Written by: Anusha
Edited by: Martin
Visuals by: Mischka
Elections in most countries come with their share of drama. Most of us take a deep interest as political parties struggle for control in our home countries. Personally, I know many who followed the US elections avidly. These days, many elections seem to be marked by at least one eccentric character who takes over the public imagination. Yet even by these standards, the election battles going on in the Philippines seem to have more plot twists than a telenovela: father against daughter, a loyalist of the current president against a scion of an infamous former president; a series of events that may all lead up to a ballot reading Duterte vs Duterte and Bong vs Bong Bong!
However, as puzzling it may seem, it is necessary to acknowledge the history of these candidates. In the last election, Duterte rode a massive wave of popularity to become president. While privileged members of society were nervous about his non-traditional approach to politics, he was revered amongst the less affluent for sustaining economic growth. But after a series of controversial economic regulations, the Philippines’ economy has now declined “to its lowest level since World War II, with GDP decreasing by 9.5% in 2020,” (Publicus Asia) causing approval ratings to drop. So this time around, where will the mass vote go?
As of mid-October, most polling companies seem to show a majority vote for none other than Bong Bong Marcos. This may come as a surprise to some of us who are not locals, given our understanding of the history of his family’s dictatorship and the martial law atrocities that occurred under the Marcos regime. A rough estimate suggests “more than 3,200 people were murdered by the government during the Marcos years, and about 40,000 were tortured.” (NYT) However, when you speak to Filipinos who support him, they see him as a way back to a past when they felt they were better off, economically and socially. As stated by the NYT, “Over the years, the Marcoses have patiently worked at re-establishing their political power from their stronghold here, in the province of Ilocos Norte.”
As students from an international background, I feel that it is important to understand how the country we live in will be shaped by its politics, even if we cannot play a direct role via our votes. These elections play a huge role in how the Philippines actions and policies are determined, with regards to aspects of life that are most definitely important to us: our education system, vaccine rollouts, lockdown status, and more. And to understand more about the importance of elections to students, I reached out to our community.
A Filipino sophomore at ISM describes her feelings on the recent events, saying, “Candidates are leaving and joining left and right and changing positions constantly. So it’s very chaotic and confusing.” Yet, as confusing as Filipino politics may be, it is important to understand why we need to stay connected to these political events and how we play a part in them. As senior Collin says, “As Bearcats we spend a lot of time giving back to the communities. By bringing service to people through teaching them… we are able to impact this election by helping the host population while also acknowledging the fact that we should respect Filipino democracy and not use our good deeds for any form of personal coercion.”
In summary, it is our responsibility as students in the Philippines to keep up-to-date with both the events of this election and the ways we can have an impact on the cultural and societal factors that play into it. The Philippines has given us our homes, school, and our community; and it is only fair that we as individuals make ourselves aware of our place in this significant upcoming election.
“Executive Summary – Publicusasia.com.” Publicusasia, 22 Oct. 2021, https://www.publicusasia.com/quarter-2-executive-summary/.
Learn, Future. “The Philippines Economy and the Impact of Covid-19.” FutureLearn, 18 Aug. 2021, https://www.futurelearn.com/info/futurelearn-international/philippines-economy-covid-19.
Leon, Dwight de. “Comelec Releases Tentative List of Candidates for 2022 Polls.” Rappler, Rappler, 29 Oct. 2021, https://www.rappler.com/nation/elections/comelec-release-tentative-list-candidates-2022-polls-october-29-2021.
Whaley, Floyd. “30 Years after Revolution, Some Filipinos Yearn for ‘Golden Age’ of Marcos.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 23 Feb. 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/24/world/asia/30-years-after-revolution-some-filipinos-yearn-for-golden-age-of-marcos.html.