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It has been a difficult week, particularly for supporters of VP Leni Robredo, given the outcome of the election last Monday. It's taken me a few days to gather my thoughts, and even then, some of these ideas may still seem raw and unrefined. Some were also the outcome of numerous conversations with fellow supporters both before and after the elections. Disclaimer: I am of course, not an expert of any kind, and these are just my personal thoughts (some refined by many conversations in the immediate 48-96hrs after the election. So very many active group chats!)

Hope and Disappointment

Many supporters were very sad, not just by BBM winning, but by the scale of the win. It's only natural, because in the days leading up the elections, many were feeling hopeful, buoyed by the large rally attendance and the house to house efforts, believing the elections were close and winnable. I myself had low expectations, but I will admit that I allowed myself to hope as well, and also felt lost immediately after the elections.

I think the hope and optimism this time around was especially strong compared to 2016 because we had an exceptionally good candidate this time - not someone mediocre like Mar Roxas or Grace Poe or whatever. We had someone we could really believe in. And still the electorate decided against her.

The thing is, we all should have known this was the most likely outcome. All the indicators were there. But many people were convinced the surveys must be wrong or manipulated (unlikely, given the disparate sources) and were even citing things like Google Trends as an indicator that Leni was doing well. (Which is frankly ridiculous; sadly the average Filipino voter's internet usage revolves around Facebook, Youtube and Tiktok and very rarely Google; we are not the sort of country where Google Trends would be an indicator of anything mass-market.)

I think people generally have a difficulty in understanding scale, especially when it comes to large numbers. Like the Leni/Kiko MDA reportedly had around 800,000 attendees, which seems like a lot, but in context that's only 10% of the Metro Manila population, and it's reasonable to assume not even all of those are voters. And there is certainly an enthusiasm gap - many more Leni supporters were likely to come out to rallies and be vocal - but that doesn't necessarily mean there were more of us. In fact, I would assume BBM supporters are more likely to keep quiet and be "invisible" the more vocal the pro-Leni crowd was.

Denial and Cheating

In the immediate aftermath of the elections, many questions were raised. Why was the transmission so fast? Why was there a suspiciously linear pattern in the data uploads? Why did so many VCMs fail and so many people had to wait many many hours to even cast their vote? And so on. While I think it's good to be raising these questions, I feel like there's a strong element of denialism in there, in part inspired by the pre-election optimism: "How could we have lost so badly; it's impossible, there must have been cheating!"

There almost certainly was cheating, but most likely it was not on the technical/transmission count (as the PPCRV parallel count eventually showed) and more on the in-person side: vote-buying, intimidation and the like. This kind of stuff happens in every election in this country, and it's very difficult to prove or to prosecute the wrongdoers. And worse, many of the electorate come to expect the vote-buying; enough that at Leni rallies many report being asked if there was money being given out.

Given there was cheating, was it likely that it changed the outcome of the National elections? Given the huge gap in the results, this seems unlikely to me. Sadly, it does look like this was the will of the people.

Disinformation and Fighting Fire with Fire

A lot of it is of course due to disinformation, something which sadly we still have trouble dealing with in the modern internet age. Disinformation spreads more quickly and easily than any corrective effort. Some studies even show that attempting to correct disinformation, even politely, can cause worse outcomes. Unfortunately for our country, the traditional politicians have become very adept at wielding disinformation to their benefit. How to fight disinformation effectively is something we will have to figure out soon.

I know some people who decided to dive into the pro-BBM side of social media and as they tell it, it really is a completely upside-down world in there. One where BBM has many detailed plans and VP Leni has done nothing of significance. One person said he did "research" about VP Leni's achievements and found nothing; when asked how he did research, he just replied "documentaries", which we assume to be YouTube nonsense. The divergence in reality and a widespread distrust in mainstream media will continue to be challenges.

Some fellow supporters believe that since the "other side" indiscriminately wields disinformation and fake news, we should also be willing to use those tools in the same way. I disagree. I don't even like marketing or clickbait, what more outright dishonesty! It's not a line I would personally cross.

The thing is, one of the main problems with BBM's "side" is they tend to rely on fake news and disinformation and historical revisionism. And even this early we can see the seeds of an effort to revise history (by red-tagging a publisher because they have a Martial Law book bundle, by putting a trusted associate in charge of DepEd, etc.) Fighting against disinformation must necessarily be based around truth and not lies. It may only be a matter of finding a way to package that truth to make it easier to spread. (Something I might not be able to help with because again, I dislike marketing.)

Even VP Leni's planned Angat Buhay NGO has one of its main goals as fighting disinformation, so hopefully that's something that bears fruit.

