Opinion

Do we really have to wait?


NO FURY SO LOUD

When President Rodrigo Duterte was still vying for the presidency, summer of 2016, he spoke about one thing, “change is coming.” For a lot of people during that time, he actually looked like a manifestation of “change”. Besides being a newcomer to national politics, he walked the streets in his casual checkered polo, spoke to his countrymen with humor and a candid Visayan accent, and, at one occasion, even dared against the Church by openly stating his support for same-sex marriage – all of which separated him from most of his contenders.

His kind of populist rhetoric ultimately proved the most effective, as his words “change is coming” were the ones in the minds of almost 16 million Filipinos come election day.

What we didn’t know by then was that the real “change” brought by Duterte’s administration was a change of heart. In his latest State of the Nation Address, we saw that he would rather spend hours contradicting himself, attacking his critics, and feeding his starving constituents with even more lies again, instead of presenting any concrete plans to face the pandemic.

In one tweet, Nick Encarnacion (@howardnicko) said that “the only good thing in the #SONA2020 is that Duterte said that he will step down in 2022,” while Kevin Remedio (@binotblabla) called to “punish this government in the ballot box in 2022.” In the same vein, some even desired for the end of his term by tweeting “sana 2022 na.” But the question posed by this remark is that, do we really have to wait for the elections in 2022? Is change only coming for us every six years?

As a country that is continually subjected to colonial and fascist rule, we put such sacred importance and belief in the role that democracy plays in our society. After all, we were taught from a very young age that our democracy is the hard-earned result from the blood and sweat of those who fought against our oppressors. What’s a better and more prevalent manifestation of our democracy than our right to vote? Our right to vote gives us the opportunity to elect officials that will represent our interests, and an opportunity to start again, every three years, if the said officials fail. Well, at least in theory.

In reality, the legitimacy of our own electoral process remains to be questionable. Only in our country do you witness election seasons closely resemble a fiesta more than anything else. Rows of banderitas hang across the sky as candidates parade themselves in a motorcade like homecoming beauty queens, while the people flock to catch a glimpse of them as if their very own streets aren’t already filled with tarpaulins of the very same faces.

This kind of culture is very symptomatic of how candidates actually treat their constituents every campaign season. They like to pretend that elections are a peaceful process where people just have the opportunity to elect officials that will represent their interests, when the truth is that elections are nothing but a competition show for their own selves versus their own class. It’s a game they play to advance their own political agenda and personal interests, like how Duterte’s campaign team started the fake news sites back in 2016. Now, our democracy is bound to fight its own pandemic for the years to come. 

Most of them would even rather campaign through an envelope with a stapled yellow bill instead of getting down their motorcades to hear us out. It’s a continuous, and very common, cycle that plagues the sanctity of our elections. As long as a great portion of our population lives below the poverty line, it’s very easy to give in to the demands of these politicians, for if you are among the poorest of the poor, an envelope with a stapled yellow bill might be the only thing to save you from imminent hunger. This is why the public is trapped by these politicians in a cycle of poverty designed to keep the status quo, depriving them of any real education because a critical mind is this regime’s biggest enemy.  

When #SONA2020 ended, many people expressed their exhaustion, disappointment, and anger towards the government’s version of public service. Who wouldn’t be when in just less than a year they managed to take down the largest media company in the country and pass a law enabling the arrest of his critics, all while in the midst of an economic recession and a global pandemic? What more could even happen in two years’ time?

We shouldn’t wait for 2022, especially when it’s evident that our elections don’t bring us the fairest and most just solutions. The 2019 elections even gave senate seats to self-proclaimed Duterte lapdogs, Bato dela Rosa and Bong Go. Year after year, it’s just becoming clearer that our country’s kind of democracy is rigged to only serve the people sitting comfortably on the top; that the only voters actually benefiting from the elections are the same people with the economic and political power to run, or make someone run, in the first place. 

There are so many things that we can do now instead of waiting. By strengthening our organizations and campaigns for different reforms that would benefit the public good, we could already initiate a movement to change the names of those sitting in power. Change should come when we want it to, and we should want it now. [P]

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