Pinoy Ako Blog: 'Mahirap ipikit ang mata mo at magbingi-bingihan'

MANILA, Philippines – Pinoy Ako Blog's (PAB) Jover Laurio is staying the course.

Despite being forced to come forward and the exposure of her identity and personal photos online, Laurio says in an exclusive interview with Rappler that it is business as usual for her and her blog – she will still be blogging with her usual sense of humor that her blog has been known for. (READ: Who's behind Pinoy Ako Blog?)

How Pinoy Ako Blog started

Laurio's journey into blogging started for more or less the same reasons she came forward now: she was threatened and harassed for speaking up. 

In September last year, a personal post of hers was picked up and went viral. According to Laurio, her post was shared over 29,000 times and she eventually found herself bashed and threatened online.

"Feeling ko, ganito pala 'pag nagsasalita ka, so nag-stop ako magsulat as Jover. Kaya lang with all these things na nangyayari kasi, ang hirap tumahimik. Mahirap tumahimik na nakikita mong ang daming namamatay araw-araw, pahirap na pahirap ang sitwasyon. That's the reason why gumawa ako ng page."

(I felt like, so this is what happens when you speak up, so I stopped writing as Jover. But with all these things happening, it's hard to keep quiet. It's hard to keep quiet when you see so many are dying every day, and the situation is getting worse. That's the reason I started the page.)

From a conservative following of 150 followers, Laurio said her page was constantly reported on Facebook and taken down when they reached around 2,000 followers. She started the blog to protect her content even when the Facebook page gets taken down. Now, with over 90,000 followers on Facebook, Laurio said she never thought it would reach the scale it has reached now.

"Hindi ko ine-expect na people will like it, kasi sabi ko nga hindi, minsan nga mali-mali pa 'yung grammar ko at spelling. Kasi I'm not a writer. Simpleng tao lang ako. Doon nagsimula si Pinoy Ako Blog." (I did not expect that people will like it. As I said, I sometimes make grammar and spelling mistakes because I'm not a writer. I'm just a simple person. That's how Pinoy Ako Blog started.)

She doesn't consider the people who rally around her as her supporters. Rather, for Laurio, each of them is Pinoy Ako Blog: "Bawat sa isa sa kanila si PAB."

Laurio said she explored the possibility of coming forward in the future but her doxxing was not the catalyst that she expected.

"Hindi ko inexpect na ganito 'yung magiging sitwasyon na madadamay pati 'yung security ko at security ng family ko. I could have come out na in a normal way, na hindi ganito na kailangan ko lumabas to protect myself and my family."

(I did not expect this situation where my and my family's security would be compromised. I could have come out in a normal way, not like this where I need to come forward to protect myself and my family.)

Attacks vs Pinoy Ako Blog

Doxxing is the practice of exposing someone's personal details and identity online. This practice is a gray area especially since it's a powerful tool for harassment where attackers are looking to exact punishment or revenge.

In the case of Laurio, her full name was circulated online along with old pictures, one of them was her in a bikini dated 7 years ago. Her photos became an easy target for vitriol.

"Sobra na 'yung attacks, sa itsura mo, sa pagkatao mo. Hinahalungkat nila 'yung mga old pictures tapos paglalaruan, sasabihan kang ulikba or something like that." (The attacks were too much, physical appearance, personality. They were digging up old pictures and fooling around with them, making fun of my complexion or something like that.)

Apart from personal attacks, she was again on the receiving end of threats such as "Pag nakasalubong kita, patay ka sa 'kin." (If I run into you, you're dead.)

Laurio says she has had enough, that is why she felt like she needed to come forward.

"Una sana, gusto ko lang tiisin, I'll just continue my writing bahala kayo. Kaya lang may punto po kasi na kailangan mong ipaglaban 'yung karapatan mo eh." (At first I just wanted to endure it, I'll continue my writing, I don't care. But you reach a point where you need to fight for your rights.)

"Hindi na tama. It's too personal na. Kung blogger ka at blogger ako, tirahin mo ako sa content na sinasabi ko, hindi kung ano ang pagkatao ko." (It's no longer right. It's too personal. If you're a blogger and I'm a blogger, hit me about my content and what I say, not my person.)

On #Cocoygate and the LP

Several of Pinoy Ako Blog's detractors have hit her for her content, saying some of her posts were libelous, linking her webmaster Cocoy Dayao to other anti-Duterte sites, and accusing her of being a Liberal Party lapdog.

