A scholar decried cyber-bullying after his post against the government prompted the latter’s supporters to launch a petition to strip him of his educational rights.
Jejomar Contawe, a fresh graduate from Tarlac State University, shared a lengthy statement on Facebook last August 25 about the right of the youth to be critical of the government’s policies. He accompanied the post with a photo of him holding a placard saying: “Iskolar ng Filipino taxpayers, hindi ng f***ing government.”
In his statement, Contawe pointed out that scholars like him earned their education from taxes of Filipinos, hence, the phrase “iskolar ng bayan” ascribed to them.
“And so I unashamedly repeat: we owe nothing to the government. it is the government who owes something to us,” he said.
“The taumbayan elected them, remember? The taumbayan’s taxes compensate them with a six-digit salary, remember? we confidently believed in their [false] promises of economic progress, and crimeless and corruption-free regime,” he added.
Contawe also stressed that President Rodrigo Duterte’s questionable policies and perceived failures have prompted more Filipinos to express their dissent and demand for reform.
“No battalion of anti-wokes, no implementation of terror laws, and definitely no millions of both paid and unpaid trolls could discourage us from this outspokenness against injustices,”
His post immediately circulated across Facebook, Twitter and even on Reddit.
"CRITICIZING THE GOVERNMENT IS A RIGHT" Viral communication graduate Jejomar Contawe said that criticizing the government is a right granted by the Philippine Constitution. ©iMPACTLeadershipPH from Philippines
On Facebook alone, Contawe’s post already made rounds over 29,000 times and earned 74,000 reactions so far.
The reactions were also relatively positive with 46,000 hearts and 16,000 likes. The angry and laugh reactions are only 1,900 and 7,400 respectively.
The comments section, however, was mainly filled with Filipino users who disagreed, and were irked and outraged at Contawe’s remarks.
An online petition via Change.org addressed to the Commission on Higher Education was even launched over the weekend as a clap back against the fresh graduate.
“Criticizing the government is a right”
Contawe issued another statement last Saturday, August 29, where he addressed those who cyber-bullied him on social media and even “red-tagged” or accused him as a member of the New People’s Army.
In his post, Contawe also attached photos of these insult-laden memes about him.
He noted that he’s not angry with the bashers. His anger was directed at “the persistent acts of cyberbullying, NPA-labelling, and the ever-going stigma against mental health issues through the years”
“This is not only because it is personally happening to me, but that it also happened, and continue to happen to many over the Internet, and the bullies often go scot-free,” Contawe said.
He also apologized to those who were offended by his swearing and argued his main intention was to thank the taxpayers.
Despite the backlash, Contawe stood by his political view that criticizing the government is the public’s right enshrined in the Constitution.
“In the midst of this mess, I desperately wish many people would come to realize that criticizing the government is a right granted to us by the Philippine Constitution,” he said.
Twitter folks to the rescue
Poet Alfonso Manalastas shared screenshots of the ongoing Change.org petition titled “Make Jejomar Contawe reimburse all expenses paid by the government for his education” and was initiated by a certain Linda Gabisan.
So far, it already has more than 35,000 of the target signatories 50,000.
In her own statement, Gabisan appeared to take offense on the scholar’s cussing while accusing him of being ungrateful to the taxpayers.
“As a taxpayer and a loyal citizen of the Philippines, I find his lack of gratitude towards the Government very appalling,” she said.
Based on Manalastas’ screenshots, he instructed local Twitterverse to report the petition as “abuse” to Change.org.
— Alfonso Manalastas (@not_alfonso) August 28, 2020
Atty. Marky Tagala also noted that vlogger Banat By, a vocal supporter of Duterte, should be liable for cyber-libel after sharing a resume-like graphic of Contawe that was aimed to shame the latter.
This is a clear case of cyber-libel under the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012. Banat By (and the personality behind it) should be held liable for publicly posting this as it tends to cause dishonor, discredit, or contempt of the person subject of this graphic. pic.twitter.com/WTmE57TmDJ
— mjttagala ✊🏼⚖️🏳️🌈 (@markytagala) August 29, 2020
Another user, @ricci_richy, questioned the selective judgment being passed instead to Contawe rather than to officials accountable to the PhilHealth corruption.
“Isn’t it weird that a lot of DDS are asking Jejomar Contawe, via a petition, to return the tuition fees that Filipino taxpayers have paid for his education, but they haven’t made any petition or call to ask PhilHealth officials accountable for the rampant corruption? Selective,” the user noted.