At exactly 12:01 a.m., May 8, 2022, all forms and semblance of campaigning must stop. The miting de avance today of various candidates for national and local posts must also end at that time, formally concluding the 150-day election period that started in Jan. 9. How time flies! And what a ride it has been.
Aside from the end of motorcades and rallies, there will be no more political advertisements on traditional media and social media platforms. No more road blockings and unnecessary traffic. No more hanging of posters and tarpaulins on trees and public spaces. And most of all, there will be no more loud (and intrusive) campaign jingles that have disrupted our sleep and disturbed our sanity.
But this conclusion is also a call for “order” as this year’s campaign season was nastier, rowdier, and wilder. In past election cycles, it was only natural to have passionate supporters. What was alarming in this cycle, however, was the presence of rabid fans who, instead of upholding their candidate’s platforms and qualifications, chose to dig the divide deeper by sowing falsehoods, misinformation, and worse, disinformation. Misformation, as we should all know, is incorrect or misleading information presented as fact; while disinformation is more sinister as there is a deliberate attempt to fool people and malign the opposition. Dirty campaigning, sadly, is a hallmark of our election campaigns, and this 2022 only proved that this is getting worse.
According to election experts, one of the factors of this negative sentiment is the reach of social media. It is a fact that social media has its pros and cons. And in a tightly contested election, social media dominance is a key to success. In a survey called “We Are Social,” it noted the rise of internet users in the Philippines especially during the pandemic. “There were 89 million social media users in the Philippines in 2021, an increase of 22 percent from 2020… that 89 million is equivalent to almost 80 percent of the population.” This was supported by a study by UP Political Science professor Aries Arugay, who wrote, “Social media will play a prominent role in the campaign strategy of candidates in the 2022 elections due to the increasing reliance of Filipinos on social media and the face-to-face restrictions associated with the pandemic.”
Social media has its merits but the free unbridled space provided by various platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube was abused by “pirates” of disinformation — the trolls who fill the screens of our laptops and smartphones with “trash.” Even online platforms supposedly meant for entertainment such as TikTok have been filled these past few weeks with fake news, threatening posts, and negative propaganda. It is now harder to distinguish between real and imagined, between fact and fake, and between useful and harmful.
Because of the massive disinformation online, factions rise — pitting neighbors, classmates, relatives, office workers against each other. The negativity was so apparent that there were public confrontations among strangers and instances pitting teachers versus students, or even parents versus their children. All of us can be passionate with the candidates who we plan to vote for on May 9, but it doesn’t mean that we should forget our timeless Filipino values — to respect our elders, to be cordial to our neighbors, and to be civil with strangers whether we meet them face-to-face or interact with them on the virtual world.
As the 2022 campaign season ends, the Manila Bulletin joins the entire country for a much-needed “political break.” Tomorrow, May 8, is Mother’s Day, a reminder that no matter what happens to the political fate of our candidates, we can only pray that the best individual will lead our country soon, as his or her success is the tide that will bring fortune and opportunities to all our families.