Duterte’s Words are His Followers’: Imitations and (Re)Articulations of President Rodrigo Duterte’s Rhetoric in Online Discourses about Human Rights in Mindanao under Martial Rule

Charles Erize P. Ladia

The University of the Philippines, Philippines

Martial rule under the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos left a bad mark in Philippine history, especially because of the violations against human rights and the curtailment of democratic processes that it entailed and engendered. No wonder that presidencies that came after 1986 looked at this political strategy with utmost caution and care. This, however, changed on 23 May 2017, when President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed Proclamation No. 216, which declared Martial Law and suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the whole of Mindanao. To date, this decree has been extended thrice and has been approved by the Congress and the Supreme Court. Online discourses about Martial Law in Mindanao lay bare how pro- and anti-Martial Law advocates (re)construct and (re)define the concept of human rights. Such discursive efforts proliferate at speedier rates in an avenue such as the Internet, which offers its users a purportedly democratic platform for free speech, a high degree of anonymity, and a charged political engagement. In this light, this presentation extracts discourses on human rights that online users form and transform during this specific period in Philippine politics. It shows how these discourses are imitations and (re)articulations of Duterte’s human rights rhetoric. In the end, the presentation problematizes these attempts of Duterte and his followers in the online word to redefine what it means to be human.


Charles Erize P. Ladia is an assistant professor of Speech Communication at the Department of Speech Communication and Theatre Arts of the University of the Philippines where he also received his BA (Speech Communication) degree. He finished Master of Public Management (Public Policy)
and is currently a doctoral student at the Department of Political Science, University of the Philippines.


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