Robert Blair Carabuena: A Case Study of Cyber Bullying

By N. Mark Castro

That the incident became a national interest in the Republic of the Philippines speak volumes to the overwhelming popularity and influence of social media. After all, it had all the ingredients of another favorite Philippine pastime:  soap opera. You have the heart-tugging story of an MMDA traffic enforcer Saturnino Fabros, who’s a single dad raising six children with his monthly P 8,000 (US$ 200) salary. On the other side, you have Robert Blair Carabuena, an HR executive at Philip Morris International (PMI) who’s private-school education showcased his elite background while professionally accustomed to dealing with employees with the veil of authority.

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So it isn’t surprising as to why Philippine netizens came down swift and hard on Robert Blair Carabuena, ranging from spreading online petitions to terminate his employment to the painful Facebook and Twitter comments. And if that wasn’t enough, even the Palace had to laud Philippine netizens for their vigilance. Why the Philippine president — through presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, had to stoop down to such level is beyond rational communications planning. Indeed, the issue had reached national level.

According to the same linked report, presidential spokesperson said:

“Public engagement is the bedrock of democracy. It is at its most potent and powerful when the constant scrutiny of the citizenry serves as a deterrent to the illicit and unlawful,” Lacierda said.

And yet the very same president has been critical of media — mainstream or online — whenever he is criticized, insisting that news report highlight the government’s achievements instead.

So it wasn’t difficult to imagine why Robert Blair Carabuena had to take out all his social media presence.

What Happened

The incident was pretty much cut-and-dry: Robert Blair Carabuena drove past a red-light, he was stopped by MMDA Traffic Enforcer Saturnino Fabros, an altercation ensued, and Carabuena’s fit is the kind of intensity we need to see from Manny Pacquaio these days: in both boxing and congressional ring.

Based on the video and pictures alone, it would all but seem that Robert Blair Carabuena is guilty. There is, indeed, no excuse for his demeaning actions wrought upon an institutional peasant. Saturnino Fabros, a 20-year traffic enforcer veteran,  isn’t excused from one of the corrupt institutions in the land either; however, we have no legal basis to decide upon this case. Only the judge does. Which is why it is all too important that this case be heard as soon as possible in order to fully appreciate the facts.

The Philippine netizens have done their job. Its vigilance and consistent sharing of pictures and the video allowed for the incident to become a national issue. The online petition directed the attention of a multinational company to participate in the issue itself. That being said, it should now be up to the courts to render its decision.

To do more pushes us deeper to the brink of cyber bullying, in becoming what we’ve detested the most.  As Nietzsche said:

If you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.

Of course, “gazing into an abyss” is a metaphysical concept that has nothing to do with looking into a physical abyss of any sort. It has to do with any abyss of our moral and constitutional compass. As I’ve said, Robert Blair Carabuena has every right to defend himself in the court of law and it is our obligation to provide him as such.

Don’t get me wrong, I share the opinion that based on the pictures and video that Robert Blair Carabuena is a perfectly ghastly man. But I think it’s a little insane of us to think that God Almighty is reserving His Right Seats for us for parading him in Facebook town to show how bad he is and how good we are.

What we need to do, collectively, is to be equally vigilant among ourselves to know when enough is enough.

Or we become no less than what Robert Blair Carabuena has done.

About Asmartrock

N. Mark Castro is the chief political communications strategist for PT AsiaLeads, a political and communications policy-making body based in Jakarta, Indonesia. He is also the Executive Director at the Southeast Asia Consulting Group, an investment advisory company assisting clients roll out their presence for the ASEAN Economic Integration in partnership with government. The views posted here are his own and do not in any way reflect the views of the companies he represents.

Posted on August 16, 2012, in General, Politics and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. No, this is not the metaphysical abyss, at least not yet. This is the Filipino standing up for the underdog, and hopefully finally finding the courage to fight the culture of impunity. It is justice, Filipino style.