(I do agree that insisting on purity of methods in the face of an indiscriminate enemy is inherently disadvantageous; I have no current alternative.)

Cultural Biases

I think there are also several cultural factors that make it difficult for progressive and dissenting forces to grab hold among the populace.

One of these is the tendency of Filipinos to prefer subservience to authority (we are a high power distance society), which means people may find the idea of speaking up or dissenting in public to be counterproductive or uncomfortable. I think this is at least partially where narratives like "Si Leni walang ginawa kundi siraan ang gobyerno!" or "Mga taga UP walang ginawa kundi magrally!" or "Dami mong angal, sumunod ka na lang" come from and why the narrative of "Unity" was so appealing to many; many people prefer to keep their heads down and suffer in silence and get things done than speak up, and others speaking up may make them uncomfortable. While we do have a strong history of activism, I think we need to a better job of emphasizing how that kind of dissent is important in improving people's lives.

The above is I think also why there were people who reacted poorly to Legarda's son calling out the mother - they believe that subservience to your elders is more important than things like calling out fascism.

Another cultural factor I think is pride; Filipinos have a strong sense of pride and don't like it when they are corrected or contradicted or spoken up to. People have a tendency to take corrections personally or as an affront to their character. This makes correcting disinformation a much bigger challenge than it already is. (See: the same study I linked to above.)

Another thing is that many people just don't take the elections seriously. Probably they feel that it is too divorced from their day to day concerns? There are even people who just treat it as a game to be won where you have to pick the winning side. Given the poor state of our nation, a lot of people simply don't have the time or energy or inclination to devote to perusing all the candidates' backgrounds and deciding pros and cons or silly things like trying to separate fact from fiction.

This is why name recall is so important in our elections and why celebrities often do well. Somewhat related: A lot of people were also disappointed with the outcome of the senatorial races as well, with the likes of Robin Padilla and Raffy Tulfo earning top spots and many more deserving candidates being left out. This has been a trend in PH elections as far as I can remember though [1] [2] (part of the reason why I have low expectations for the electorate in general)

Dealing with your fellow citizens

It's might be a challenge to look at the general populace the same way after knowing how many voted against the country's interests (wittingly or no). When I was out doing groceries yesterday, one of the thoughts running through my head was that "2/3rds of the people here probably voted for BBM!".

A friend confided in one of our group chats that he worried he would become less trusting of people in general, because his assumptions about how selfish people are has been thrown out of whack.

It's an understandable sentiment, but we should not let ourselves fall into cynicism. The whole point of the movement was around hope and change and that things can and should be better for our country, so automatically distrusting our fellow citizens for poor decisions is counterproductive. We need to find a way forward. We have to remember, many of them are victims in this scenario - victims of disinformation and an unjust system that prefers to keep the electorate needy and patronizing.

What Comes Next

VP Leni has laid out her plans for an Angat Buhay NGO after her term ends; I suspect she may also just retire from politics and work with civic society for a while. She certainly deserves a rest and more time with her family.

For the rest of us, those who believed that things can and should be better for this country, we could certainly use some time to rest and recover and lick our wounds and figure out the best way forward. The fight for the country's future continues, and we need all our strength for it. Maybe we can't rest too long though - time was certainly a factor in this elections, as the other side had been sowing misinformation for years, even before 2016, while the VP's campaign only lasted 3 months.

Personally, IDK if I still have it in me to be so invested in our country's future the next time around. I barely had the energy this time around. I hope I can still manage to speak my voice in 2028. But the volunteer movement gives me some hope; while there is a good chance that turning this country around is not happening for my generation, but with the large number of younger voters standing up to speak, maybe there is a chance for the next generation

Quotes

I shared a bunch of these the day after, for some reason or other, they helped me cope with how lost I was.


"Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final." -Rainer Maria Rilke, "Go to the Limits of Your Longing"


"The world isn't fair Calvin"

"I know, but why isn't it ever unfair in my favor?"

-- Bill Watterson, "Calvin and Hobbes"


"It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness, that is life." - Jean-Luc Picard


"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts" - W. Churchill


"Time flows like a river, and history repeats" - Secret of Mana


Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place. - Iain Thomas, I Wrote This For You (often wrongly attributed to Kurt Vonnegut)

Meta

I wrote way more words than I thought I would! I wonder if any readers would even make it to the end.

Sat, May 14, 2022, 1:30 p.m. / / blog / #philippines #current-events #politics #halalan2022 / Syndicated: mastodon twitter / 2075 words

Last modified at: May 14, 2022, 2:50 p.m. Source file

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