this story originally appeared in the philippine daily inquirer on May 10, 2016.
Many Filipinos see the 2016 elections as an opportunity for change, to rectify the errors and mistakes of the past. Yesterday’s electoral exercise is seen as an attempt to introduce a new set of national priorities and a new vision for the country, a new path of development for the next six years.
In the formal sense, yes, there are changes that we can expect to happen. By next month a new administration will be installed, a new president will occupy Malacañang. A new set of officials will fill various posts. In the 17th Congress there will be realignments depending on who wins the presidency. The Senate and the House of Representatives will be opened by new and old legislators, whether they were elected or ran unopposed. Local governments nationwide will still be dominated by the same old families who have held power for decades—possibly new faces but carrying the same names.
I’m inclined to believe that significant changes can happen in the political sense, but not in a fundamental and substantial way. The system is intact—the institutional functionality of bureaucratic processes, patronage politics, influence of traditional politicians and political dynasties, and ingrained corruption. These are realities that we cannot wipe out in simple elections.
Our political system is so entrenched that what is needed is no less than an overhaul. To redefine this system is to have an electoral insurgency where a campaign is not about electing a president but about a movement that will radically change the status quo. We need a campaign that will not sway people to simply vote for a person, but for people to mobilize and be genuinely involved in the political process. We need a campaign that will put to the fore the people’s interests for a mass oriented, nationalist and independent government.
A campaign is revolutionary if and when it can introduce radical ideas and make these happen with massive support from a broad coalition of movements aiming for a unified goal, reclaiming Philippine democracy.
Of course, the enormousness of this task should not stop us from supporting progressive-minded candidates who will truly represent us in the government. Let us campaign for political groups that will advocate and fight for the dispossessed and marginalized sectors. After all, we have our advocacies and future to lose if we let our fears take over our rage and might.
But after the elections, our passion in defending our own fallible candidates should translate to broader fervor in fighting for our right to seek accountability. Our vigilance must be more intensified in demanding accomplishments from even our own candidates. We have to elevate our role, not as mere spectators, but as active political actors in the project of nationhood.
In this way, we will realize the political revolution, not as an elusive construct, but as a practical solution to our rotten system. In our small steps toward becoming a progressive country, in our own significant ways, we can rise up and fight against special interests, rigged elections, and big money from politics.
We deserve a government that represents the people’s interests and not the interests of the wealthy and powerful. With our collective movement, we can ignite the people’s consciousness into something larger than ourselves. And that is what we call a political revolution with a human face.