#DuterteTraydor: Hashtags as Forms of Address in the Contemporary Philippine Political Milieu

Dana Osborne, Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, Ryerson University


Precarity, Possibility, and the Post Pandemic


This analysis interrogates the ways in which hashtags in the contemporary political milieu of the Philippines have emerged as semiotically productive forms of address and are indexical of political sensibilities and subjectivities. In March of 2021, the sudden increase of Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea launched a firestorm of discourses focused on the question of Philippine national sovereignty and the need for the active protection of the EEZ (exclusive economic zone) of the region. In response, the current president of the Philippines delivered a series of speeches addressing the matter, and on 28 April 2021 asserted that: “I’m stating it for the record, we do not want war with China. China is a good friend. Mayroon tayong utang na loob na marami pati ‘yong bakuna natin.” (We owe a great debt of gratitude for the many vaccines). This longstanding position, much to the dismay of many government insiders, academics, and those in the international community, precipitated a massive increase in responses decrying the potential danger of the failure to take a strong stance, from diplomatic protests, official academic statements, statements by foreign governments, and grassroots organizations who took to social media and other fora to express concern, disapproval, and outrage. This analysis will focus on tracing an archaeology of the ways in which the wildly popular hashtag, #DuterteTraydor (traitor), has emerged and circulated on social media in response to the president’s perceived duplicity and weak stance in relation to the recent events in the West Philippine Sea. It will go on to demonstrate the ways that other key hashtags critical of the current regime are generated and flow in online fora in critical ways and often percolate from grassroots stances to officialized ones, becoming part of the ecosystem of discourses and legible political positionalities. In the end, this analysis will explore the ways in which these digital forms of address are generated, circulated, and recognized, and frame them as important social semiotic sites for the generation and negotiation of political subjectivities and stances in fraught and often dangerous political contexts.

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CCSEAS Conference 2021 |