The ‘revolt’ of the masses in the Philippines


This year’s elections in the Philippines pitted some political heavyweights against each other, and against fresh aspirants and relative unknowns. When the dust had settled, it was Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos Jr. who emerged victorious, lording it over a field of 10 candidates, with a massive 16-million-vote lead over his closest rival, the incumbent Vice President Leni Robredo.

The mainstream media in the Philippines appeared to be siding with one particular candidate. I watched the news on different stations and I must say I was utterly flabbergasted by the reportage: heavily leaning towards Robredo or the “kakampinks” — a portmanteau for a Filipino word for ally and the color pink. A longtime broadcast personality could not even hide her displeasure over Marcos’ victory as she frowned while reading the news. The others inserted their personal opinion during their broadcast, sort of editorializing.

Weeks before the elections, some members of the broadcast media had been pouncing on Marcos’ refusal to participate in debates. For Marcos, he would rather talk to the people than fend off a barrage of the same questions over and over again: Martial law, ill-gotten wealth, his college credentials, etcetera.

Some accused his camp of disinformation and misinformation, of revisionist view of history. The MSM and the “Kakampinks” regurgitated the same talking points with the latter vociferously calling Bongbong Marcos a thief, a liar on every platform. They want to hold him accountable for the crimes allegedly committed by his father, Ferdinand Edralin Marcos, whom many in the media both local and abroad refer to as “the dictator.”

A netizen’s aerial shot of one of Marcos’ campaign rallies.

On the campaign trail, surrogates for Robredo would call Marcos “magnanakaw” — a thief! It was relentless mudslinging. In contrast, Marcos appealed for unity and promised to create more jobs for Filipinos who have been heavily impacted by the pandemic. He also assured his followers that he would continue the “Build Build Build” program of President Duterte. But one thing that’s palpably clear during his rallies: Marcos never impugned the reputation of his opponents; he did not even mention a single one of them on stage. He spent his time engaging with the crowd.

Meanwhile, in one of Robredo’s rallies, I was upset that some members of the Catholic church chose to cross the great divide and wade into the political waters. I welcome the clergy bringing their catechism outside the confines of the church and reaching out to their flocks; what I do mind is how they used Easter as an opportunity for politicking. On Youtube, I watched a footage of Fr. Robert Reyes as he performed the calvary of the poor with a twist—he draped the crosses in pink at the campaign headquarters of Vice President Robredo. Priests are moral leaders and I expect them to be impartial and I don’t see them dabbling in partisan politics.

During caravans, some #Kakampinks have lost their civility, like for instance, when one threw flyers on Marcos’ face. In America, this is tantamount to assault. Marcos, however, chose to ignore this, and maintained his composure.

Even I from 10,000 miles away noticed the toxicity of the pink campaign, which is ironic for the color they stand for. Towards the last few weeks, with surveys consistently showing Marcos with a 25-35% lead over Robredo, the Pink Army went door-to-door to convince the undecided and the lukewarm Marcos supporters to switch alliances. However, rather than gain new allies, they ended up alienating the people they were supposed to win over. “Let me educate you!” was the common prefatory message of the “kakampinks” which to anyone would definitely sound condescending.

Even on social media, the Pink Army labeled Marcos followers as illiterate, uneducated, with no college diploma. They called Marcos unqualified, unlike their candidate, Robredo, who is a lawyer and an economist. They painted themselves as the standard to which their red-green (the campaign colors of the Marcos-Duterte tandem) counterparts should aspire to.

I guess one thing that some of the Pink Army are forgetting is that the vote of the poor is the same as the vote of any other social class. That is the gift of democracy. Elections are an equalizer. This is the only time when the poor can be on an equal footing with the rich and influential. Their vote counts. Their vote matters.

Meanwhile, turned off by the negative campaigning from the Robredo followers, more people flocked to the Marcos camp and swelled their ranks. Some analysts called his crowds a tidal wave, a tsunami, giving credence to most surveys that Marcos was truly headed for a lopsided victory.

Speaking of surveys, most of the them revealed that Marcos and Mayor Sara Duterte were poised to win the elections with a massive vote lead. For several months, surveys showed Marcos would become a majority president. Their opponents, however, tried to discredit these surveys. Instead of relying on these scientific polls, they bragged about their leading ranking on Google trends.

On the ground, the polls appeared to tell the truth. Marcos and Duterte packed campaign venues one province after another. I am not surprised at all. Watching their rallies on Youtube was inspiring. They evoked the spirit of nationalism. People waved their flags. What even contributed to their renewed sense of nationalism was the performance of the revived Martial Law song, “Bagong Lipunan” (New Society) and the OPM song, “Umagang Kayganda” (Beautiful Morning), both promising a better tomorrow. There were fewer big-name endorsers compared to Robredo’s reunion of ABS-CBN talents; however, the BBM crowd came to the rallies to experience a renewed hope.

Again, I am not surprised that BBM (Bongbong Marcos’ initials) won: the voters hewed to a campaign that inspires. They rejected the mudslinging and “otherism” of the Pink Army. Yes, the rematch between Marcos and Robredo went in BBM’s favor by a landslide. BBM becomes the first majority president since Ferdinand Marcos, his father, won decades ago.

This election cycle offered a valuable lesson to those running for office: Never underestimate the power of the masses.

In my view, the masses felt marginalized by the rabid followers of the other candidate. They were called “illiterate” and a host of other derogatory names. It’s not just the name-calling that pushed them away; it was how they made them feel that gravitated them even more to the Unity Team of Marcos and Duterte.

Vox populi, vox dei — the voice of the people is the voice of God. Thirty-one million Filipinos have spoken— a revolt of the masses long marginalized, oppressed, disenfranchised.

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