    • As you can see, I’m throwing caution and raising the red flag that we may not cross over that thin line. Some sites have already called for his death, paraded his personal details, and implement their own sense of justice. I know all about Filipino justice, and it usually grinds towards the rich and the privileged, which is why in our pursuit to balance that level, we ought to be equally vigilant in ensuring that those caught under our watch receive the kind of real justice that they deserve. Which is why, again, we must ensure that we are not led to the metaphysical abyss mentioned, don’t you think?

      Thank you for the visit and the discussion. Wish there was coffee I could offer. Our discussions would have been more fun.

  2. Cesar Evangelista

    The twist in the article reveals a lot.

  3. I don’t think that this is an issue of determing when enough is enough…but rather this is each and every juan de la cruz just wants to say something and express themselves on a particular specific issue. It just so happens that its the Carabuena issue. Enough will be enough when each and every juan dela cruz who wants to say something has done saying it. If 100K pinoys wants to say he is an asshole and only 90K has expressed it yet then it is not yet over…it is not yet enough cause there still is 10K who has not spoken. When all has spoken then we can say it is enough.

    • No one is questioning a person’s right to speak, regardless of the issue, nor do I advocate censorship. Even our courts provide measures to prevent litigants from speaking further on a case once it has been filed, hence, a proper forum is established, with strict codes of decency and due process.

      I have mentioned that Carabuena’s actions are inexcusable and, further, promote that he be litigated quickly so that any undue influence or reach of his money be prevented from curtailing justice. And yes, let us all be vigilant.

      What I do take caution is that we, as a society, should also know when we have said our piece collectively in order to avoid becoming cyber-bullies ourselves, which is why I submit this issue that has so inflamed and united us as a case study.

      What are our measures, as a cyber society, in determining our online engagement? Do we just become a mob mentality deciding when our righteous act deserve to punish to the pulp a guilty person? That other sites have sprung calling for his death?

      Remember, in the eyes of extremist Moslems, they are right based on what they have been taught, seen in war-torn places, and heard from aggrieved family and friends that they call upon every other Moslem to kill the infidels — online or offline. As you can see, I submitted this premise as a point of discussion in studying ourselves and our reactions. Is it knee-jerk? Legally binding? Rational?

      What about our other issues that require online vigilance as well? Particularly the infamous massacre of women and children perpetrated by the powers that be in the Southern part of our country?

      If the only solution is to just let everyone speak, regardless of the message, I remember the last time every one felt righteous that the person they adjudged as blasphemous and guilty deserved to be crucified, then I suppose that it’s the solution that we currently have.

      Thank you for visiting and it’s always such a nice discussion and debate with opposing views from a fellow Filipino. This is what truly makes us strong and united.

      Maraming Salamat!

  4. asmartrock, I agree with what youve written here. Just want to quote…

    “But I think it’s a little insane of us to think that God Almighty is reserving His Right Seats for us for parading him in Facebook town to show how bad he is and how good we are.

    What we need to do, collectively, is to be equally vigilant among ourselves to know when enough is enough.

    Or we become no less than what Robert Blair Carabuena has done.”

    Btw, im also a Juan Dela Cruz. I condemn particularly the action/behavior but not the person. This is one of the lesson Carabuena will learn the hard way. Lets all also learn from his mistake and not just be at rage.

    • Thanks Jefferson!

      I’d like to categorically state that I’m in favor of prosecuting Carabuena to the fullest extent of the law. I also written that due to the vigilance of our cyber citizenship, we were able to generate national attention to an incident that would’ve normally been forgotten or even paid for.

      But I would also like to caution ourselves that in our pursuit of truth and justice in platforms we can find, that we may not forget our collective decency as a society.

      We kicked out Marcos and swore never again. It was a beautiful lesson showcased to the world how we spoke as one, at a time when there was no social media as yet.

      Then Erap came and we took to the streets yet again, showing him how awful he’s been, despite winning the largest direct votes ever. And just like that, because the middle class spoke, the entire voting right of our fellow citizens were buried.

