In light of the Philippine general midterm election 2019, we dissect and discuss the current political climate, assess where things went wrong, and exact a change that is truly by and for the Filipino people
Before anything else, allow me to first preface this article by acknowledging how long I had to sit on this premise before actually firming up my resolve to type and articulate my thoughts. While it was for the most part an act of gestation, much of the hesitation really moored itself on whether or not my truth held any weight to grander scheme of things. However, as the days led up to the pivotal national midterm elections, it became crystal clear: I have a civic responsibility to tell this story now. You know, before things are too late.
So, without further ado, and any more chance to be defeated by the blinking cursor, here it goes.
IN POLITICAL CONTEXT
“I respect your choice,” a friend ascertains me, taking a long sip of his beer now profusely sweating off its advertised chill. “It’s a fair assessment. I just hope he does good on his terms, and I really hope he proves me wrong.” Clearly, we were on two ends of the political scope then, but there was no animosity with regards to who and how were both voting come election time.
For context, this was roughly three years ago, mere days before the 2016 presidential election, and we had just engaged in a very long and detailed discussion on politics, privilege, and personal choice. It was something I had actively taken part in, striking exhaustive election-related discourses that harkened back to my days breaking the spines of literature on political theories, psychology, and the science behind it in college. No soul was spared, whether it be a past unrequited love in a cab ride in Bangkok, an officemate while we were marinating in the summer heat in EDSA, and perhaps a clincher, a waitress at the random restaurant we had a meal in during a trip to Davao.
Needless to say, and lest I digress, I voted for now President Rodrigo Duterte.
Just thinking about it now drains the life out of me, but it is a decision I had consciously, thoughtfully, and firmly discerned.
Over the course of his campaign, most notably during his proclamation rally as a candidate, he swore (both as a solemn undertaking and an offensive outburst) on many things: an iron-clad political will, ending corruption in just 3-6 months, federalism, and allocating a sizeable portion of the national budget to education, agriculture, and health services. “I have promised you something and if you know me, I will really do it,” he voiced out.“I will do it even if I lose my life, my honor, and even the presidency.” Even early on, it was clear that he would elevate his tried-and-tested tactics on his local of Davao to a national level. This meant sending a shock of vendetta-style machinations to curb drug abuse and crime. It was an alarming red flag certainly, but if it is this steely resolve that would straighten the back of this crippled nation, then it was a necessary dent to an already irreverent leader.
Besides, his well-oiled political backing and machinery knew that this trash-talking, no-holds-barred, unapologetic would appeal to a portion of the population that had already lost its belief on a severely alienating administration. Also, he had necessitated empathy for LGBT rights and an opposition labor contractualization, convincing many that his path was well-informed and encompassing at the very least. But further along, he had already expressed interest in bilateral talks with China, a force he said would prove helpful for the country.
Thinking that this was the actual “change” that the country needed, especially in a desire for upholding a just, disciplined, and lasting democracy of this great nation, this felt like the rightful, necessary choice. There lies the rub, I only thought on the singular, on what I thought was right for the entire population rather than on the ripple effect it would have.
“I really hope he proves me wrong,” the words ring and reverberate aggressively.
Well, guess who was proven irrevocably wrong? Me.
AFFAIRS OF THE STATE
Instead of a fresh start in good governance, what we have been dealt with in the three years of the Duterte administration is a clear, grotesque, and obscene disregard for the greater good and a preference for the tired, old-man-style politics that have held our country back from actual progress. Needless to say, we were severely short-changed on the glowing guarantees of who was once hoped to eschew a fresh and fair take on the state of affairs. (On a personal level, this rampant revelation has fashioned an exponentially growing guilt in me by the day, which I then took as an opportunity and responsibility to make better by taking a stand and speaking up where and when necessary.)
As things stand, there is no hope or change to speak of, as day in and day out, fear is peddled and even delegated as a cold-blooded currency to have their way. There is no government for and by the people, as it is one that is for and by the privileged patrons of the ruling majority and well, even the confusing dominant minority. (Let us not even begin threshing out the blatant curtailing of freedom of the press and expression with its unrelenting drive against Maria Ressa.) We have traded in international diplomacy for unstatesmanlike exchanges with Canada, the International Criminal Court, and the United Nations. In its place, we have seemingly been relegated as a province of China. And even more chillingly, there is no respect for human rights, especially with its relentless war on drugs (a declared failed one at that on his own admittance), which at this point has accosted a collateral damage of over 20,000 deaths—a far cry from the government’s release of 5176.
