Commentary: Afraid but never silent


Some days ago, I received a private message from somebody using a dummy account in social media. The message, was a google map photo with a red circle around the spot where my family is in LaTrinidad. Said sender was sending me messages since December 2017. I was ignoring all its messages then knowing that it was from a dummy account. However, this time I was alarmed and was forced to confront the sender.

Receiving a message – the photo of your family home – from a stranger is very disturbing, so I sent a message asking for the sender’s identity and the intention of such message. The sender then responded with “don’t worry, nobody will hurt you”. The response sent chills down my spine because the message suggested or made the presumption that I could get hurt. My response was a strongly worded demand to disclose its identity but to no avail. The dummy account in the name of a “Samantha Bergundy”, was then deactivated minutes later.

Was my paranoia premature that time for having reacted the way I did? I would like to think the contrary. First, I don’t know the sender and I can’t, in anyway, connect it to anyone I know. Second, the sender knows some personal information about me. And third, the sender sent a photo my family’s home. From the three, I can let the first and second slip but I cannot do the same for the third.

Family home, is not only where you and your family resides, but it is also your personal and private sanctuary. Don’t we all seek refuge at our family home when we feel we are no longer safe outside due to the ever changing and unpredictable climate, or the toxicity of our environment or the turbulence in current politics? And when your sanctuary, which you consider the safest place in the entire world, is no longer safe or is compromised by someone who you do not know at all, what ought a prudent man do?

Days after, another dummy account emerged bearing the name “Dontmesswithgold” and later changed to “Gold Lee”. This time, it didn’t only target me, but it also included someone dear to me. We were sent messages asking us to be careful and that we should be watchful of the actions of the people around us. The last message sent to me was “Agsardengka!” (stop what you’re doing).

It is obvious that these individuals, whoever they are, are not only sending messages using dummy accounts, to harass and intimidate me but also to put a stop, or to silence what I’m doing. By the way, what am I doing in the first place that gets these individuals wrinkling their foreheads and making their nerves pop?

Well for starters, I am a nobody. Just your typical working student trying to make both ends meet in order to cope up with the sky rocketing student and everyday fees. A government civil servant during day and a curious law student at night. And of course, like any concerned citizen inside a democratic society, I am a vocal critic of the status quo.

So if a lowly working student like me gets harassed for being a critic, you can just image the volume of mud being thrown against well-known critics? But more than that, imagine the weight of stress and anxiety which they and their families have to shoulder daily? At first, I did not pay much attention to these questions and that it should not be taken seriously, but oh boy, did it change when I was the one on the receiving end of harassment and intimidation.

Quite honestly I am afraid of these messages being sent to me. But what good am I seating on the bench reduced into a mere spectator to the atrocities happening. Yes, as a mouthpiece of a government institution, I am obliged to follow the hand that feeds me to whatever direction it points me to. The same hand however directed me to uphold our laws, good morals and values when I raised my right hand before assuming office. I swore loyalty to the Filipino populace and to our country but not to the latter’s agents.

Though fear is normal, it should not be a reason for passivity. Those who muffle dissent feeds on our fear but quivers to every ounce of courage that emanates from the people. Let’s all remember, courage is not the absence of fear but the unwavering determination to do what is right despite the presence of fear.

The social media is a free market place of ideas where anyone can freely peddle their ideas for public consumption. In here, fake and erroneous ideas should be met with more contrasting ideas. Never should the social media be the tool to water down the colliding ideas that spark the embers of truth. Trolls however, don’t have ideas to offer in this marketplace because if they did, why the need to hide under fake accounts and why resort to intimidation and harassment?

We welcome different ideas and we call these trolls to step out from their fake accounts and share table with us. I’ll bring the beer.#


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