Tuesday, May 10, 2016

a few thoughts on the 2016 Philippine Presidential elections

I'm going to echo what many have been saying about this year's Presidential elections in the Philippines: it is the most polarising one that my generation and the next (yeah, the ones who's first adopted the internet and social media) has had the privilege to participate in so far. It has also yielded a lot of unexpected results. My favourite is this: people came out in droves to vote. The Commission on Elections has reported that 81% of the voting population exercised their right to suffrage; this is the highest turnout in the history of the use of those Precinct Count Optical Scanner (PCOS) machines. 

My experience. 
Weeks leading up to the election, I chose not to take an active part in heated arguments and debates about the merits and weaknesses of candidates seeking to serve the people for the next six years. Several reasons. One, I didn't want my relationships with my relatives and my friends be damaged by this elections. Two, I wanted my vote to be based on how the candidates performed and not on hearsay from other people. Three, I believe that my vote is confidential until after I've cast my ballot. 

A lot of people have experienced cyber-bullying from highly emotional and fanatic supporters of different candidates. The bullies' sense of anonymity and of impunity empowered them to do this, in my opinion. I did not want to be sucked into a situation that gives cyber-bullies an opportunity to bully me. 

I unfollowed social media accounts that showed one-dimensional negative perspectives about the different candidates. I chose to read articles written by credible sources; none of the pseudo-journalism that end up spreading rumour rather than fact.

On Election Day, I was quite surprised that the elementary school where I was voting was still brimming with people during the hottest hours of the day. It was nice to see the enthusiasm of the young ones to have their say counted. It was also nice to see the elder voters, with their quiet faith that everything would be all right after we've chosen our new leaders. Restaurants contributed to the efforts too: Filipinos hold the ballot so sacred but there are probably a few people who didn't have the motivation to vote; some establishments motivated voters by offering free food if the 'dirty' finger is flashed at them. 

Filipino wit and humour amid the pre- and post-election hullabaloo. 
Filipinos were busy composing and posting memes and fan fiction in the days that led up to and those right after the elections. I'd say that the sense of humour expressed by the posters tend to be on the dry side. Plus, whoever's doing these funny posts must be intelligent. The wit and the sense of humour of Filipinos were front and centre, thanks to the accessibility of social media and the internet. I don't think social media has ever been used like this in previous elections.

Unfortunately, people were more ready to believe the memes and the fiction rather than the data churned by reputable news agencies. So, I think that it is truly possible for erroneous material to make its rounds... In this way, social media may have been used properly. Just imagine the revisionist historical view that the youngsters (millennials) choose to believe... and the atrocities have happened in the recent past! 

Popular polarisation.
I think that the most fascinating issue that this election shoved our way is the way the electorate was split. Husbands and wives siblings, and friends quarreled over who they thought would make the best president and vice-president. And the debates (sometimes leaning to the nonsensical and illogical, even) were done with an audience: people were quarreling on social media! Yes, social media can be used as a platform to air one's thoughts and these can reach anyone who cares to read. However, I don't think that people need to fight so publicly. Come on, there are private messenger platforms available. We don't need to be flooded by others' quarrels!

With that out of the way, this is what fascinates me about the last election: It appeared to me that people were voting based on the characteristics they value the most and not based on the candidate's proven capacity to lead. For instance (and I may be wrong here), people who voted for Duterte (now the presumptive President-elect) probably valued discipline; those who voted for Roxas probably did so because they held continuity as highly important; those who voted for Defensor-Santiago perhaps valued intelligence.  

People probably used their emotions, rather than their intellect, in choosing the next government officials. That could explain why the quarrels on social media were so bitter that this led to people un-friending and un-following those who disagreed with them. However, there really were people who encouraged their fellow voters to think and to vote wisely. This proved to be difficult, apparently...

... Because nobody voted for Wisely. His name wasn't even on the ballot no matter how strong his campaign was!