And yet, despite it all, the President is currently enjoying a reported rise in his approval ratings of 79%, a personal high in his regime and an opportune one, especially ahead of the midterm elections.
Now, why is this all-important to dig through in light of the elections? Because on the account of the interests of the ruling administration, the results of the exercise of suffrage will only further their claim with a tightened grip on their plans on policy implementation, tax reform, charter change, and inadvertently, a cementing of power sans checks and balances.
In essence, he is fortifying his wall by rendering an opposition obsolete to ensure little to no contest for his regime. It is a game of chess high-jacked on every form on steroids that will potentially drive democracy on its head. God bless us all.
GAME CHANGE, NOT END GAME
“Normally, midterms act as a check on the president’s power,” offers Hasan Minhaj, comedian and political commentator on his Netflix show, Patriot Act. In the May 12, 2019 episode of the show, literally a few hours before the all too crucial elections, the show dedicates a segment to discussing our curious and challenged political climate.
Hitting the nail on the head, it illustrates how Philippine politics is less about the affairs of the state, but rather a circus concerned with basketball games, proven plunderers dancing to god-awful ripped-off campaign jingles, and an absence of political maturity. Based on the most recent surveys, it seems that we are reinstating senatoriables comprised of the same people who have driven our resources and reputation to a laughable low. Incumbents with mediocre track records, actors and offshoots of a political dynasty, clueless pawns, and even a notorious selfie fiend are looking to sail to the magic 12 in the senate, while proven statesmen, defenders of the rule of law, educators, and unerring advocates with actual vision, stands, fleshed out platforms and plans-of-action are all gnawing at the hemlines of the electoral race.
Think of it is yet another extension of a TV show enjoying a tried tenure anchored on every typical trope, where we could wrap things up nicely and get a gust of new wind in the halls of congress. We are, as many revolutionaries before us have feared, repeating the same mistakes over and over again.
This is why, for all the efforts on all levels from door-to-door grassroots to social media, this election is supposed to be our game-changer, not the end game. There is a way to reverse the snap of the Thanos-like leader in place of a narrative that will bring us back on track to actual, tangible progress. Look, we don’t even need to go back in time and pick up fictional stones to fire up a gauntlet. All we need is to shape up and look to a future that is authored by each and every one of us. In an interview with Miss Universe Catriona Gray, she expressed, “I really implore all Filipino to research the candidates, see what their visions are, see what their values, and who they align with and allow that to dictate who they vote for. And as a public, demand what we expect what we want from our leaders, because we do have the power, we just have to realize that.”
AND THEN WE PUSH
Over the years, I have learned that politics is personal, and conversely, the personal is politics. There is no loose in-between, no staying within the confines of the comfort zone, and definitely no keeping quiet when it comes to matters that concern all. It is, as the tenets of democracy remind us, an exercise of free will, but it should be one that is coddled with clear, concise, and more than considerable thought to see through. This isn’t just a choice that concerns you, but one that includes over 106,512,074 Filipinos, 63,665,923 of which are registered to vote here and overseas, which is why the decision on who to elect as safeguards of the constitution, ensuring our rights and freedom are protected, should be of benefit for, as I mentioned earlier, the greater good and not just the select few.
There is a world far beyond your social media timeline, your immediate social circle, and your social standing. And if we are being unhinged about it, it is a world that needs this Philippine midterm elections to swing in favor of change, in the way it deserves to be upheld by the rightful choices.
So, as a stakeholder of democracy and this great nation we call home, go make a stand and cast your vote. Make that decision (informed and wise, of course) based on what is necessary and what is right, nothing more, nothing less. Let us show the world that we aren’t what our leaders put us through or reduce us to be. We are more than the headlines and political indiscretions. We are more than the collateral damage. We are, if we actually decide and commit to it, the actual proponents of change this country needs. We just have to continue to fight the good fight. Laban lang.
This time, we are proving them wrong because this country deserves much, much, much better.