Election 2022: A Personal Retrospective (An Open Letter to Kakampinks)

So yeah, we lost.

The official vote counting is not yet done. But it’s pretty evident at this point. Bongbong Marcos, the son of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, is about to take the reins of our country. President Rodrigo Duterte’s daughter, Sara Duterte-Carpio, is with him as his vice president.

It’s hard to dispute it. It’s a total landslide. Anyone can allege cheating or manipulation of votes or connivance with the agencies involved or whatever. But without enough evidence, it’s useless to fight the outcome.

The experience of losing an important fight such as this is so surreal that I find myself daydreaming these past few days about what could’ve happened if the outcome was different. I’m sure fellow Kakampinks have different experiences and realizations. I would like to share mine.

It was the evening of the 9th of May. We were having dinner while watching the news. Our eyes were glued to the television, waiting for the partial count. Around nine in the evening, the first batch of results came in. Our jaws dropped in dismay as we see that Marcos is ahead of Robredo by about half.

I was hopeful even after seeing that. I even said, “It’s still far from over. The numbers should come closer later.” Minutes, and hours went by, and their numbers never got any closer. It felt like there is a wall that cannot be taken down, and I felt so helpless as I see his numbers go up.

We kept on waiting to see if the odds would change. But it never did. I watched in horror as Marcos’ numbers went up. By about twelve midnight, I can already see what was about to happen, but I did not want to believe it.

My brain started to overthink all the possibilities that night.

If Marcos wins, we need to move to a different country, because critics are not safe in a Marcos administration. But I thought to myself, that moving to a different country is like running away, and running away means giving up. So my family and I should stay here.

But if I want to raise children, do I want them to grow up in a government that does not respect human rights? Worse, do I want them to grow up without a father, a mother, or both? Sure, keeping mum would save our asses from impending torture and death. But do we want to teach our children that the rights of the powerless are not important? That the life of a human being has no value? That it’s alright for powerful people to unapologetically steal from common, hard-working people? That it’s fine to just follow the government even if the leaders do not work for people’s best interests? That accountability is not for the rich and powerful? Keeping these things from children, especially children these days, is impossible. They will find out about these things as they go along. But they need to know these things at the right place, at the right time, and in the right context. So maybe moving to a different country is a good idea. But moving to a different country is like giving up the fight here. But yada yada… the cycle just went on and on until my brain got tired and I was able to sleep. I think my wife and I just shut down at about two in the morning.

The next day was not at all encouraging. In fact, the pain got worse and worse as the total number of votes tallied reached ninety percent. Seeing my fellow Kakampinks storm COMELEC did not make me feel any better. I know the other side will use this against us and might use this as evidence of why red-tagging is necessary.

Day by day, for the past three days, I’ve been feeling depressed to the point of breaking down. I want to cry but there’s just nothing that comes out. I can feel my thirst for life and my desire to do good dwindling.

Out of frustration and sheer anger, I even argued with non-Kakampinks about the hypocrisy of their ilk. Some of them say that Leni could’ve been a good candidate if not for her toxic supporters. I may have a few things to say about some of us and the way we talk to people who disagree with us. But this statement is just pure hypocrisy and scapegoating in my opinion. If they really think Leni Robredo is that good, they should’ve voted for her regardless of the repercussions. They can’t argue that they’re turned off by her toxic supporters because a lot of them supported a candidate with fake credentials, who does not pay his taxes, and belongs to a monarchic political dynasty with far from stellar reputation. They defended this guy like their lives depended on it, and yet they say they did not support the more qualified person for the job just because they can’t handle overly passionate people? I just think that’s utter bullshit.

We Kakampinks were accused of elitism and they say we have a know-it-all or holier-than-thou demeanor. There were also a few instances when we were caught in compromising positions (like those Iglesia Ni Cristo-related debacles) and those were used against us too. We are not blameless. But I know one thing. We were really passionate about this fight. We sacrificed a lot for this fight. We were willing to do everything in our power to get Leni to the top because we all believe in her vision of a better Philippines. We believe that giving the presidency to another Marcos will be the end of democracy as we know it. We all believe that radical love is the key to winning this election. We may not be blameless and our approach is not perfect. But I think this is what radical love is all about.

