Okay, so I am back at Medium. After a series of employment saga, I got more time to get nerdy again in political discourse. So true that in all of my active social media accounts, I changed my profile picture to a plain liberty green canvas — a signature color of Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign. It has been months since I engaged myself to US politics, and unconsciously with their social issues too. It has piqued my interest as one, both the US and the Philippines are being run by irrational, apathetic, and corrupt tyrants; and two, both countries have unprecedentedly gets experimented by foreign powers through social media information warfare. And with this growing interest, I have fallen into the YouTube trap of watching political commentators from both independent and mainstream media outlets. While flawed in various angles, I still appreciate the media’s frequent coverage of the democratic primary elections as it has shown me how robust discussions on various social issues can fire up an entire electorate.
This leads me back to my own country, the Philippines. My interest to local politics has eroded ever since the opposition candidates lost last election. Couple this with Malacañan becoming more and more hostile to public scrutiny (as evidenced by their incompetent and aloof Press Secretary) and you get a blind government which has lost its touch to public sentiment. Its skin has gotten thicker and thicker, and only the powerful and well-connected has gained much from the past three years.
It has also become a double whammy in my view that the poor and middle class are suffering from failed policies of this government and yet!— and yet, most of us are afraid to mobilize and protest against this obvious suppression. I have rallied thrice on the streets over the past three years (I know, it’s not as frequent as what my other friends do), but I still get worried about getting arrested because I feel my right to express my opinions in actual flesh might be disregarded by policemen. I envy the people of Hong Kong, Chile, and Lebanon for standing up and actively calling out the absurdities of their government and fighting for their human and economic rights. But Filipinos…where did the spirit of ordinary Filipinos, which has toppled a dictator in 1986, go?
It is clear to me why I decided to give up in our political system — because as I look around, people just didn’t seem to care. Many of us had felt powerless and thought that standing up against the government will not give us any benefit — instead it might even push our rights to the edge (case in point, Sen. de Lima and CJ Sereno). A lot of people got tired of fighting for their rights, and so did I.
That has become my mentality for the past few months — until I encountered the wonderful campaign of Elizabeth Warren. Yes — this pivot, for me, is definitely way unexpected. News after news, I am just drawn towards her way of seeing politics: that wealth has been concentrated to the very, very few, and this amassed wealth has given them extreme political power enough for them to hijack and undermine the entire democratic system. She insists that in order to fix inequality, people need to build a grassroots movement that will push for big, structural changes. Her populist message, though always in context to US politics, has transcended across land boundaries. I have picked up this principle as a lens to assess our own political system. And I agree with her: that the extremely rich and well-connected has withstand all the political changes in our country because, guess what, they have controlled the government from inside and out.
Yes, it is obvious. Yes, we know it. And yes, it has been annoyingly rubbed all over our faces for generations and generations and generations. Corruption is, and will still be, our main obstruction in order to get a more equitable and effective government. Poverty, education, healthcare, and many other social issues are still tied to corruption. Year after year, it has been promised to us by politicians that they will fight against corruption — only to turn their backs from voters. Their loyalty is not to the Filipino people; it is with their own political clans, powerful corporations, and influential churches.
Just like the blue wave that has swiped the entire American electorate in 2018, progressives in the Philippines can learn a thing or two on how to build a genuine, organic grassroots movement. We need to talk to more people who are still apolitical, to those disillusioned voters who decided not to exercise their voting power last election cycle, and to those who can still be swayed to embracing progressive values. We need to learn how to market progressive ideals and be more policy-specific. We need to be clear on what policies we are pushing, and build a more streamlined coalition based on these policies. We need to go back to low-information voters and help them understand how the system is rigged and how their participation on a grassroots movement can make a change. We need to organize, both physically and online! We need to encourage young community leaders with progressive values to run for congressional and district offices, help them create a strong name recognition, and help them raise funds for their campaigns. And yes, we need to topple the political clans who have long gripped on their powerful positions by addressing the roots of why people allow their votes to be bought.
For the next weeks, I’ll be using this Medium account to foster open, respectful, and intelligible discussions about the things that matter to the Filipino public: the economy, foreign policy, environment and disaster management, health care, and education among others. Through these discussions, I hope we can bring interest, energy, and eventually political action to make changes in our society. If the government continues to push for lies and disinformation, then we will counter them with facts, decency, and dignity.
Let’s get this long work done.