As I write this, we are crying, hearts broken. It really breaks my heart to see my own children sobbing as we watch the results of the national elections in the Philippines. My parents were jailed and tortured in the 1970s under the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship and the return of this family into power feels truly deflating and tragic. Today, Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. is winning the elections, apparently by a massive landslide, and in the morning we will be waking up to the reality that Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. will be the next president of this country. Sara Duterte, the daughter of incumbent president Rodrigo Duterte is also winning by a similarly big margin for vice-president.
This has been an electoral exercise where it was very difficult for us in Greenpeace here in the Philippines to be truly non-partisan. This was not just about standing up to a tyrant, or to a rotten politician, or a right-wing monster. This was about preventing history from being erased. It is also important to stress that the return of Marcos is also a consequence of neo-liberal economics dramatically failing our people since the ouster of the old dictator 36 years ago through the original People Power Revolution.
As it happens, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. will be getting an unprecedented mandate (notwithstanding the potential credibility issues hounding the electronic vote counting system), possibly garnering more than 35 million votes (55% of the vote), with the progressive Leni Robredo (the current incumbent Vice President) only getting 15 million (~26%).
It is factual to assert that dirty politicians resorted to heavy vote-buying (offering between US$10 to US$500 to get a person’s vote or to attend a campaign rally). It is likewise true that tremendous propaganda was pervasive in this elections. It is also reported that the frontrunner engaged the notorious Cambridge Analytica group. It is also alarming how disinformation was the backbone of this elections.
I would be remiss if I do not mention that the Robredo campaign inspired a vast multitude of people, with its platform for honest government and uplifting the lives of the people and sparking a movement like no other. It was based on the notion that it is “more radical to love.” Indeed, it is more radical to love a country that is so broken. Indeed, it is more radical to think of hope when democracy is failing. It is radical to love your country when it is not radical to be a thieving politician, when corruption is normalized, when fascism and violence is abetted, when history is rewritten by fake news and dirty propaganda.
What does this mean for us here in the Philippines? Dark times call for extraordinary courage, activism, and solidarity. This is not just a defeat in a partisan political contest. This is a defeat for truth, a tragedy for democracy, and a sobering reminder that changing power dynamics and shifting mindsets is a long game, neither a 3-month campaign nor a 1-year project. The same goes with dismantling the outmoded fossil fuel apparatus and changing the system.
A Marcos win will also mean the things we (or my parents’ generation) stood up against will be revived – corruption, facsist rule, military supremacy over civilian rule, extreme influence of oligarchs, ravaging of the environment, nuclear electric power, anti-people policies, perhaps more shoes for Imelda Marcos, and many many more.
This election result also comes at the heels of the landmark ruling of the Commission on Human Rights on the Climate Justice and Human Rights case that petitioners from the local climate justice movement instrumentally brought forward. The work is really just beginning. Climate justice cannot be pursued in isolation of social justice and campaigning for genuine transformation.
Suffice it to say, sadly, that the Philippines is not unique in this context. Many countries in Southeast Asia suffer from the same malady, as it is in the Americas, Africa, Europe, Oceania, and the rest of Asia.
On another note, I have always found the name of my country problematic – it is possibly one of the very few remaining countries to maintain the name of the colonizer. The Philippines was named after Philip II, who was king of Spain during the Spanish colonization of the archipelago in the 16th century.
The country was under Spanish rule for over 300 years, and under U.S. rule for over 50 years. In my younger activist days, we would underscore the litany of impacts that such colonization and and further neo-colonization has inflicted on our politics, on our sociological context, on our identity as a people, on the economy, on the environment. What I am saying is that this whole problem goes way back, and unless we pursue decolonization – from outside and from within – we will never get out of this vicious cycle.
There is so much more to say, as we are feeling very heavy right now. But for now, we console ourselves with the knowledge and conviction that we will continue to spread light in the darkness, hope for the future, and peace despite violence.
Image © 2019, Pau Villanueva.