May 12, 2016

Robredo-versus-Marcos and Philippine Society at large

The sheer amount of vitriol thrown across both sides can make most people yearn for a break from social media. From a relatively simple case of cheating allegations (something that really isn’t new), the post May 9th BBM-versus-Leni who-should-win debate has expanded to include Martial Law abuses, essentially bringing the post-May 9th debate back to April 2016.

ThinkingPinoy believes a reframing of the discussion is in order.

But first, let TP tell you a short story. 
DISCLAIMER: Before going any further, ThinkingPinoy believes it’s worth noting that he supported neither Leni nor BBM. So no, I am not taking sides here.

The Ilocano Cousin-in-law

TP can vividly remember the time he visited his cousin MG. MG left the Philippines in the late ‘90s, met and married GG a year or so later in the US, and built a family with him there. TP and MG were really close when they were kids, and it basically was TP's first time to meet GG in real life.
TP is from UP Diliman so it’s quite easy to conclude that he is well aware of Martial Law abuses, to a point where he sees the late Ferdinand Marcos Sr. as the devil incarnate. Not the hot Tom Ellis type, but the traditional one with scorched skin, fangs, a tail, and a pair of horns.

Yes, that's Lucifer.

GG, on the other hand, is a Filipino immigrant who was born and raised in Ilocos. He has lived in the States for over a decade when TP first met him, but TP can still hear a faint Ilocano accent whenever he speaks. As we all know, most Ilocanos regard the Marcoses, especially Apo Makoy, very highly [IlocosNorte].

To acquaint two cousins-in-law, TP and GG had a drinking session. Small talk about the minutiae of family life eventually shifted to what TP feared the most: a heated discussion about Ferdinand Marcos Sr. Suffice it to say, TP was able to confirm that GG reveres the Marcoses, much to TP’s horror and dismay.

Needless to say, TP and GG decided to drop the topic and talk about something else. No amount of talking can change GG’s admiration of the Marcoses, something that has been inculcated in GG’s mind for decades. The same goes for TP’s hatred for the Marcoses: it just won’t happen.

But what can TP or GG do? They’re family, so both just have to find a way to get along despite their differing political beliefs.

Philippine Society as a Family

The TP-and-GG story is not unique at all. GG shares his belief with around five million Ilocanos [PSA]. On the other hand, TP shares his belief with the rest. Of course, the reader may argue that Ilocanos are misinformed about Martial Law atrocities, but Ilocanos will claim the same against the rest of the population.

We can “educate” each other all we want, but realignment of our respective understandings of history takes time. For the time being, we need to find a middle ground that will prevent us from killing each other off. We need to find a way to get along with each other. Why? Because in the grander scheme of things, Ilocanos belong to the family called the Philippines.

And what’s that middle ground? Elections.

BBM versus Leni

The vice-president’s job is relatively trivial compared to that of the president, but this political battle is more than just about who gets to sit next to the throne. For many Martial Law victims and those who are one with them, it has become a painful revisiting of the dark ages of Philippine History. For those sympathetic with the Marcoses, it has become a struggle to break free from the chains of the past.

Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos (BBM) supporters see him as a way to bring back the “glory” that was lost when the Cojuangcos took over, whatever that means. His opponents, on the other hand, consider the late dictator’s son to be the poster boy for Martial Law.

Meanwhile, Leni’s supporters consider her to be the voice of the thousands of Martial Law victims. Her opponents, on the other hand, consider her to be a symbol for the false notion of freedom perpetuated by the Cojuangco oligarchs.

For the foreseeable future, this debate will not end.

However, the beauty of a democratic society or at least, the pitiful Filipino version of it, is its ability to move forward despite the plethora of seemingly irreconcilable differences between its members. In the context of the BBM vs Leni debate, the way to break this deadlock is through letting the people decide what to do next.

How? Through elections, which serve as political band-aids that enable democratic societies to stay cohesive until it finds a better cure.

May 9th

As soon as dawn broke on the 9th, the time for one side to convince the other is over – at least for the time being. It’s time to put the issue to a vote. In particular, it’s time to decide who should be the country’s next vice-president: BBM or Leni.

May 9 came and went, and the PPCRV-KBP count began. BBM led the race for the first several hours and BBM supporters were pretty sure that he will never have to look back. In a surprising twist of fate, however, Leni overtook BBM in the morning of 10 May 2016. Robredo’s camp attributes this to votes from her bailiwicks: Bicol, Iloilo, and ARMM [Robredo]. Marcos, on other hand, suspected electoral fraud [CNN].

Oh, and the mudslinging resumed.

Judging from what TP sees on Twitter and Facebook, many (not all, but many) Leni supporters insist that BBM should lose because his father basically raped the nation’s coffers. On the other hand, many (not all, but many) BBM supporters insist on quoting Ezekiel 18:20 – “A son is not to suffer because of his father's sins.” If these words were uttered on May 8th, that’s perfectly fine with TP: that’s part and parcel of political discourse.

The problem, however, is it’s already past the 9th. Before May 9th, the question of who should be the next vice-president was a function of what’s written in the history books. After May 9th, it has become a function of what’s shaded on the ballot.

With this election comes the tacit understanding that each side will respect whatever comes out of it. That each side will abide by the rule of law. Now, as to whether Bongbong was cheated or not, that’s for authorities to decide. But for now, let’s limit the discourse to that issue and that issue alone.

Because if we continue to throw everything at each other, then this nation is in for a really bad hangover. (TP)

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