Friday, June 21, 2024

The Battle is Not Yet Over

by Ivan Anthony A. Adaro | June 5, 2022

The Philippine Elections last May 9, 2022 may have ended, but the battle is still far from over. According to the provisional election data from the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (Bongbong or BBM) won the position for president with about 31.1 million votes––which is more than double the approximate 14.8 million votes won by his close rival, Vice President Leni Robredo. Marcos’ vice-presidential running-mate Sara Duterte-Carpio, the mayor of Davao City, Philippines and the daughter of the current president, Rodrigo Duterte, won by a similar margin. 

Just a few days ago, the said duo were officially declared the president-elect and vice-president-elect, respectively. As such, they are set to become the main leaders of the country. However, not all are satisfied with the overall results of the elections, and it is evident in many instances of post-election conflicts and events such as the rampant cases of politically-fueled violence, speculations of shortcomings in the electoral process, red-tagging among schools and communities, fears expressed by the public, and among others. 

While the new leaders of the country have already been chosen by the majority of the voters in the Philippines, it is inevitable for people with contrasting opinions to clash––even after elections––especially among communities.  In fact, in just a matter of hours after the casting of votes was officially opened last May 9, 2022, four people were killed in Lanao del Sur as supporters of rival groups clashed in the towns of the same province. Brigadier General Jose Maria Cuerpo, commander of the Army’s 103rd  Infantry Brigade, said a supporter of a mayoral candidate was also shot and killed after the said supporter had a politically-fueled argument with another supporter of an opposing candidate in Barangay Magonaya in Binidayan town. On the same evening, nine people were wounded in a series of explosions in the Datu Unsay and Sharif Aguak towns of Maguindanao, despite tight security measures that involved the military forces. 

Right after the casting and canvassing of votes, allegations directed to the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) about the automated election system (AES) being rigged were instantly fired. These allegations were raised by most of the supporters of Marcos Jr.’s rival, VP Leni Robredo, after they spotted a trend they found to be suspicious: “Robredo’s votes had consistently accounted for 47% of Marcos Jr.’s, once clustered precincts began transmitting election returns to Comelec servers past 7 pm on Monday”, according to the reports of Dwight de Leon,  a multimedia reporter who covers local government units and the Commission on Elections content for Rappler.  

After multi-sectoral groups protested alleged irregularities and suspicions surrounding the 2022 Philippine elections in front of the COMELEC, universities, schools, and other organizations expressed their fears inflicted by online red-tagging reports against the protestors. Among these universities was the University of the Philippines Visayas––in which they strongly criticized and condemned red-tagging as it has targeted the majority of its students. “The irresponsible comments hurled against them in various group chats compromise their security and instill fear.”, they expressed in an official statement posted on its social media platforms last May 12, 2022. These voices of plea were then echoed by the Kabataan Partylist Organization and the National Union of Students of the Philippine as they also slammed the online red-tagging activities through peaceful protests which they described as disinformation scare tactics. “It is meant to divide and dissuade youth from exercising their constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedom of expression and assembly, to translate virtual outrage into street protests with more tangible political impact,” Kabataan said. 

As if the traumas inflicted by the red-tagging events upon the students is not enough, several groups and netizens oppose Marcos Jr.’s decision to appoint Sara Duterte as DepEd chief due to the fears of mandatory military service, potential historical revisionism, and the possibility that the crimes and corruption that occurred during Bongbong’s father, Ferdinand Marcos Sr.’s, rule of martial law might be revised or completely erased in the country’s history curriculum. More to that, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) and the Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC) share the same concerns. The same groups also denounced the plan and expressed their criticisms, saying that the presumptive vice president’s “vision does not address the current crisis besetting the sector.” These crises include the desperation for quality education, the ever-growing underpaid status of teachers, and the degeneration of the country’s sense of history and grasp of truth, the ACT shared. 

Still, not all are in the same boat. In contrast to the criticisms thrown at the Marcus-Duterte tandem, a larger majority of Filipinos in favor of the tandem are ecstatic for what they have to offer the country––the promised restoration of discipline, progress, peace, and order of the country. “Our country needs a future generation of patriotic Filipinos that advocate peace and discipline in their respective communities,” Sara Duterte expressed.

 The lines have already been drawn, the majority has made its call, and the democratic state has expressed its power. Even so, it is still difficult for some to accept the Philippine Elections results, may it be from the voices of the young and old. Up to this day, many still find it difficult to open up to safe and healthy political conversations, as a tipoff following the cases of a political argument that has resulted in the stabbing to death of a man and his daughter last May 14 or the occasional shaming and red tagging in social media platforms.

Democracy, if anything, is far from perfect. The ability to reach consensus and negotiate a compromise between opposing actors and their interests has always been critical and vital to the success of democracy. However, where most people fail is when they invariably invite all of the risks that come with human diversity––our differences in opinions, convictions, and belief systems––when people establish a government based on the premise that the control of the many will always prove to be greater than the control of the few. As such, these have become the breeding ground for politically-fueled arguments, traumas, and violence.

Unless we destroy the barriers hampered on wealth, power, and disinformation and establish a strong foundation for civic education, values systems, and viable administration, there can be no future for liberal democracy in the Philippines. If there is anything that we can learn from these, it is that we can seek hope for the country in the lens of civic mobilization, personal reflection, and transformative action. The majority has already planted the seed of our nation, therefore it is our task, as citizens, to let go of the weeds and nourish it––to keep moving forward and fulfill the quest of always finding justice in the truth. Until then, the battle is not yet over.

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