Radical love is telling the truth. Radical love is not sugarcoating things. Radical love is not giving up and facing our greatest fears to protect everyone from making the worst mistake of their lives. We went out of our way to express this radical love to everyone, even reaching to the point of calling out their bullshit, like those things that we said about “consistently going to mass but will vote for a criminal”, or “you can’t tell your children not to steal when you’re going to vote for a thief”. A part of my brain says this is going way too far, and in a way, I agree that this makes us look “holier-than-thou”. But I believe we went this far because we love the Philippines and Filipinos so much that we’re willing to hurt people’s feelings because they need to know the unvarnished truth because that’s how radical love works.  Unfortunately, we Filipinos are a proud bunch, even adversarial at times, and generally speaking, we don’t like it when someone is trying to make us look stupid. Add it to the fact that here in the Philippines, we have this hierarchy where the elders have to be respected and should not be “educated” by someone younger than them, regardless of their educational attainment or profession. Some of us Kakampinks saw these people as stupid, uneducated, or moronic because we think we know what’s best for all of us, and yet they won’t listen to us because they believe they know better. It’s easy to dismiss the less educated opinions that we hear from people. It’s also easy to brush off ideas that we know are not true. But these people have their own list of concerns that are also real. They might not be able to convey it properly or their means of communicating leave a lot to be desired. But at the end of the day, these concerns are just as valid as our list of concerns. In addition, personal experiences vary from person to person. We always say, “just because it does not happen to you, it does not mean it won’t happen to everyone else.” The opposite is also true. We should not invalidate the positive experiences of some people just because we or someone we know had a worse experience. So in my opinion, we should’ve educated them less and instead we could’ve listened to them more. By listening more, we have more tools to establish a common ground with people, and hopefully, through those common grounds, we can encourage them to join us. I think that’s a better approach.

There is a reason why we are constantly reminded that we’re fighting not only for ourselves but also for those who don’t believe the same things we believe in. Unless they’re trolls, these people we argue with in-person or online are not the real enemies.

A lot of these people are coming from less fortunate and less privileged backgrounds. They were promised a lot of reforms and assistance by previous administrations but it seems like help did not reach them at all. They are jaded and they are out to hurt their perceived oppressors.

On the other hand, some of them are privileged folks who are more than capable of making a good living. Maybe some of them benefited a lot from the system and they want to keep it that way. Some of them probably don’t benefit from the system at all but are not welcoming to radical changes, probably because radical changes may affect their quality of life.

No matter who they are or what their backgrounds are, they are the perfect targets of any opportunistic faction that wants to take control of the power. They are the perfect targets of fake news, spliced videos, and red herring arguments made by wannabe political pundits and sellout social media influencers. Ultimately, they are victims of bad governance just like us and they’re desperate to see any semblance of progress. They could be our siblings, our best friends, our uncles or aunts, our colleagues, and maybe even our own parents. We may see their choices as despicable or abominable. But I encourage you, my fellow Kakampinks, to have some amount of sympathy for these people. A lot of these people are concerned about the country just like us. They may have made a wrong decision in our eyes. But in their eyes, they made the best decision ever. In the law, we have something that we call “acting in good faith”. Some of these people who we don’t agree with, even if they made a different choice, are making these choices in good faith. So maybe a dash of sympathy and the benefit of the doubt might help us understand them.

I understand that it is hard to look at these people the same way. But as a wise man once told me, the objective of any aspiring dictator is to divide and conquer: divide the populace, let the people fight amongst themselves, then conquer them all. We might be we’re on the right side of history. But alienating a large portion of the population for the sake of a few who would listen and join us is like winning the battle but eventually losing the war. What’s the sense of being right when we will eventually lose everything?

