Content Warning: Political violence mention, martial law mention, torture mention, poverty mention, extrajudicial killings mention.

Original version.
Originally published as a post on my personal Facebook, republished with permission on Asia Pacific Report as an OpEd, 12 May 2022.
Thank you to David and the team for spotting my writing and recognising its potential impact.
My blog Facebook can be found as ‘KforKindling’.
Featured image sourced from Sight Magazine.

Translation: “The Greediest Dynasty in the World is Back” sourced from Bild Deutchland, 10 May 2022, via Anthony Saguid.

Many of you will know that I am Filipina, the past few days have been quite a journey following the Philippine election, culminating into a frightening result of the win of Marcos Jr. and Sara Duterte. There is speculation that their leadership style may be more despotic than their authoritarian parents (with proposals to ‘rewrite history’ on previous dictatorship) and I am worried that this is election result will genuinely risk lives in what could be a continued crackdown on activists and prolonged massacre of the poor. There are also significant fears around worries related to China’s influence in the South China Sea and beyond, especially on human rights matters.

I believe this is an election the world should be paying close attention to, as it fortells results of structural inequality through lack of civics education and the influence of social media. I have not yet seen an interpretation of results for friends who may not be familiar with Filipino politics. I also think I may have a different view, given my family’s heritage as working class rural Filipinos and growing up in the Western world.

The Philippines was and sadly still is a place where you can be ‘redtagged’ and assassinated for your political views.

Ferdinand Marcos is known for a reign of terror through martial law, widespread torture, politically motivated violence and corruption. After his rule, there was a period of hope with the Yellow Revolution where the country turned towards democracy and the idea of becoming a cosmopolitian and educated state. This was the kind of pattern hoped for with this post-Duterte election, moving towards a country free from extrajudicial killings, punitive culture and violence against the poor.

But yesterday morning, this was not to be. Leni Robredo, the opposition leader who was forecasted to win, fell further and further behind in the results.

Philippines has one of the highest percentage of social media users in the world, the majority of political engagement and general learning happens with the internet. This past few days, several whistleblowers called into local radio stations and posted on Reddit with revelations of mass paid troll farms and social media strategies to deliberately create discord. One of the most worrying allegations was the use of double agents, which I fear is starting to create divide within the Filipino activist communities. However, even without troll farms, many Filipino voters, especially in disenfranchised rural areas are single issue voters or may vote in exchange for food and essentials for their family- this is something I have witnessed personally.

This, combined with a country of varying levels of access to education and critical thinking, is a petri dish for mass disinformation. We may have seen seeds of this in the West, with the growth of disinformation and movements increasingly willing to turn to political violence.

I am watching the situation with apprehension, I am worried for my extended family. For those with family in the Philippines (or any other authoritarian country) who feels the same, it is high time to secure activism movements.

For those similarly disappointed by the result: Political participation is not just with the ballot box, it’s building awareness, learning as much as we can and thinking about how we can protect and empower vulnerable and disenfranchised people.


Photos Which Accompanied My Post:

Community pantry: “Free Market; Free to take, free to give. Share love, give free community shop”. The Duterte Administration had cracked down on these initiatives with the impression they were a challenge to his regime.
The late Pong Para-atman Spongtanyo, street artist known for his work showcasing the lives of the urban poor.
Babies of the Al Jazeera documentary ‘Deliverance’, part of a series on the Philippines called ‘The Slum’.
The 1988 ‘NO’ referendum of Chile, marking a new era free from Pinochet. This was documented in a 2012 film called ‘NO’. This is what many Filipinos hoped for this election, but alas…

Notes Regarding Facebook Comparisons Regarding Latin America and Philippines’ Parallels

(1) The cruel legacies of dictatorships continue long after their leaders.

(2) Often, successive leaders are voted to keep the bad ones out as opposed to for ideology, values or long term vision. This can be dangerous and not a long term solution.

(3) It’s important to move on from dictatorship, but not deny its presence and pretend it didn’t happen, otherwise, the country risks not learning from history.

(4) Voting for someone opposed to the bad stuff is not enough, opposing movements should also be held accountable and looked on with criticism and nuance.