Laurio refuted these claims. Laurio said Cocoy Dayao is a friend she made on Twitter and clarified that Dayao is just the webmaster of her blog and all content is hers.

"Siya 'yung webmaster. He's the one who's taking care of my blog kasi hindi ako IT na tao eh. Hindi ko alam na kailangan pala may domain. Nagpatulong ako sa kanya, other than that, hanggang doon lang si Cocoy. All the content sa blog ko, ako 'yun. Naawa nga lang ako sa tao eh kasi siya 'yung unang na-bash."

(He's the webmaster. He's the one who's taking care of my blog because I am not an IT-savvy person. I didn't know you needed a domain. I asked for his help, but other than that, Cocoy did nothing more. All the content in my blog, that's me. I felt bad for him because he was the first to get bashed.)

Laurio also denied knowing the people behind the blogs critical of the Duterte administration such as Silent No More PH and Madam Claudia. She said their interactions are limited to Twitter but they haven't met in person.

Laurio said that if people think what she is saying is libelous, they are free to file a case now that she is out. As for the criticism of her "admiration" for the Liberal Party, Laurio said that even if the administration changes, Pinoy Ako Blog will still be there to call them out if they do something wrong.

Laurio also dismissed accusations that she is being paid to write her content, saying her family comes from humble beginnings and she manages to get by with help from generous family and friends.

Even the legal support extended to her by former solicitor general Florin Hilbay and Alyansa ng mga Abogado Para sa Bayan (ALAB) is pro-bono because, she said, she does not have the means to pursue the cases.

"Kung paid ako, kailangan ko pa ba magtinda ng ulam sa opisina para makabayad sa tuition fee ko sa law school?" (If I were paid, would I still need to sell meals at the office just so I can pay for my tuition fee in law school?)

On why she blogs

Despite the challenges that come with her platform and limited resources, Laurio thinks it's important to speak up.

"Social media plays a vital role kung paano mino-mold, kung anong society ang meron tayo. 'Yung parang ang dami nang nangyayari, parang mahirap kasi ipikit ang mata mo at magbingi-bingihan ka, mahirap 'yun eh. Makakakita ka ng batang natamaan ng ligaw na bala, makikita mo sa TV ang ina na umiiyak, parang ang sakit sa dibdib na hindi magsalita. Instead of me just keeping it, I just blog it."

(Social media plays a vital role in molding the kind of society we have. So many things are happening, it's hard to close your eyes or play deaf. You see a child hit by a stray bullet, you see on TV a mother crying, it hurts not to say anything. Instead of me just keeping it, I just blog it.)

As for accusations of cowardice because she chose to be anonymous, Laurio said being named is not the barometer for courage. 

"Hindi 'yun ang sukatan ng pagiging matapang. 'Yung pagiging matapang, 'yung kahit natatakot ka pero lumalaban ka pa rin. 'Yun 'yung matapang 'yun. 'Yung kahit alam mo 'yung binabangga mo malaking pader kaya lang mas iniisip mo ang ikinakabuti ng marami, 'yun 'yung katapangan."

(That's not how courage is measured. Courage is when you are afraid but you still fight. When you know you're about to hit a big wall but you think about the welfare of many, that's courage.) 

"Kung sakali ba'ng hindi ako lumantad ngayon, would it change the fact, 'yung katotohanan sa sinasabi ko?" (If I didn't come forward now, would it change the fact, the truth behind what I say?)

At the end of the day, Laurio just has simple dreams: to finish law school, be a lawyer, and work for the Public Attorney's Office. But for now, this dream is put on hold because she has a bigger battle to face.

"Na-realize ko, kailangan mo maging matapang eh. This is not about me, about ito sa pinaglalaban ko, na sana katotohanan lang ang ibigay na impormasyon, na sana magkaroon ng kahit papaano na pagbabago. Kasi kung iisipin kong ako, matagal na akong 'Sige, 'wag na lang ako mag-blog.' Kaya lang it is not about me at all. It is beyond me."

(I realized that you need to be brave. This is not about me, this is about what I'm fighting for: truthful information, and hopefully change. Because if I think about myself, I would have said a long time ago, "I won't blog anymore." But this is not about me at all. It is beyond me.) – Rappler.com