2022 Philippine Elections

[OPINION] Toni Talk: What’s wrong with ‘respecting my opinion?’

Kyle Parada
[OPINION] Toni Talk: What’s wrong with ‘respecting my opinion?’
'Can we divorce the art from the artist, or in this case, the politics from the person?'

Tapos na, may nanalo na, tapos ang laban. Buhay na buhay ang pagmamahal kay Apo Lakay Ferdinand Marcos!

Those were the words from actress Toni Gonzaga at the launch of Bongbong Marcos and Sara Duterte-Carpio’s UniTeam campaign at the Philippine Arena last February 8, 2022. Gonzaga and filmmaker husband Paul Soriano have never shied away from their ties to the Marcos family. Soriano had been directing the Marcos-Duterte tandem’s ads as far back as January. Bongbong even stood as godfather during Toni and Paul’s wedding ceremony back in 2015.  

The past few months, Toni has made it a habit of sparking controversy on social media, and netizens, in turn, have made it a habit of jumping at her at every opportunity. This time around, a new camp has sprung forth in aid of the beleaguered Gonzaga. Their demand: respect her political beliefs, respect her opinion, respect our opinion. Why sow hate? Burn bridges? End friendships? After all, politics isn’t the end-all and be-all of life, is it? Naturally, we Filipinos are an accommodating sort. We hide behind words like “hiya” and “respeto” and “sa palagay ko” to avoid  rocking the boat, even when the other party’s beliefs stand in direct opposition to ours. That, I  think, has led us to an interesting dilemma.  

Can we divorce the art from the artist, or in this case, the politics from the person? When persons of influence, especially celebrities like Ms. Gonzaga, speak out on an issue in favor of one side or the other – one candidate or the other – they are sending out a message, whether they would like to or not. It’s not so much just her opinion as it is an opinion – given voice by her and thrown into the world for the consumption of millions of devoted fans throughout the country. 

It seems, even after the debacle over her interview with Bongbong Marcos, Toni has yet to comprehend the kind of authority she wields through her following. In endorsing the Marcos-Duterte tandem, Toni Gonzaga could only ever be sending one of two messages: (1)“I am disavowing decades’ worth of first-hand testimonies and academic scholarship surrounding the atrocities of the Marcos regime”; or worse, (2)“Faced with an irrefutable mountain of evidence, I am supporting them regardless.” Now, that’s not an opinion, that’s a fact. As clear as the 70,000  detained, 34,000 tortured, and 3,240 Filipinos killed under Marcos and Martial Law is a fact.  

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Most of us like to think we’re smart and rational enough to make informed opinions. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Humans are receptive and impressionable, especially with the people we look up to. We make mistakes, but we’re not particularly good at knowing when we do. That is why we often need others to know them for us. Celebrities are not immune  to our judgement. Picking a candidate isn’t the same as picking between BLACKPINK or TWICE, adobo or sinigang. No one could care less whether you think Dolores and Camilo deserved more screen time in Encanto (they did). Toni’s politics comes at the very real price of the future of every Filipino. Not just hers, not just her followers’, not just the supporters of Marcos-Duterte, but every Filipino living and every Filipino yet to live. That is the price of her opinion. That is the price of all our opinions. So, forgive me and all your outspoken friends for the many essays clogging up your feed. A bit of hate on social media feels like a relatively small price to pay in comparison. 

We as individuals curate the type of values and ideas we want in our society through the power of our collective outrage. To say nothing now is to take a passive role in shaping the kind of world we want to live in. I for one am not willing to give my consent to a world in which dictators are worshipped as heroes and their children rewarded for their laziness and stupidity with wealth and power. So, take a good long look in the mirror and ask yourselves: how much are we willing to tolerate? Are we fine with being lied to? Are we fine with being stolen from? Are we fine with murder as long as it’s not us or anyone we know? Are we fine with an opinion, even if it tramples the lived experiences of hundreds, thousands, millions of Filipinos? How far are we willing to  tolerate injustice out of respect for those who could not have been bothered to do the same?

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“If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend  a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them,” Karl Popper prophesied as much in The Open Society and Its Enemies

Lies, theft, murder, and authoritarianism are not ideas to be debated – they are a set of actions to fight against. And I question the morals of anyone who puts so little a value on human life as to think otherwise. The biggest mistake the EDSA revolutionaries ever made was in thinking they could afford to be magnanimous in victory. It was respect that allowed the Marcoses to return to this country after 1986. It was respect that flew the elder Marcos’ remains from Honolulu back to Ilocos. It was respect that granted that bloated old corpse a resting place at the Libingan ng mga  Bayani. And it is out of respect for that legacy that Bongbong and his supporters scramble for the presidency. How many Marcoses and Dutertes must it take before we realize: against dictators there can be no concessions. And that includes speaking out against problematic people with problematic opinions, “cancel culture” be damned.  

I want this to be clear: everyone is entitled to an opinion, but not all opinions deserve to be respected. Supporting extrajudicial killings is not an opinion. Supporting the crackdown on activists and labor unions is not an opinion. Supporting thieves, liars, and murderers straight to  Malacañang is not an opinion. It’s a concession to despotism. Your right to an opinion ends where the right to freedom, justice, and human dignity begins. If you don’t believe that, well then, I think you’re mistaken – in my opinion– Rappler.com

Kyle Parada is a Political Science student on his final semester at the Ateneo de Manila University. He  thinks Bongbong Marcos is a pathetic excuse of a presidential candidate.