And the winners are: RP and democracy

FROM FAR AND NEAR - Ruben Almendras - The Freeman

I write my columns for Tuesday on Sunday, so this was written a day before the May 9 national elections. The individual election winners will likely be known by Wednesday or Thursday, but the ideological, institutional, and historical winners have been confronting us during the whole campaign season and electoral process. Much as I like for the RP in the title to mean Robredo- Pangilinan, it really means the Republic of the Philippines.

This Philippine election campaign happened at a time of unrestrained information explosion in the internet and social media, with fake news and trolls taking center stage. The whole world is grappling with the proliferation and excesses in social media with its bad consequences. All are still searching for the proper controls without stifling the freedom of information in democratic societies. The Philippine election campaign, like the American election, showed the good and bad side of social media. While some controls are already in place in most social media sites, and laws are being crafted to constrain irresponsible social media behavior, more has to be done. However, the election experience has demonstrated that the backlash and blowback by an informed and responsible citizenry decreases the abuses in the social media.

The ethical Robredo campaign that blunted the proliferation of trolls and fake news with massive volunteers in the main and social media, supported by large physical presence in the multiple rallies all over the country, negated and eventually dominated all media spaces. The support and volunteerism for her campaign from all social, economic, geographic and demographic classes seemed unlimited and unprecedented in all Philippine elections. From the farthest provinces, from the poorest sectors, from artists, professionals, small business owners, laborers, religious groups, ordinary citizens, and intellectuals, there were volunteer groups donating time, talent, and treasure. It was a real demonstration of unity for a cause which was the Robredo campaign. It was and is a turbo-charged “people power” for the Philippine democracy.

A year-long event by itself is insignificant in history and meaningless in its implications. The 2022 presidential campaign if viewed from the 57 years since Marcos came to power, the martial law years, and the intervening governments until this election, gives us insights and foresights of a young democracy in a developing country, and in the Philippines. From 1945, the Philippines practiced some kind of democracy based on the American and French ideals of liberty, justice, and equality. The extent of adherence to these ideals swung from left to right depending to who was president and his way of governance. Marcos and Duterte would be in the far right, while the other presidents were mostly centrist. The 2022 presidential campaign is really a pushback by the people to the center, as the populist authoritarians have not delivered on their promises and are stifling the people. Regardless who will be president, the will of the Filipinos will be centrist and the government will be accountable to the people. This is now also happening in many countries in the world, like in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Venezuela, Brazil, Turkey, and many African countries. Hopefully, the veering away from populist authoritarian leaders will not be bloody like in Myanmar.

Robredo will be an important political personality for many years as she is the symbol of the reclaimed people power. Her rallies have gathered and moved 10 million people, and she must have met a million people in her six years as vice president. She has given millions of people meaning to their lives. In a way Robredo-Pangilinan (RP) are winners as well as the Republic of the Philippines, (RP).


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