A SOCIOLOGIST I used to admire, dissing President Duterte’s antagonism towards mainstream media, wrote to advocate for media’s freedom to “irritate the social system.” But “irritate,” he claims, is all media can do because “it is not intellectuals but people that change the system…” when they realize “their power to modify circumstances…” and “interrupt” the system’s “self-reproducing routines.”

I have no problem with the first part. It simply echoes journalism’s traditional mission to watch the powerful on behalf of the powerless and voiceless. But when he said in effect that action for change is the people’s call, l saw something of a disconnect in his social theory and practice.

Fed up with and angry at traditional politicians, voters rejected Binay’s, Poe’s, and Roxas’s money and elected Duterte by the biggest majority of any president-elect in the post-Marcos era. The latter proceeded with nail-on-the-head programs against terrorism and for peace in Mindanao, against corruption, the drug trade and for farmer-worker-OFW welfare, etc.

For “irritating” the system and “interrupting its self-reproducing routines” Duterte gets the people’s approval but is “irritated” back by mainstream media. Instead of analyzing and helping international agencies and mainstream media understand what HBO calls the “Duterte Phenomenon,” this sociologist is encouraging them not just to “irritate” but to totally discredit a (strangely?) popular president.

Moreover, the wife has been reported to declare that the “fear in the Duterte administration is worse than the fear in Marcos’s Martial Law.” Where is she coming from with this egregious distortion unless she is projecting her own fear. How can a limited Martial law that has Congress’ approval and Supreme Court confirmation strike more fear than Marcos’s Martial Law. I know with many others who suffered under Marcos that Duterte’s authoritarian style is worlds away from being “comparable”to Marcos’s hell of a dictatorship.

Husband and wife belong to a group (that I also once wanted to join) that has forged a tactical alliance with the opposition party that is not just irritating but totally discrediting and trying to oust Duterte. This could explain the disconnect between his theory of social change coming only from the people’s will and his failure to respect what the people have so far consistently shown in social surveys, their high vote of confidence on the Duterte administration.

It is the noble mission of media to lend their voices to the marginalized. But they must not forget they do not belong to that sector. They must take their cue from the latter and never subordinate its basic aspirations to the values of middle class intellectuals.