Senator Leila M. de Lima has defended the University of the Philippines (UP) Visayas Skimmers dance group for standing up against the Duterte administration’s anti-people policies and addressing important issues in a viral satirical cheer dance routine.
De Lima, the staunchest critic of the present administration’s crooked policies, said the UP Visayas Skimmers’ performance “smacks of the truth” without sugarcoating the reality under the Duterte government.
“I laud the UPV Skimmers for their patriotic creativity. Sa panahong ang mga katulad ninyong kabataan at estudyante ay patuloy na sinisikil ang karapatang magpahayag, ang inyong katapangan at pagkamalikhain ay tunay na kahanga-hanga,” she said.
“Their presentation is only a reaction to the truth and reflects the brutal reality articulated by Duterte himself in his public speeches. It was a social satire that hit right through the core of present Philippine society,” she added.
Through a performance in a cheering competition at the UPV’s main campus in Miag-ao town, Iloilo province, UPV Skimmers not only highlighted university issues but also tackled national issues that were mostly critical of the present government.
These include, among others, Mr. Duterte’s close relationship with China, the West Philippine Sea (WPS) dispute, the removal of teaching Filipino in schools, and the failure of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity or Expression bill to be passed into law.
After the video of the Visayas dance group went viral, its members were immediately targeted by pro-Duterte online supporters, who criticized their routine and message. In response, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said it was a “very natural” reaction for pro-admin netizens to harass member of the UPV Skimmers.
De Lima, a social justice and human rights champion, found it a horrifying truth that legitimate dissent is treated as a crime, and dissenters are punished for disrupting the peace, while Mr. Duterte normalizes killings and violence.
“When Duterte spews his usual poison about murdering people, it is quickly defended by his DDS minions as part of his playful or dark humor. But when a group of students quip about killing him, it is subversion,” she said.
“Because of their hard-hitting commentary, these students are now subjected to the organized hate speech of the Duterte machinery, the very same ones used to persecute me and the rest of the political opposition,” she added.
Amid the hate speeches that the members of the Visayas dance group are receiving from pro-Duterte netizens, De Lima said she hopes that the group’s creativity would continue to inspire other Filipinos to think out of the box in defying and resisting the present administration.
“Creative dissent is most powerful when it speaks of the everyday woes of the people, those that would otherwise remain unspoken and unheard,” she said.
Known as a prisoner of conscience, De Lima has consistently called out Mr. Duterte’s crooked policies from detention, even as she maintained that no amount of lies by political manipulators and even paid trolls could prevent her from fulfilling her mandate as a duly-elected Senator of the Republic.