It should come without saying that the Duterte supporters and the Marcos apologists are not the enemies we should be fighting. At the end of the day, we are all Filipinos with the equal right to suffrage, tasked to collectively choose our next leaders, ideally through peaceful campaigns and healthy arguments. Yet, I find the need to write this opinion because upon scrolling through social media, the amount of elitist and derogatory remarks coming from the supporters of Leni Robredos’s campaign uttering ”bobo,” and ill-wishes to the supporters of the other side overwhelmingly fill my news feed.
This isn’t to say that I don’t understand where they are coming from, because I too would admit to having made fun of the DDS and BBM supporters among my close circles who share similar beliefs with me. I wonder if it’s due to the fact that I see a past version of myself in those people still blindly following corrupt authoritarians, hence, I used to hastily conclude that they lack character development. However, I did recognize that this is a counterproductive point of view which may very well cost us the opposition’s campaign if not immediately corrected.
A few would assert that arguing with those who are educated but still deliberately chooses to ignore the moral consequences deserves to be shamed and corrected publicly in order to stop the spread of misinformation from which they back their arguments. Needless to say, discussing with electors with opposing beliefs must not be forgone, lest we risk being trapped in an echo chamber. However, the line not to be crossed is clear when arguing. Our intention for engaging is material because it would ground us to the cause–the campaign for a united opposition.
Now that we’re just at the very beginning of the 2022 National Election’s campaigns, we aren’t even certain yet whether there are still other candidates that would emerge just as how the current president declared his candidacy then. But, it is also the perfect time for us to recalibrate our strategies firmly grounded on accurate research and evidence. If we do, in fact, intend to win the elections, and not merely to bring down a few select Marcos apologists, it bears to remember it is never an answer to go down to the level of using ad hominem arguments and unnecessary personal attacks.
We must realize that our sphere of influence, especially in this digital age, is greater than we think. It is not worth alienating all our peers who might have been willing to learn from us, by choosing to publicly attack and shame one or few other diehard believers of the other parties, elevating only ourselves to a high moral standard whilst ultimately damaging the campaign. To illustrate, I stand now as a testament of a person who only thought for the benefit of Mindanao before and supported Duterte, but nevertheless was welcomed by a publication that advocates for social justice, and for the marginalized. Thus, here I am, writing about how to effectively campaign for Leni and the opposition–to stop dictators from being elected, after being given a safe space to engage and learn from real persons and victims of Duterte’s and Marcoses’ human rights violations, vowing to never turn a blind eye to their atrocities ever again.
Political ideologies accordingly prove to create communities we could seek refuge in, foster the growth of ideas, and value for our democracy, if not the opposite. The same is the reason why a lot are not inclined to venture outside of their outdated ideologies that they grew up with, exactly because their peers and relatives grew up with the same values, providing for their sense of belongingness. Thus, creating physical and digital spaces alike to foster safe exchange of knowledge and facts must be a priority for us in support of the opposition’s campaign.
As students and registered voters, when we intend to discourse with family and relatives, it would prove helpful to practice patience and share actual illustrations that may personally affect them, rather than facts and data, so they may easily empathize and gain a different perspective. For example, as a law student, it worries me when the people in power are the likes of Duterte and Marcos who have had history in disregarding the law and resorting to violent means in resolving conflict. Recently, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines called for a nationwide effort to protect our lawyers and judges, because of the “disturbing and increasing frequency of lawyer killings” today, during Duterte’s regime. As an aspiring lawyer, who would someday like to work in the government and may assume duties that would call for the accountability of our leaders whenever necessary, living under an authoritarian rule would mean a constant threat to my life. This should similarly serve as a grave concern for my parents, which hopefully makes them think twice about voting for candidates under Duterte’s and Marcos’s dynasties again.
For now, I urge the supporters of Leni and the opposition to be mindful of how we campaign either through social media or in real life. May we find other effective and productive modes to rally support for this campaign aside from genuinely reaching out to our peers, creating safe spaces for exchange of beliefs, and effectively utilizing our sphere of influence. Ultimately, the elections will be determined through the sheer number of votes from us, the electorate, and we gain none by going around riding our high horses. On the other hand, our network of influence multiplies if we religiously engage with our fellow Filipinos sharing the common goal of a substantive and sustained national healing.