Long before the internet age, Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew stated that it is important to read foreign newspapers to see what other nations say about themselves. As such, being acquainted with what Chinese journalists say about China, American journalists say about America etc., can help to guide one’s own interactions with such nations and peoples.
In the modern age of online media, an inverse phenomenon is occurring where people from any given country can go online to see what foreigners are saying about foreign countries. Perhaps no country has excelled at the multi-national sharing of political analysis more than The Philippines. When one combines a technically literate population with a highly popular political leader – President Rodrigo Duterte who happens to be hated by much of the old corporate mainstream media of The Philippines, the logical result is that independent media outlets will emerge to share and propagate analysis of current events from the perspective of those who value President Duterte’s policies and goals for the nation.
During his campaign for the presidency in 2016, former Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s supporters online did in the digital realm what in previous generations was done only on the streets. If one talks about genuine ‘people power’ in The Philippines, the digital people power revolution led by Duterte and his supporters in 2016 was as significant as the controversial events of 1986.
While the events of 1986 led to an overthrow of a sitting president and a constitutional crisis, Duterte’s peaceful, free and fair election has ushered in a change in mentality among Filipinos who care about the future of their nation and nowhere has this change been felt more powerfully than on the internet where Duterte’s millions of followers also follow news and analysis both from Filipino commentators and from those abroad.
So keen are Filipinos on following international commentary regarding their nation and president that when a non-Filipino analyst authors a story about their country, within hours, the piece is often quoted and shared by domestic news and analysis websites, most of which have a significant readership.
While the United States tends to be more talked about, written about and debated about than any other nation in the world, few Americans tend to read what foreigners have to say about their nation. This is certainly true compared to the number of Filipinos who not only read but actively share pieces that foreigners write about their country.
There are of course many diverse opinions about the United States throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America, but few Americans get to see these views even though many of them are written in English. The average American news reader could benefit greatly from adopting a more Filipino approach to understanding, exploring, sharing and discussing what foreigners have to say about the US. This is especially true in an age where Donald Trump has altered many traditional perceptions of the United States.
The phenomenon of vibrant news websites in The Philippines actively seeking opinions from foreign sources is symptomatic of a nation whose renewed international confidence in the age of Duterte means that the country ought to embrace new forms of economic connectivity with those abroad. If an appetite for foreign analysis exists in The Philippines, then surely an appetite for healthy economic and cultural partnerships with those abroad both exists and would be objectively beneficial.
This is another reason why as Duterte ushers in new constitutional reforms to transform The Philippines into a federal republic, it is also key to remove barriers on international economic inter-connectivity in the form of the 1987 Constitution’s restrictions on foreign direct investment (FDI).
The modern Filipino mentality is one that looks to the world in order to learn more about others but also learn more about its own future. This is a sign of a healthy nation that seeks to cultivate much of its previously untapped potential when it comes to innovation, science, culture, trade and partnerships of peace.
This overwhelming positive trend contrasts sharply with a United States that in terms of the sharing of information remains far too insular. The US could in fact benefit from learning about the world that it tends to dominate just as developing nations can learn from sharing views and opinions with those from a wide variety of nations.
While previous corrupt and unimaginative leaders had made Filipinos act small by fostering a limited and limiting collective national mentality, the age of Duterte has signified a great awakening in Filipino national thought that is deeply inspiring.
Thus, at a time when many Filipinos continue to wish to learn from others, the wider world and particularly the United States could learn a great deal from the openness of hard working Filipino journalists and website managers who are not afraid to keep an open mind and open door to the rest of the world.
President Duterte’s followers online have done a great service to their people and to the world by developing news platforms that allow the internet age to be the age of information at a time when mainstream media outlets throughout the world are far too often little more than highly funded agents of disinformation.