      Then GMA came, we rallied yet again but, smart and cunning that she was, she was able to deflect all her detractors at the time and even managed to slip in 9 years of rule to a country that swore never again.

      Do we spiral down to mob mentality? Do we just transfer the same mentality online? These are issues we need to address within ourselves. Not to show who’s right or wrong, who’s better or not, but what we can do together to be better.

      Thanks for the visit Jefferson!

  5. In a rational context i fully agree with you in your observations as well as words of caution. indeed our people, maybe our race in general, is really an emotional lot. This national mentality has generally seemed to have shaped public opinion on matters concerning our politics, leadership and pertinent social issues- oftentimes- to the nation’s detriment. That said, however, with this huge outcry of support for fabros on one hand and cosmic damnation upon carabuena on the other, i think i am prepared to give the typically impulsive if not irrational juan de la cruz some quarters. There was just so much madness, such demeaning arrogance on the part of carabuena witnessed by so many that it was hard for anyone not to do something about it. It so happens, cyberspace is the most easily accesible avenue for us to do our part. Of course we cannot condone any mob action against carabuena: the rule of law must always be upheld and due process observed. As for carabuena, he had better immigrate because with all those lovely e-mails against him, and given the idiotic statement by his father, it would be utterly stupid for him to be roaming the streets nowadays. But i guess he deserves what he got;such a lowly individual who is only good at picking those he thought could not possibly fight him physically or legally, perhaps, does not have a place in a civilized society like ours.You see, here is another emotional and temperamental Filipino citizen, so please bear with us. Overall though, you paint a pretty picture of our people. Appreciate it.

    • Sorry for the late reply, Hazel.

      We are all aggrieved and feel for Fabros, no doubt. That Carabuena’s public apology made in the presence of the MMDA officers still provide a weak admission of guilt, pushing even for the retention of his driver’s license.

      All these factors, indeed, make us even feel even more for the sorry state of Fabros who, in all honesty, reflect most of us. We recognize his pain, his suffering, his poverty because we are all in it.

      I am totally for the prosecution of Carabuena to the fullest extent of the law, and tempered by the wisdom of an independent and unbribed judge. If the judge so decides that Carabuena pays for the crime and injustice he’s done, so be it. If the judge so decides that he pays for the crime and injustice he’s done BUT given a more lenient sentence to allow him to rectify his mistake and be given a second chance, then so be it. As long as that decision has been arrived at without any undue influence or bribery, fine.

      This is why our judiciary should be strong so that, as an institution, it continues to receive the respect derived from its wisdom as an elder that tempers our emotions.

      Personally, I’d rather he remain in the Philippines, so that we can show to our fellow citizens and the world that a first-time arrogant offender can change, can rectify mistakes, can redeem himself, and can rejoin our society.

      If we miss this chance, what do we show to ourselves, to our children, to the world? That we are great at driving away those who have committed mistakes? That we are great at driving away perceived demons with no course of redemption? While, embarrassingly and ironically, the bigger fish of corrupt people in power continue to be treated differently.

      This is the reason why I have submitted this inquiry if we, ourselves, can maintain our own sense of decorum as we pursue justice that we, in turn, do not become bullies ourselves.

      If our only course of action is “an eye for an eye,” as Gandhi said, “then the world will be blind.”

      Thanks for the drop in.

  6. Dignity in Poverty
    (the way of Saturnino Fabros)
    by: Apolinario B. Villalobos

    Self-respect…..self-esteem
    Poise…. pride….
    All these, we have in us
    But can we hold on to them
    When our family miss not only one
    But all meals in a day sometimes?

    Can we hold on to them
    As sometimes we just stay home
    Instead of reporting to work
    When even loose change for fare
    We have none?

    Can we hold on to them
    As we see our family
    Sit it out at night
    Not a wink of sleep
    Due to the roof that leaks?

    Can we hold on to them
    As we see our children
    Clad in tattered clothes
    Barefooted as they play around
    Or trod the muddy road?

    Can we hold on to them
    When we are berated by others
    Who felt or thought to be slighted
    As we do our job –
    With all sincerity and honesty?

