Dilawan is a colloquial term used to refer to the members of the Liberal Party (LP) and their supporters. It comes from the word “dilaw,” the Filipino word for yellow, the symbolic color of the party. It is often used as a pejorative by critics of the LP to disparage the party’s members and their supporters.
Under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, who defeated Liberal Party candidate Mar Roxas in the 2016 presidential election, Duterte’s supporters have taken to using “dilawan” to mockingly call his critics regardless of their political affiliation or affinity. Similarly, loyalists of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who was succeeded by Corazon C. Aquino in the presidency following his ouster via the 1986 People Power Revolution, label his and his family’s critics “dilawan” whether or not they are sympathetic towards the Liberal Party.
Etymology and use
Dilawan comes from the word “dilaw,” the Filipino word for yellow, the political color of the Liberal Party. Although customarily denotative of the Liberal Party’s members and supporters, it came to be used as a derogatory label particularly during the presidency of Benigno Simeon Aquino III, a member of the ruling Liberal Party, as his administration’s popularity declined over the years after he enjoyed a landslide victory in the 2010 presidential election.
“Dilawan" further carried a connotation of disrepute in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election after discontent and anger with the Aquino administration snowballed with the deaths of 44 members of the Special Action Forces in the Mamasapano clash in January 2015 and the deaths of farmers in the Kidapawan protests in March 2016, among other incidents. With the growing populist appeal of Davao City mayor and presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte, “dilawan” came to be instrumentalized by his rapidly burgeoning supporter base to shoot down criticisms against his strongman style of leadership and emphasize the Aquino administration’s flaws.
“Dilawan” as a pejorative has remained to be heavily used after Duterte was elected. He and other officials in his administration have routinely called opposition officials “dilawan.” In September 2020, Duterte quipped, “Huwag po sana kayong maniwala dyan sa mga dilawan, opposition na hampas dito, hampas doon, kung ano pinagsasabi” [“I hope you don’t believe in the yellows, the opposition that strikes here, strikes there and says a lot of things,”] regarding the criticisms his administration received over its response to the Covid-19 pandemic. In July 2021, Duterte said, “Kung ako ang makulong sa — magdala ako ng mga limang dilawan, sabihin ko sa iyo.” [If I go to jail, I will bring five yellows with me, I’m telling you,” commenting on the possibility of him receiving a conviction for human rights violations in relation to his administration's drug war, which the International Criminal Court has begun investigating.
In June 2021, Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto, who is not allied with the Duterte administration, chastised and labeled “dilawan” certain groups who quoted him on the problem with political parties in the country, saying they misrepresented his message. “Maaaring totoo ang quote, pero last year pa at hindi presidential elections ang topic! Misquoted ng ibang Dilawan group para sumakto sa naratibo nila… kaso lang, naniwala ang iilang supporters ng Presidente at kaya nagalit” ["The quote may be true, but this was made last year and the topic was not about presidential elections! Some of the yellows’ groups misquoted me so that it would fit their narrative. But some of the supporters of the President believed it and were angry."]
Leni Robredo’s color shift
On 7 October 2021, Vice President Leni Robredo, who ran under the Liberal Party during her campaign in the 2016 election and is the current chairperson of the party, used a colorway composed of a dominant pink and a secondary blue as she announced her candidacy in the 2022 presidential election. This was a departure from the Liberal Party’s yellow. She is running as an independent candidate in her bid for the presidency.
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