Months ahead of what is technically considered to be the start of campaign season, social media is already inundated with strong feelings about potential candidates — those who have filed their certificates of candidacy — sans any official proclamation from Comelec about who is qualified or not. Colors associated with this and that candidate are worn proudly on display profiles across various social media platforms. Some have even overflowed into actual social settings, with ribbons in favor of one candidate over the other appearing in houses and cars and sari-sari stores.
Accompanying this flurry of colorful support is a barrage of arguments in favor of one potential candidate over another. In principle, there isn’t anything wrong about this, except that in the Philippines many of these arguments have gone overboard, transforming into insults, often attacking the persons of the opposing candidates or of those who support them. The result is a mix of frustration expressed in threats of unfollowing or unfriending social media “friends” (sometimes overflowing into real life friends) because of political differences — differences that, had it not been for the looming national elections, would have otherwise been left undiscovered.
Curious, isn’t it? Friends who do not usually discuss politics have all of a sudden become expert political commentators, spurred by a sense of knowing what is best for the country.
While such a behavior has its merits, at the very least sparking political discourse among private citizens, perhaps these arguments can be taken one step further. Instead of merely talking about persons and personalities, colors and hues, wouldn’t it be better for voters to discuss platforms? In the same manner that an earlier Manila Bulletin editorial asked candidates to talk about platforms, this piece is asking voters to take a hard look at the candidates and check for what they are representing.
It is easy for one presidentiable to claim to be a herald of change. Anyone can claim that. It’s another story to have a definition of what this change would be, to have a roadmap to achieving said change, and to convince voters that this is truly for their benefit. A sincere call for change, after all, should be able to stand scrutiny from even the toughest and harshest social media political talking heads (or colored display profiles). At the very least, wouldn’t it be a breath of fresh air to see comments on your feed that go beyond the name calling, the profanities, the insistence that one is less educated than the other?
It is, therefore, important that voters be aware of what candidates espouse to be their platforms. The conviction that many have toward promoting their candidates over others must be backed with a clear understanding of platforms and policies. It should not just be a matter of persons and personalities.