line is clear: either you are “pro” or “anti.” You are either for or against something, and if you disagree with something, you should do what’s in your power to stop it.
Most of Linn’s time goes to taking care of her elderly employer in Yunlin County, Taiwan. She is grateful for smartphones. Without them, she would be just another OFW sob story, a workhorse condemned to obscurity and estrangement from her loved ones back home.
No shame or pity in being an overseas worker nowadays, Linn told Rappler in an interview on Wednesday, April 29. Through her smartphone, she stays connected with her husband, also an OFW, and to her 3 children back in the Philippines.
Through it, too, she stays current with the affairs of her homeland as much as of Taiwan, where she has been working for nearly 3 years. (WATCH: Rappler Talk: Taiwan OFW Linn Ordidor on free speech and dodging deportation)
Visitors from the labor office
Still, it baffled her when officials from the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in nearby Taichung came to her employer’s door on April 17 to urge her to desist from posting things on Facebook that were unflattering to the President back home.
She was surprised that her opinions had mattered that much. They wanted her to post a video of herself apologizing to President Rodrigo Duterte for her “nasty and malevolent” statements that “maligned and discredited” him, and “destabilized” his government.
“Bakit ho ako kailangan mag-apology sa gobyerno? Bakit hindi ho ‘yung si Mocha Uson, si Thinking Pinoy, si Andrew [Olivar], at si [Sass] Sasot?” Linn told Rappler. (Why should I be the one to apologize to the government? Why not that Mocha Uson, Thinking Pinoy, Andrew Olivar, and Sass Sasot?)
If the issue was her having called commenters on her social media videos “mangmang” (ignorant) or “inutil” (inutile), then these pro-Duterte social media personalities – with far larger communities – are just as guilty of throwing bile at contrarians in their digital spaces.
The difference, of course, is Linn is unabashedly “anti-Duterte.”
Pundits like to qualify their opinions – “I am not ‘pro’ or ‘anti,’ I’m just stating my take on the issue” – to assert their objectivity or to deflect backlash, or both.
But Linn has no qualms about being reckoned with one side of a binary argument. In the Facebook videos in question, she calls herself “anti” and she directs her criticism at those “pro,” the reference point being Duterte.
She is disappointed at the Philippine government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. She says Duterte is “pro-China,” and for her, that is a bad thing.
Taiwan reelected a president who stands up to China. With its government’s response to the pandemic, it has less than 500 confirmed COVID-19 cases. The death count is a single digit. The stark contrast to the situation in the Philippines frustrates Linn.
“Honestly, makakapagmura ka talaga (you won’t help cussing),” Linn said.
Sorry, not sorry
And so the POLO officials demanded a public apology. They warned of “consequences” if she refused, so she acceded at first.
But then she sensed something was amiss.
“Mayroon ho akong nararamdaman na, may pagsindak or may pananakot sa ganoong usapan namin (I felt there was intimidation or threat in our conversation),” she said.
She said the POLO officials made her delete her video of their conversation, and they deleted theirs, too.
With no record of what transpired between her and the officials, Linn decided there was going to be no apology. In the first place, why should she? She meant every word she said in those videos.
Those officials never returned, but a week and a day later, on Saturday, April 25, a friend called Linn and broke the news to her that the POLO in Taichung was asking the Taiwanese government to have her deported. The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) announced it in the Philippines, and that’s how her friend found out.
Linn worried about the death threats from some people – or trolls? – in the Philippines. Losing her job would be a big blow to her family, who depend on her remittances. If she is deported, she would have to face all these.
But she pinned her hopes on her host country. She had broken no law, and Taiwan had no reason to deport her, she told herself.
“Ang laban hong ito ay, nasa akin ang panig ng katotohanan. Sigurado ho, ako ang mananalo (In this fight, the truth is on my side. Surely I will win).”
She was right. Three days later, the Taiwanese government denied the DOLE’s request, saying Taiwanese law applies to Linn as much as to its citizens, and that law includes free speech.
Although she is relieved that she gets to keep her job and stay in Taiwan, she swears she would do it all again. In fact, since Facebook took down her original page, she has started a new one, and it is rife with critical commentary about current affairs in the Philippines.
And her language is the same. She is as visceral and unedited as ever. To her, there was never anything wrong with the things she said. The problem lay with those in power.
“Sa aking pananaw, ayaw nilang may magrereklamo. Kumbaga, natakpan na yung salitang ‘demokrasya’ dahil sa kagustuhan nilang ‘wag silang punahin,” Linn said. (In my view, they don’t want anyone complaining. In other words, the word “democracy” has been overshadowed by their desire not to be criticized.)
A Filipina through and through
All she wanted was to convince those who “blindly stand with the President” to look at the reality: the pandemic has the poor groaning for their needs, which, given the lockdowns, the government must supply.
Those better off, who can still afford to spend their smartphone data trading barbs with strangers about politics, should “raise their voices” for the disadvantaged instead, Linn said.
“Hindi po iyon kabastusan, kundi ginagamit lang po natin ang free speech sa bansa kung saan nasa demokrasya pa tayo, bilang isang mamamayan at nagmamahal sa bayan at taong bayan,” she added. (That’s not disrespect, but we’re just using free speech in the country where we’re still in a democracy, as a citizen who loves her country and her countrymen.)
Linn is looking at working several more years overseas before considering coming home for good, but her heart is umbilically connected to the Philippines, she said.
In one of her videos, she says, “Wherever I am in the world, I remain a Filipina through and through, and even if I die never setting foot in the Philippines again, I will never stop fighting for my country’s welfare.”
“Ang puso ko, nasa Pilipinas (My heart is in the Philippines),” Linn adds, pounding her fist on her chest. – Rappler.com