    Temptation is always there –
    Ready to delightedly push us
    Towards the verge of misdeed
    Making us just remorseful later
    Blaming ourselves without end.

    Poverty has been part of life
    Not everybody can be rich
    Contentment then of what we have
    Should be the norm, nobody to blame
    Just feel dignified …most of all –strive!

    • Hi Apolinario (or Apolo?), as it’s a common practice that we usually shorten our names for expediency. I’ve had several classmates named after our national hero.

      Anyway, in the old film “Robin Hood” that starred Kevin Costner, I remember him complaining that “there is no dignity in poverty anymore.”

      Which is the sad state that our country is in now. Whereas before, regardless of the station in one’s life, we all get the same opportunities and chances. Unfortunately now, with all factors involved, poverty has become not only a stigma but almost an impossible station that designates a person for the rest of his/her life, which is a door for corruption.

      In India, once you’re considered an “untouchable” in their caste system, you’re forever considered that … which leads them away from their own countries, and if they are impoverished enough to remain, live a life of exclusion.

      I hope we never get to that point.

  7. Saturnino Fabros
    … humility personified

    By: Apolinario B. Villalobos

    When God created man and woman
    Perfection was in His mind;
    In His image they were molded
    But what happened in Paradise
    Was unfortunate, for it proved –
    His creations were weak;
    He could have asked Himself
    How he could have failed.

    Just like Adam and Eve
    Who, with virtues were created
    Around each of us lurks temptation
    And it’s up to us how to resist it
    Which is just waiting to embrace
    The weak who may finally give way
    To uncontrolled desire to burst
    Into uncalled for action he could vent.

    Humility is difficult to live out
    As pride always gets in the way
    But not for Saturnino Fabros
    Who stood tall despite humiliations –
    Blows, berating and all
    From Carabuena brothers –
    Traffic rules violators.

    His lean body unmoving
    And eyes fixed on Robert Carabuena
    Who shouted at him with all his might
    All these Fabros took with all humility…
    Admirable, indeed, as many later saw on TV;
    Pride of Metro Manila Development Authority
    Saturnino Fabros is one great guy to admire –
    A true Filipino… he personified humility!

    • Allow me to disagree, my online visitor.

      First of all, if God Almighty is Perfection, then He can never created an imperfect creation. Therefore, by the same logic, what God has created is already perfect unto itself. What makes it all the more perfect is the “FREE WILL” that He himself has bestowed upon us. Free to do whatever we want, and reap upon that which we have sown.

      If it’s evil as we define evil is done then such is the suffering we bear, which explains for the existence of Hitler, dictators, serial killers, conquerors. After all, there is a very thin line between freedom fighters and terrorists.

      God, in His Infinite Wisdom and Omnipotent Power, can easily refuse to give air or sunshine to what we, as mankind, deem to be evil, such as Carabuena. And yet He does not. Does that make him weak? If God obeys every prayer we make, what does that make Him? A mere genie that does our bidding?

      I therefore submit that God has created mankind as perfect beings with “free will”. Our journey in experiencing life is finding yet again the innocence and perfection by which we have arrived on earth as babies. The Buddhists often advocate that everyone is already a Buddha, they just have to find it within. Jesus the Christ Himself said that the Kingdom of God is already within.

      Therefore, both good and evil rests within our powers to choose.

      And Saturnino Fabros, among our brothers, has shown great humility in showing us how peace can remain in the face of anger.

      We may differ in opinion Apolinario, but I thank you for sharing yours and visiting the site.

  8. Hmmmm..hopeless on politics but very passionate about cyber bullying from whatever quarter!

    • Agree. There’s a proper venue and forum by which one can present grievances and there are far worse criminals that require urgent and immediate processing of cases so that judges can apply appropriate sentences.

  1. Pingback: Robert Carabuena: License Suspended « Blink

  2. Pingback: The President Just Doesn’t Get it: The Philippine Cybercrime Law « Blink

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