Opinion

Inciting the r-word beyond the ballot

Like-minded observers of our current political landscape might have collectively quivered over the recent pronouncements of those who plan to run as president in 2022. 

Imagine how these so-called “presidentiables” are hell-bent in kowtowing to President Rodrigo Duterte for the past five years, amid the massive and blatant corruption (of both power and money) that this administration has wrought upon our land. It is as if they just woke up in 2021, decided to get stuffed with their words of adulation for the President, and listen to the calls of their minders’ egos. 

This phenomenon isn’t only limited to those gunning for the presidency. What comes to mind is Sen. Richard Gordon, who gave journalists a field day in engaging with the attacks of a seemingly drunken man in the Palace. But many “old” allies have begun to adopt a sort of “nudge-nudge, wink-wink” attitude in criticizing the policies of the President, avoiding any direct attacks at the man. The newest competitor in the game, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, also declared in his campaign kick-off that he “respected” the President. 

And when someone like Gordon does attack him — calling the old fool as an attorney instead of his honorific — it just looks like a sick joke. After all, didn’t Gordon let himself be a Duterte tool against the accusations of the drug war killings being state-sponsored?

Progressives and many in the national democratic movement often talk about rectification, the process of correcting previous wrongdoings through a process of introspection. This is also applicable to common folks, many who supported Duterte in 2016. After all, we’re also human beings. Even those who did not vote for him surely still had an iota of hope for the man, and it is not an easy process to shake off the trust one gives to a politician. We also know the whole brouhaha about the 2016 election as a protest vote against a broken system.

But the sad reality is that these politicians are nowhere near any form of rectification. This political exodus, described by many writers as rats trying to escape a sinking ship, is a laughable yet vicious cycle that we always see every six years. As Duterte is unmasked as a part of that broken system he so despised, so are these political buccaneers, stripped off their support and now reeking of hypocrisy.

This is where a punch to the gut begins: The electoral process is like the Olympics of the ruling classes. They spar and compete every six years, but whoever gets elected is someone that is always beneficial to the moneyed and the privileged—in one form or another, even temporarily. It does seem like blasphemy, but quite frankly we just get a token participation in what they call as the grand, old ways of our democracy. Let me call it an exercise in futility. Cynics might even ask: aren’t our votes just worthless at this point?

I know many might have choked and chortled at that statement. But we should wake up to the fact that even if some godsend progressive gets elected as President, poverty and many of the social ills will not disappear overnight; and socio-economic inequalities still exist. The country remains hell for many people. Even before Duterte, life isn’t really fair or equitable as long as power and resources are concentrated among a privileged few.

But after that reality check, many might ask: What now? Let’s go back to the r-word: this so-called “revolution” through the ballot box. I believe that with the tools we are left with, our vote is still one of the most important methods to register our preferences. It’s still a way to give these ruling classes a bloody nose, even though we do not get the chance to put them in the dock or in the guillotines.

It is sobering that for the opposition, the election in 2022 is reduced to a numbers game, computing which candidate should be paired with another in order to amass the largest number of votes. It is much more sobering that the person we unite behind that goal may not be Leni Robredo, but some ex-Duterte lackey who has that winnable touch. 

At this moment in time, we should really pin our hopes in uniting against a common enemy: this culture of impunity and intensified fascism under Rodrigo Duterte. This is the main target we need to oust; and the sooner he gets booted out, the better for the masses. But participating in elections is a crash course for temperance in our expectations. If we really want lasting change beyond the vestiges of dictators, the ruling class, and capitalists, voting alone isn’t going to make the cut. [P]

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