Rodrigo Duterte

[Bodymind] Rising above adverse country experiences under Duterte

Dr Margie Holmes

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

[Bodymind] Rising above adverse country experiences under Duterte

Marian Hukom

I am hoping that as we become more aware of the possible reasons we did not fight back more during his term, we can loosen the hold such power has over us

They say that “the personal is political,” which I wholeheartedly agree with.

Its converse – the political is also personal – is just as true, even if we may be less aware of it, sometimes tragically so, like during the time Rodrigo Duterte (PPRD) was our president.

I refer specifically to the seemingly little things PPRD said and did which changed us, making cowering citizens of many, frightened of the PNP and whatever PPRD pronounced, much like a brutal father changes the trajectory of his children’s lives for the worst.

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are trauma-laden experiences children have that can have lasting impacts on their health (both physical and emotional) and general well-being. These negative experiences affect a child’s brain and nervous system as they grow into adults and often lead to mental disorders and/or chronic health conditions. As the number of ACEs increases, so does the risk for negative outcomes.

There is a cumulative effect when it comes to toxic stress, and the more ACEs a child experiences, the greater impact it can have on their mental and physical health.

Many citizens were also traumatized during PPRD’s time, experiencing their own kind of ACEs (adverse country experiences), including (but not limited to) trolls paid to subject concerned citizens to even more trauma with predictions of their rapes and torture. Our very own brave, beautiful, and beloved Jover Laurio was even doxed, resulting in threats and leaving her in danger of retaliation.

In the same way some populations are more vulnerable to experiencing ACEs because of the social and economic conditions in which they live and work, so also were some communities here targeted, specifically the urban poor, with murder, mayhem, intimidation and terror.

ACEs have also been associated with higher rates of suicide, diminished neuropsychological performance, and an increased prevalence of stroke, diabetes, alcoholism, depression, autoimmune disease, and many other disorders.

Who knows what sort of problems children, with their own particular ACEs growing up during PPRD’s time, will have when they become adults?

Why do ACEs (be they childhood or country) have such a big impact on health?

Because they literally change our brain development and can exacerbate difficulties when the body responds to stress. Too much of the stress hormone cortisol coursing through our bodies suppresses our reproductive and digestive systems, changes our immune system responses, and even holds back growth processes.

Example: A young boy innocently asks his father, “What time are you coming home tonight?” Instead of answering in equal measure, the father, without warning, excoriates his son and tears a strip off him. Not only will his son hesitate to ask him questions again, but his siblings who witnessed this event might also hesitate, and the more timid among them probably never dare to.

His children would say to themselves: “If Tatay (father) can react that violently to innocent questions, how much more savage would he be to more hard-hitting ones? Better lie low for now.”

This tactic – picking on one person so that others learn not to behave similarly for fear of being treated the same – is exactly what Canadian psychologist Dr. Albert Bandura’s Social Learning Theory predicts.

Social Learning suggests that learning can occur even when people only observe (and not necessarily directly experience) the consequences of other people’s behaviors. Actions that are rewarded are more likely to be imitated, while those that are punished are avoided.

This is often the reason violent men harm their partners’ pets. The message is clear: “If I can torture your pet, thus traumatizing you, you will no longer dare upset me. I can torture you too.”

Despite a reporter’s having every right to ask any Philippine president about his health, when PDI correspondent Dennis Jay Santos asked PPRD about his health, he replied viciously, and even speculated about Mr. Santos’s wife possibly having vaginitis.

I don’t think the other reporters ever really recovered from the shock of Duterte’s kabastusan involving the reporter’s poor, unsuspecting wife who had no idea about the probability of her having a smelly vagina being brought up at a news conference.

Thus, future questions became softer, with some reporters and especially columnists becoming downright sycophantic.

How many of us are familiar with a vindictive, authoritarian father figure, even if not our own? We know only too well how unfortunate these children are; they flinch when spoken to, never daring to put their heads above the parapet. And yet, strangely enough, such parents also want to be loved and found credible. (For PPRD, might it have been because he hoped you would vote for his anointed ones?)

Even parents brutal enough not to care can realize when they have gone too far, apologize, say they were drunk, forgot themselves “because they love you too much,” and other excuses that would never fly unless the children were too damaged to think straight.

PPRD backtracked and used the excuse “I was only joking” when he realized he had gone too far, even for a people already cowered by his drug war. He did this again just recently, when he said he was only “joking” about wanting Mindanao to secede from the rest of the Philippines when his original remark wasn’t well received.

There are other examples. Addressing soldiers in 2017 following his declaration of martial law in Mindanao, he said that he “alone would be responsible” for the consequences of his decision and joked that if any soldier would be convicted of rape, he would go to prison for them instead.

In 2018, he said in an event in Malacañang that he used marijuana to stay awake. PPRD’s response when his “joking” remarks cause outrage? “Ka ugok mo…mga buang (If you believe me, you’re a fool).”

A father is expected to love, protect and care for your children. Instead you shame them, making them feel it was their fault, that they were too ugok and buang for taking your word for it. This is emotional abuse and definitely an ACE. How can any loving father cause his children to doubt their own perceptions, distrust themselves and even to believe they have a mental illness?

Why am I writing about this now, when PPRD is no longer president? Because albeit out of office, he still wields tremendous power and seems to have no compunction using it.

These attempts include his constant sniping at President Marcos, his “prayer rallies,” and his hints at anointing people for higher office. At the moment, the most likely seems to be the publicly-punching-mayor-in-the-face and Davao’s answer to Manny Pacquiao, Sara Duterte.

I am hoping that as we become more aware of the possible reasons we did not fight back more during his term, we can loosen the hold such power has over us. We will no longer be as powerless as when we were children and experienced the trauma for the first time. So that we can fight the same sort of battles more effectively in the future.

Also, if treatment and the management of ACEs can help people lead fulfilling lives, think what the same can do for a people who have proven themselves sturdy enough to withstand all the misfortunes our country’s corrupt and unfeeling politicians have given us.  –

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  1. ET

    Thanks to Dr. Margie Holmes for another inspiring article. The question now is whether the Filipino People are sturdy enough to withstand all the misfortunes their country’s corrupt and unfeeling politicians have dealt them with. Unfortunately, most people do not even think their politicians are corrupt and unfeeling. This is the effect of the Political Patronage System, repression, and disinformation.

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