Tonight, I grieve for the Philippines.
Over 80% of voting adults went to the polls to elect their next government “servants” today, from top down to members of city councils—president, vice-president, senators, and a ridiculous amount more. The stakes for national positions were high.
While there were ten candidates vying for each of the top two positions (president and vice-president are voted for separately), the race came down to two teams that couldn’t be more different.
One camp—known as BBM-Sara—stands for same old, same old—political family dynasties, corruption, autocracy, oligarchy, nepotism, and loyalty over competence. I found no clearly articulated platform. I’ll not be going into details here, but John Oliver summarized the dismal history of this camp well.
The other—known as Leni-Kiko—is the camp of high hopes—hope for transformative change, for honesty, transparency, and competency. And kindness. Oh yes, and decency and radical love. And it presented a long list of progressive policy positions and programs they would implement.
At the end of this day, with over 65% reported as counted, two out of three voters supported BBM-Sara.
Given that this result returns the Marcos clan to power, the very same that ruled under brutal martial law until People Power ousted them in 1986, it’s reasonable to ask why Filipinos would bring them back. My take is that they were duped.
The point of modern propaganda isn’t only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth.Garry Kasparov
I not only grieve with my many Filipino friends who worked so hard for a chance at genuine change. I’m also feeling a potent dose of anger.
First, there’s the fast mounting evidence of rampant anomalies. Sad to say that’s par for the course in this country (as in many others). I saw it coming when the election oversight body was stacked with partisan officers, and the task of managing the election infrastructure was given to a dubious character. I’m bracing for a powerful backlash.
But most important is the role that a continuous stream of disinformation has played. Many have been loudly ringing the bell to warn that lack of more stringent regulation on the social media platforms is a direct threat to democracy. Foremost among them is Nobel Laureate Maria Ressa, CEO of Rappler online news.
If we fall, this isn’t going to be the Philippines alone. This is a global information ecosystem. Like in 2016, we were the first domino to fall followed by Brexit, Trump, Bolsonaro – well, here you go again. Brazil has elections in October, the US has elections in November. So if we fall, stay tuned; it’s coming for you.Maria Ressa
Starting in 2014, Rappler has presented Facebook with reams of evidence of troll farms, fake accounts, and coordinated disinformation campaigns working to rehabilitate the Marcos name. The social media platform has failed to act, as it has failed to act in several past elections around the world. We are in trouble.
To my many Filipino friends who are in shock and mourning, I stand with you. But please don’t think your valiant efforts have been in vain. The beautiful and generous energy of civic duty and volunteerism must live on and harnessed for further good of this country that you and I love.
These are just my first thoughts on this election. As an “alien” here, I am by national law not allowed to express opinions while the campaigning was ongoing. Now that it’s over, I’m free to voice my feelings and thoughts… at least until someone declares martial law again.
Democracy relies on free speech. Yes, say anything you want, but it relies even more on the speech being truthful. It is the truth, after all, that sets us free.John F. Kerry
Anything bring up some thoughts for you? Please share.
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