Commentary

‘Kakabakaba ka ba?’: After the vote

Brick by brick—the process of building a democratic society

Even the impaired elderly went out to vote.

“Pag class ang damit, pinapapasok niyo?!” an irate man who looked like a thug, wearing a barangay shirt, was barking at the poll volunteers manning the gate who, impressively, kept their cool yet still didn’t let all the people in at the same time. The burly thug was leading a swarm of people—hopefully not “hakot”—that filled a long line. The class divide—the anti-rich emotions fomented by this presidential campaign—remains evident.

I  was easily allowed in, following the instruction: “Senior, PWD o buntis” (obvious, which category I fell under). I already knew my precinct from the online check done the previous week, so I walked straight to the line of the cluster of precincts where mine belonged.

Inside the multi-purpose hall-turned-voting venue of our huge subdivision, people from all walks of life (our villages contain classes A, B, C, upper D) and across ages lined up to wait for their turn. Some of the impaired elderly were in wheelchairs or using walkers.

These 2022 national and local elections must be seeing a very huge turnout, hopefully the biggest in recent years—the mammoth rallies from the National Capital Region to the Visayas and Mindanao proved how invested the people have been and still are in this year’s elections.

It took me only an hour to vote, since they let in the seniors. In contrast, my son was in line almost the whole morning, but hopefully, his young generation would not be fazed by such inconvenience of the vote.

If you have the freedom to troll, it’s because you live in a freedom guaranteed by the Constitution

As I left the multi-purpose hall, I noticed many people staying seated on the concrete bleachers—were they waiting for their turn, waiting for packed lunches or what else?

There were posts on social media on malfunctioning polling machines. You hoped that these elections would be peaceful and honest—relatively—and that vote buying would not be that rampant. Our neighbor’s kasambahay made it a point to fly home to Leyte because her local officials promised money for her vote; she texted our kasambahay this morning and claimed—claimed— that she got P6,000, so that became the neighborhood’s morning hearsay among the kasambahay.

Our constitutional democracy isn’t only infantile and immature; it’s also been always fighting for survival. But that is the nature of democracy—it’s always a protracted fight, a process of building a system, brick by brick. If you have the freedom to buy and sell your vote today, it’s because you live in a (relatively) free society. If you have the freedom to troll or fight the trolls, it’s because you live in a freedom guaranteed by the Constitution. Some even use this freedom to plunder the nation.

Brick by brick—the process of building a democratic society. You wouldn’t have had the “pink tsunami” that was the 2022 People Power if we didn’t have the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution, and after that, the circuitous and arduous route of restoring democratic governance (and putting the military back in the barracks), no matter that post-Edsa administrations were mired in corruption and allowed foreign encroachments. Bluntly and graphically put, you wouldn’t have pink if you didn’t have yellow, even as forces persist in creating and promoting the divide between the two eras—eras, not people—of our contemporary history. You’re able to troll and spew out all that venom, thanks to the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution that enshrined the freedoms in the 1987 Constitution (warts and all). The slain Ninoy Aquino once said that a true leader’s commitment to democracy is tested by how he protects the rights even of his enemies.

Destabilization eventually took a form other than the physical—the brainwashing of the Filipino

We’ve seen how easy it’s been for constitutional democracy to be abused, or for it to come under grave threat. The destabilization efforts—especially during the administration of Cory Aquino (eight coup attempts)—never let up. Destabilization eventually took a form other than the physical—the brainwashing of the Filipino, akin to the miseducation of the Filipino that nationalist Renato Constantino wrote in his book of the same title, only this time the miseducation is not by the colonial masters, but Filipino rulers. Ours is a constitutional democracy that is fighting to survive in semi-feudal conditions, where the majority are left impoverished by their “feudal lords” (political dynasties) and are dependent on ayuda and hand-outs, no easy access to jobs, livelihoods, social and health services, and most important, education. The rural families of our kasambahay have been used to tilling land they don’t own fully or might lose to debts. The handymen in our village live in urban ghettos where they pay rent for houses they will never own, or for lots whose titles they will never have. They are “paying squatters”—and a good part of their wages goes into housing.

Now, why would these people care about governance when they felt that regardless of whom they elected, their lives stayed the same: hand-to-mouth existence, literally.

The record-breaking rally attendance casts doubt on the often-voiced perception that the Filipino has amnesia

So in this state, in this constitutional democracy, it’s tempting to sell one’s vote (if it puts food on today’s table), and it’s imperative for many politicians to steal the vote. Yet—as the mammoth rallies have shown, day after day, the Filipino remains committed to democracy, warts and all, because young and old, rich and poor, tech-literate or not, they have come to own the values of democracy and freedom engendered by the People Power from the ‘80s and before that, from the heroes of Philippine history. The record-breaking rally attendance casts doubt on the often-voiced perception that the Filipino has amnesia, and in addition saw the participation of the young.

So kakabakaba ka ba? To use the title of the iconic Filipino movie of 1980 (starring Charo Santos-Concio and Christopher de Leon and the late Jay Ilagan, directed by Mike de Leon). Perhaps.

But constitutional democracy is not built overnight, not even over the years. It is an arduous, long-drawn process of laying down bricks, one brick at a time, generation by generation. But for now, let’s put food on the table, and educate our children so they can go beyond Tiktok.

Read more:

Why I go house-to-house (H2H) in the ‘solid north’

Make some noise: Placard power

About author

Articles

After devoting more than 30 years to daily newspaper editing (as Lifestyle editor) and a decade to magazine publishing (as editorial director and general manager), she now wants to focus on writing—she hopes.

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