I know a lot of us feel cheated right now. Probably even feel robbed or betrayed. Maybe the only thing that keeps you going from that fateful day is the hate rushing through your veins. It’s hard to accept defeat. But it’s even harder to see that some of us start to think that radical love is not worth it. A friend of mine found this post on Reddit a few days ago, and this broke my heart.

I cannot blame anyone who wants to do this to a tee. It just drains you when you’re fighting for the rights of people who don’t even know they’re being oppressed or those who know they’re abused but just became indifferent. It’s even more discouraging when you’re trying to make them understand their value and yet they’re so mentally conditioned to just be contented with all the corruption and mistreatment they’re getting day by day. It’s hard to do the right thing when other people are trying to take you down.

Whenever I think about those people who voted out of spite without realizing that they’re sabotaging everybody’s future… those people who gloat, rub their victory to our faces, and would tell us to just move to a different country if we’re just going to fight the government… whenever I think about the lengths we went through only for every effort and every resource to go to waste… these thoughts just instantly bring me back to the clasp of depression.

But after days of contemplating, I started to realize a few things.

We should not give in to hate. Our detractors want to take away the hope in our eyes and make us hateful of everyone and everything because this is how they maintain their power. Those trolls online want to trigger us in every fiber of our being because they want us to be miserable and useless. No one will question the government if people lost their drive to fight for what is right. Do not give in to their baits and provocations. They will only use it to justify the actions of the government in the future. Give them their win. Do not protest unless we find evidence to prove our point. Do not give in to hate.

We should talk to more people who don’t agree with us. Listen to their issues. Understand their plight. As much as we hate whatever they stand for, we are all Filipinos and we should all be in this together. Let’s have a dialogue with these people and establish common ground. As we go along with this, we will find out that we all want the same things. This is not about who is right or who is wrong. This is about understanding each other. A Marcos is about to be in power in a few weeks. Bickering about the results of the election is useless at this point. Let’s focus on more productive things, like having these healthy discussions.

Ultimately, we should realize that not all went to waste. We may have lost the war. But we won the most important battle: we were able to plant the seeds of change in 14 million people’s hearts and minds in the span of seven months.

Think about everything that went well. We made major progress in uniting millions of Filipinos under the ideals of a government that works for all of us. We have encouraged each and every one of us to contribute to the betterment of our country. We made some new friends with the same ideals. We learned about the type of governance that all Filipinos deserve. We learned that a big budget is not necessary to launch a successful campaign as long as we all work together…

Because campaigns should not be about the candidates. It should not be about the name or surname going into that ballot come election day. It should be about the ideals and programs that are for the people, by the people. It should be about the hopes and dreams that every single supporter has. The name that goes into that ballot should represent all of these things, and I believe we were able to accomplish that.

VP Leni and her presidential campaign made it possible for a lot of us to work for a common goal. Her integrity and selfless desire to serve the Filipino people have inspired us to be better people: to be more engaged in the dealings of the government, to be more attentive to the needs of our less fortunate countrymen especially in times of need, and to be beacons of light in a rather bleak moment in our history. Imagine what we can accomplish in the coming six years!

As I was writing this article, I heard on the news that VP Leni is starting the Angat Buhay Foundation, the largest volunteer network in the country, after her term as vice president ends. I’m so stoked that the goodness that we were able to create these past few months will continue, bigger and hopefully even better. I know we’re going to achieve even greater things with this.

Grief is dealt with by different people in different ways. No matter who you are, your feelings are valid and no one should tell you otherwise. This might be the biggest travesty that’s ever happened in recent Philippine history. But we don’t have to feel bad. We did our best for what we believe is right, and even if we are not perfect in all aspects, I believe that whatever we have accomplished is something that we should be proud of. Take all the time you need to process the emotions. When you’re ready, pick yourself up, and let’s join VP Leni in the next chapter of our advocacy.

Do not lose hope, my fellow Kakampinks. Do not let anyone steal that smile. Keep your head up and feel no shame that we lost this fight. We are 14 million strong, and we got a lot of work to do.

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