For many of us who have been frustrated with the current administration, who are looking for answers for the bodies piling up in the streets, who have been hoping for a clear one-time statement without the follow-up of “Actually, that was just Bisaya humor,” who were hoping that corruption would decrease and not evolve, who are sick of this pervasive rape culture, who believe in the value of human life regardless of the mistakes an individual has made, May 13 represented hope. A roster of opposition candidates had risen up, each of whom strongly identified their key goals and made their stands on contentious issues very clear. There suddenly materialized hope that things could be different, that we could still turn this ship around before we lost more of our loved ones to an expansive darker side.
Tales of Election Day
On election day, we encountered several complications in the greatest amateur show put on by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC): voting machines were breaking down, ballots — if there were enough of them — weren’t being read by machines that were actually working, pens were running out of ink. Voters were being asked to leave manual lists of their selected candidates, which those in charge at the polling precincts would later insert when the working machines and other supplies arrived. Perhaps well-intentioned (my doubts say otherwise), but clearly the largest of red flags, and a violation against a working electoral process.
During the count, there were problems with the transparency server. This system was put in place for the use of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), wherein it was to receive electronically transmitted results from precincts. This meant that as the actual vote count was ongoing, PPCRV could conduct a count using the same data and issue a quick count that would hopefully match the final result. There were significant discrepancies between the official partial results being released, with COMELEC at one point saying 90 percent of the votes had been counted, but only 35 percent of the data was being reflected in the transparency server. Any votes that had been counted manually were also questioned, with some voters saying their precincts had left the numbers for certain candidates blank, even when the voters had filled out their ballots specifically selecting those candidates.
Then we saw the partial results. We have a man who presented no platform but danced into a slot in the Magic 12. (This in spite of a plunder case that decided he wasn’t guilty but that he still had to return P124.5 million. May I just say, paano?) We have the architect of this drug war, who also seems to have won, and then admitted he didn’t really know what a senator even does. It would have been exciting to have women in the mix, if only most of these women weren’t silent as crypts when members of the administration spoke vocally about their participation in assault or their entitlement to women’s bodies.
Overall, it seemed to many of us like an upset. Social media heaved a collective sigh of disappointment, and the most hopeful thing on the day right after the elections seemed to be the suspension of the liquor ban. There were so many stories from mothers consoling their heartbroken children, who were idealistic first-time voters. Many of us who have voted in every election found ourselves in grief, and many quite rightly stormed the streets to COMELEC in search of answers.
Our country may be crippled and lost in many ways, but she is ours. Let’s not give her up even when it is beyond tempting to do so.
The Class Problem
As the election results were coming through, infographics made the rounds, showing the number of voters broken down by class. Classes A, B, and C comprise less than four million of the less than 62 million registered voters within the Philippines, leaving the majority of the votes in the hands of classes D and E. To many, it almost seemed too easy, like a direct map to show where the blame should be cast. But the truth is, we have approached this election business as we have so many other decision-making situations in the country, and it is with imposition upon the much poorer masses.
There is a classist attitude against the D and E segments because we believe that their being formally uneducated and limited makes them unable to understand. But if anything, these are the classes that feel every single pothole in the way this country is run, and they are the ones who understand much about day-to-day life in ways we never might. We cannot just tell them that the names they trust aren’t the right ones. We have to first understand what their priorities are, how little kindness they are receiving that a seemingly down-to-earth celebrity-turned-politician can so easily earn their undying loyalty, and what about their current perspective we can learn from.
If we keep looking down our noses instead of meeting our countrymen where they are and caring for them in ways that our government won’t, the upset will continue. As Jacqueline Novogratz, CEO of non-profit global venture capital fund Acumen, says, “Moral imagination demands the courage to speak your truth in a way that keeps others at the table.” We have to have the dialogue, especially if we think we know better, rather than making rash assumptions based on what we think we know about living in poverty. Our assumptions are not their reality, and there are others who are much more well-versed in their pain waiting to weaponize their lack.
Despite the results of this past election, I feel a certain amount of hope where there was once grief. For many of our opposition bets, it is their introductory run and the first time the public is getting to know them. The next three years before 2022 gives us so much ground to cover, and gives us a higher chance to get involved beyond our social media reaches. We have a chance to approach our candidates and ask them what they need from us, and see how we can support their causes despite not having been elected.
We also have a chance to fight harder for our values, and to do the little things that matter now. Let’s work harder to eradicate single-use plastics and be aware of what bills are being filed with respect to the care for our environment, let’s teach our kids that speaking properly in Filipino is distinct and important, let’s follow traffic laws, let’s fall in line, let’s make way for ambulances on the road, let’s stop taking so many shortcuts. Let’s do the everyday things that matter, and stand for decency because it matters every day, even when the powers that be try to convince us that it’s negotiable. Let’s participate in our communities, and not just in our virtual ones, regardless of the width of our reach. Let’s exhaust every opportunity, because while we may be incredibly exhausted now, it is the loss of hope that will destroy us.
Our country may be crippled and lost in many ways, but she is ours. Let’s not give her up even when it is beyond tempting to do so. We’ve all said it before, in the original version of the Panatang Makabayan: “Paglilingkuran ko ang aking bayan nang walang pag-iimbot at ng buong katapatan, sisikapin kong maging isang tunay na Pilipino sa isip, sa salita, at sa gawa.” Now, to prove it.