I have an admission to make: I voted last May 9 for Vice President Leni Robredo knowing she would lose. I was mentally and emotionally prepared for a loss.
A week before the elections, I visited friends in Cebu and Negros, and went around to get a feel of the situation. Except for small bright spots, I didn’t see or feel conversion of voters so massive as to change the equation we have long seen in the surveys.
In both places, finding local Kakampink slates or candidates are quite the exception, rather than the rule.
In my home province of Bulacan, the governor Daniel Fernando and his running mate Alex Castro pledged to support Robredo. Ditto for our board members and Congress representative. In my hometown though, there was no other slate to vote for except for the pro-Marcos PDP-Laban’s and three independent councilors.
It is a situation that was familiar to many. If elections were about freedom of choice, the choices were limited. Robredo simply didn’t have a lot of candidates competing for the more than 18,000 posts at stake last May 9. Without candidates competing for those posts, the other side or sides were assured of victory ahead of the actual vote.
Even in Metro Manila, which many election cycles before was the usual bastion of the opposition, Marcos won a commanding victory. Whether this is due to disinformation, or the lack of alternative local candidates, or weaknesses in the opposition campaign, we can only know when a people’s assessment is done on the so-called “people’s campaign.”
The people’s assessment must be done ASAP, because Kakampinks are looking for answers to questions and seek to find consolation. The massive outpouring of grief, especially from first-time voters who campaigned hard for Robredo, could also be viewed as a demand for evaluation. Without assessment and evaluation, lessons cannot be learned and the sense of loss and grief might not find a new manner of political expression.
The assessment and evaluation must happen quickly, because reality won’t wait until the time we wipe away our tears. The presumptive winner is set to be proclaimed. He is naming cabinet members. Heads of states and governments have congratulated him on his election. On June 30, he takes his oath. There’s a constitutional schedule our shock and sadness cannot postpone.
Right now, the thought-leadership of the opposition rests on the shoulders of Vice President Leni Robredo. Her supporters and the public welcomed her declaration that she will fight disinformation and form an Angat Buhay NGO. Many are raring to help form the country’s biggest volunteer network.
Many people are asking: Is declaring a fight against disinformation and forming an NGO a sufficient response to a Marcos-Duterte regime? They reveal a readiness and a realization that more must be said and done, considering the seriousness posed by the incoming Marcos-Duterte regime.
Many indicators point to the need to continue the “people’s campaign,” especially now that the ranks of the opposition in both houses of Congress have been decimated. Senator Risa Hontiveros and the trio of Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas, ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro and Kabataan presumptive Rep. Raoul Manuel need the people’s campaign for all forms of moral and political support.
The “people’s campaign” could graduate into a “people’s resistance.” It must have new objectives like creating a new generation of leaders ready and capable of contesting political offices in 2025 and 2028; organizing people around causes like defending human rights, fighting disinformation, exposing plunder, holding officials accountable. It could form think-tanks to craft alternatives to programs of Marcos-Duterte from mass transport to job security, from attaining food security to addressing climate change, from health care to retirement.
Along the way, the people’s campaign could discover that our working people are not really “in the margins” or “on the edges.” Wala naman talaga sa laylayan ang masang Pilipino. They are around, just invisible to many, perhaps belittled, unheard of, or have no direct role in politics. That realization, aided by various forms of political action, should come soon.
The Marcos-Duterte tandem takes power on June 30. We cannot question how serious its plans for the country are. Neither should they be able to question our opposition. So wipe away the tears, evaluate, learn lessons, stand up to resist, challenge the system, and win back the people’s trust for democracy.