Give a damn

DEMAND AND SUPPLY - Boo Chanco - The Philippine Star

There are many good lessons in civics in a democracy that should be learned from last week’s national election. The first big learning experience has to do with the sharp social divide.

The house-to-house campaign must have opened the eyes of many volunteers on how the other half lives and thinks. And since democracy is about majority rule, every bias or preconceived notions about them is irrelevant. We have to listen and try to convince them because it is their choice that matters. If they make a bad choice, we suffer as well.

This is the next lesson: take care of the majority way before the election season. We should continually reach out to them and try to understand why they see the world the way they do.

That’s what the other party did. They started to campaign years before the election. Their main concern was rehabilitating a damaged political brand. Winning the election showed they were successful.

Credit them for utilizing new available technology to carry out the rehabilitation task. And because the professionals and middle class only get interested in politics months before an election, no one noticed the masa was being fed an alternative view of our history.

By the time certificates for candidacy were filed, the election was over except for the counting. The minds of millions of voters have been vaccinated against any message from Leni or from anyone else.

That’s why when you ask them to explain their choice, their answer is “basta”. They can’t explain because that’s the reality they learned on YouTube and TikTok.

Seven months to tell the Leni story is no match to 10 years or more of being taught a revised history.

Perhaps, the mistake was to ignore the Duterte trolls who were demonizing Leni from day one of her term as vice president. The first SWS survey results showing her low rating should have been the signal to shift strategy to a more active reporting of what she is doing.

It was a mistake to assume that good work will speak for itself. This was my first lesson as a PR professional from Tony de Joya, one of the industry pioneers.

Don’t think of PR as public relations, was his first instruction. Think of it as performance reporting. You have to talk of the good you do or no one will notice or care.

The biggest lesson for Leni’s middle class supporters is the need to give a damn about our politics, no matter how we may be repulsed by the dirt and corruption. You cannot remain above the fray. Eventually, the consequences of bad governance will hit you or your children and grandchildren where it hurts.

That’s why the best promise from the Leni pink movement is its transformation to a civil society NGO, win or lose. People energized and inspired by the campaign should not return to their comfort zones as if their job is done. It isn’t.

That’s what the Angat Buhay NGO will do. Leni promised it will be the widest volunteer network in the history of the country. This NGO will ensure that volunteer spirit continues.

Actually, we also need another group that will act as the opposition. Notice that there is virtually no opposition in both houses of Congress.

Risa Hontiveros is by her lonesome in the opposition at the Senate. If Koko Pimentel joins her, there will be two. At best, they can put their views on the record, but the supermajority will make the Senate an administration rubber stamp.

The House traditionally kowtows to whoever is in power in Malacanang. I would be surprised if there will be more than a handful who will consider themselves opposition among the congressmen.

As for mainstream media, print, and broadcast, they can no longer perform their traditional watchdog role. They have been demonized, reducing their ability to influence public sentiment. And there are so many newspapers and broadcasters that are aligned with or owned by the powers-that-be, as we saw during the campaign season.

Technology and social media accelerated mainstream media’s loss of power. Everyone is a publisher now. Anyone can use social media to overwhelm old-fashioned journalism that professional and ethical journalists do.

Rappler will probably be the last group of professional journalists left standing unafraid. I like the spunk of those young journalists there who continue to fearlessly provide an alternative view from the official story so we can make up our own minds.

But how long can Rappler last? Running their operation is expensive. Journalistic idealism only gets so far. And they can be shut down with the flimsiest excuse.

So, this is where we are today. We are a democracy according to our Constitution, but it is increasingly becoming a legal fiction. I am sure the framers of our Constitution did not foresee a Congress with almost no opposition members.

Perhaps the Constitution should be amended to guarantee seats for the opposition.

And yes, I agree with Duterte that the party-list experiment is a failure and should be removed. It did not give those in the margins of society more voice. It was, instead, used by big businessmen and political dynasties to expand their control of power.

I am sure they will try to revise the Constitution in this term. It is best that those who want good governance, like 1Sambayan, organize themselves early to make their views heard. Otherwise, we may end with a worse Constitution.

There should be a savvy and proactive socmed communications team in Leni’s NGO. They should not be blindsided again by trolls on TikTok and YouTube, among other socmed platforms.

1Sambayan should also put up a legal defense group of volunteer lawyers. Opposition voices will likely be persecuted and aggressively red-tagged to quiet them down. There should be no more Leila de Lima whose six year incarceration, with witnesses backing out, is now exposed as a mere Duterte whim.

We need to make sure we are able to provide the support for opposition voices that will be needed in the difficult times ahead. We all have to give a damn. This is our country.



Boo Chanco’s email address is [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @boochanco


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