The election campaign period this year really brought out the worst in people. More than anything, it furthered social divides between even the most important relationships we hold dear. Earlier, I was talking to a co-worker who told me that while she and her husband are OK and they’re definitely not going to let anything like politics create a rift, there are moments of real aggression in reaction to political inclinations — he’s for Santiago and Marcos, and she’s for Roxas and Robredo. Even their kids’ opinions are divided. I have a friend who said that he will be voting for Duterte and Marcos despite the allegations because “he’s no hater and he’s never experienced Martial Law so there’s no reason not to” (to my anger and disappointment). I engaged in a long discussion with my ex in a desperate attempt to convince her to vote for Roxas and Robredo instead of Duterte and Marcos (in which I essentially did not fail, even though she chose Santiago). I can work alongside co-workers despite our dissenting political opinions, as long as we never forget our common objectives of peacebuilding.
This is what democracy looks like.
We may argue, fight, even to the point of cyberbullying and real threats (which are terrifying af). But this is what the battle for democracy in 1986 has afforded us. Netizens online are aggressively campaigning against the return of a Marcos to power, sharing horror stories of atrocities, and even using humor to drive the point home. At the same time, I’ve seen some netizens remark at the high unlikelihood of another Martial Law despite a Marcos in office because of the current political landscape.
Duterte, on the other hand, spews out obscene and discriminatory remarks that reflect cognitive dissonance between what he is and what he has done. Despite this, his charisma trumps everything and you see individuals from all social classes and regions worshiping him as the new savior of the motherland. The leading presidential candidate, however, has said that he will behave once he is formally in office. It seems like 10 of his faults are redeemed with one decent act regardless of the severity of his actions. In the eyes of the people, he can do no wrong. (note: I am not a Duterte supporter, but I have conceded to his victory and I am one of the constantly vigilant, especially in his first 100 days – most importantly, let’s see how he addresses issues of conflict).
Dissent and dissatisfaction, this is what fuels the Filipinos to cry for radical change. At the expense of what, though? Each administration will always be tarnished with corruption down to the stupidest shit that Cabinet members say. We will experience abuse and injustice every second, hour, or day, that there are times when you question what you get up in the morning for, where exactly your taxes go, or why we keep repeating the same mistakes. We will complain, we will feel like giving up. But at the end of the day, all these things we can do, because we are, to an extent, free. We can speak up without the threat of arrest, torture, and death. We can lambast our politicans, make memes out of them, even create short yaoi fic prompts of their sons (which I thoroughly enjoy!!!). All of this because we are free.
What kind of nation will we be if never learn? If we continue to elect and idolize individuals and sons of said individuals who are human rights violators, what does that say about our principles and what we want for this country? I’ve seen posts that have tried to justify why Marcos has the right and the resume to run for public office and why he is not the sins of the father. But is one man’s ambition to regain his family’s reputation worth the loss and death of thousands? Is it worth forgetting that Filipinos have died and he did nothing to stop it?
It should be an amazing time to be a Filipino. This election period facilitated collaborative discussions in various public arenas. When Blengblong Marcos cried electoral fraud, statisticians jumped in for a very nerdy discussion of trends and spurious correlations (which, while I hardly understand, I really admire because it’s a very logic-based take on the elections. And this is why mathematics, science and technology is beautiful). Sure, there are trolls and real threats to our safety, but I’d rather this than perpetuating a culture of violence and silence. I will never submit to a leader who will never acknowledge the sins of the family, who aim at revising history, and who parades around promising a complete understanding of what it means to build peace when his family has celebrated a regime that murdered Muslims and perpetuated stifling silence, a time known now as “that thingy called Martial Law”.
This is what democracy looks like. It’s a beautiful mess, it’s a lesson we have to retake over and over again. But I hope that we learn our lessons soon and that we graduate and shift into a more compassionate and critical state of mind. I hope we take our time to look back and learn from our mistakes and make sure that we don’t take ten steps backward. Let’s learn from this election period and think, never again.