Hope inside the turbulence

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

Youth of Kadayawan | Photo by Herbert Kikoy via Wikimedia Commons

It did appear so powerful when a gang of four put their muscle and money together. Two are past presidents, the son of another, and the current president still sitting and appointing officials in positions of influence over strategic aspects of the election. On the other side is just a widow with no muscle, no money.

Familiar? In late 1985, a dictator who had control of the Philippines to a greater degree than the present gang of four suddenly called a snap election because of global pressure. He had total authority over government, its institutions, its officers and personnel, the military especially, and its financial resources. On the other side is just a widow, an ordinary housewife with no muscle, no money for a presidential campaign.

Except for those who were too young or yet unborn as of February 1986, the EDSA People Power miracle is extremely hard to digest from history books. They make those with shallow or little history believe a script from the imagination of historical revisionists. That is why they started insidious efforts to create a new past years before the current election process.

Prospect has truly been dark and heavy for those who simply believe what their culture and Constitution hold sacred – including the major religious groups. After all, the fundamental and common beliefs inside our homes, schools, and churches are also what our Constitution safeguards. Do not lie, do not steal. Do not kill. Parents, teachers, priests, and pastors teach these, and our laws do the same thing.

However, poverty is a social and moral anomaly that makes it tempting for political, social, and economic bandits to exploit the situation. Greed for wealth and lust for power are two powerful temptations that many cannot seem to resist anymore. The corruption in society is reflected in government and the kind of public servants who serve in it. Of course, when many in government are corrupt, they must have their counterparts in the private sector.

It is painful to witness the sustained hardship of our poor when there are many ways to alleviate it. Worse, when there have been great sums of money to do so. But the very people who have the chance to help the most have been lukewarm in empowering the weak and marginalized. Many of them have been accused of perpetuating poverty precisely to maintain the dependence of the needy on the few who can dispense money and favors.

“But powerful writers can craft political platforms, more so by creative scriptwriters. And they will be just that, scripts that are hardly remembered except by political opponents needing a basis to criticize. The general public, though, will remember campaign slogans much longer than governance platforms.”

The accusations appear to have a hard basis. Many who serve in government, especially in the higher positions, end up richer than poorer after their tour of duty. And I mean all three branches of government – the Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary. The higher their positions, the more we can see their lifestyle. It is why transparency in governance and the public servants must be a fundamental requirement – because it is sadly not so.

Elections, then, are new opportunities for changing the character of public service. When we change leaders, corrupt patterns will not change as fast, but the chance to do so is there. When we change leaders, the reality of poverty will not change as fast, but, definitely, change is possible and even welcome.

To many, elections are about platforms of governance. It is a nice thought, and they sway a small minority. But powerful writers can craft political platforms, more so by creative scriptwriters. And they will be just that, scripts that are hardly remembered except by political opponents needing a basis to criticize. The general public, though, will remember campaign slogans much longer than governance platforms.

Filipino voters look at character first. They have heard nice promises, and they have experienced the regularity of promises being broken. There is a pattern that makes many Filipinos ask for platforms and take it against candidates who have little or none. Yet, an actor ran for office and kept winning until he became president. Who among us now remembers the governance platform he proposed and promised while campaigning? Maybe a few, or probably none, except for his campaign slogan.

Money can do a lot to confuse and corrupt because being corrupt will conflict with what you taught as wrong all your life. Money does not buy votes; money buys people who vote. It is not one’s vote that is stained; it is one’s soul.”

Character first. Voting is fundamentally an emotional choice. The best platform by a candidate you do not like will not get your vote. Because your belief system must find resonance with the candidate, if you believe that lying is bad, that stealing is bad, that killing is bad, you will intuitively find affirmation in a candidate who believes as you believe. Or else, they will shake the very foundation of your security and understanding.

Money can change that for a moment if you are needy or greedy. Money can do a lot to confuse and corrupt because being corrupt will conflict with what you taught as wrong all your life. Money does not buy votes; money buys people who vote. It is not one’s vote that is stained; it is one’s soul.

We can only look to the young in a society gripped by corruption. Even when young minds have been poisoned or manipulated by fake news, their hearts will rebel at what pollutes their idealism. Or who pollutes them.

Because the Filipino youth are still who Rizal saw them be, we hope that if previous generations of youth have failed to stay faithful to their idealism, the next generation will begin with idealism. The Philippines and the world may be in turbulence, but humanity will always have hope and noble counterforce in our youth.

We have seen through our history that the youth were never the key sector of elections. Yet, each generation brings more of them into the political stream. This May 9, 2022, they may yet break the glass ceiling. I pray so. Because how they vote can define the future they will live in.

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