There you go. Leni Robredo is running for president - a non-surprise for the most part, but considering how limp and disorganized the opposition has been in light of the dominating style of Rodrigo Duterte, the fact that they finally convinced the highest-ranking elected official to not be under the fistbump umbrella to seek even higher office must be a sigh of relief for her acolytes and supporters.
And so it was that today, in a piece of political theater that should be effective but really isn't, our social media feeds were filled with pink. Celebrities of a certain income class - of a certain level of civility? - had the same message as a downtrodden people who are suddenly filled with hope that, on an immediate level, there will be an end to the past five years of self-serving incompetence and despotic-in-all-but-name attitudes. Leni is running, and therefore Leni will win.
Oh, yes, I did say it's ineffective political theater, right?
For one, social media. My feeds were overwhelmed today with anything and everything pink (or fuschia, it's really hard to tell) because the Internet thinks I am more interested in seeing posts from folks of that particular political persuasion. Either that, or the people you think I should block - the people from "the other side" - haven't really twigged to the fact that this is happening and that they have to have a half-witty retort to poke fun at how stupid the pinks (these are the new rules of engagement - "yellows" are off the table) are. Also, pink. Isn't that gay? They're probably considering saying that, but don't want to be canceled.
My point was, Leni's supporters had long fallen down the trap they claim to not want to be in: they think the world agrees with them. It all began when they blocked anybody with a different political persuasion, in the name of "self-love" or "their politics reflect their humanity". Now they're surrounded with like-minded folks, they believe that there's overwhelming support for their candidate, and that they can vanquish the tyranny of a Duterte-backed candidate - or, worse, a Marcos - and proclaim victory for themselves. Er, I mean the country.
Somehow contributing to this thinking is the belief that, since their candidate represents the "pure" and "true" opposition to Duterte and his policies, they'll be able to attract anyone and everyone who's disillusioned with the past five years - if not that, certainly the last almost-nineteen months - and that will bring them victory. Er, the country, the Philippines that I love more than those idiots. The thinking is, the other major presidential candidates so far - Ping Lacson, Isko Moreno, the Marcos dude - have, at some point or another, agreed with the current president, and that makes them, I don't know, "false" opposition. If you're going to repudiate all that's happened in the past few years, go with someone who's actually repudiated all of it! Or something.
Of course, it's not going to win them anything.
Their out-of-touch smugness aside, they're making another mistake they ought to have learned from in 2016: making Leni's election an all-or-nothing issue. It's either you repudiate Digong by voting for Leni, or you support him by voting for anybody else. Well, Noynoy Aquino deployed that all-or-nothing tactic a lot when he was president, and old habits are hard to shake off. It's not that easy or clear-cut, of course. As I wrote before, there is a long way to go for Leni to be trusted by a good number of Filipinos with their vote. And I remembered all this in that conversation I had with my barber and my manicurist a couple of weeks back.
I mentioned then that the prospect of them choosing Leni for president was never in the cards. They just aren't sure what she has done. (Of course her office has done a lot of projects, particularly during the pandemic - proof, supporters say, that she's actually done something, as opposed to the president.) They'd rather entrust their vote for someone who has demonstrated actual results. And so my barber, while giving me a massage, had this sort-of soliloquy about why he would vote for Isko Moreno.
"Ang Pilipino, matalino. Alam kong alam nila na masama kapag si Duterte ulit ang naging presidente."
Of course he was going to run for vice president, only for his Go-fer to slide down to that position when it became clear, it seems, that he's lost too much of his political capital to attempt a run for the second highest office in the land. But anyway.
"Alam nila na kapag si Duterte naging presidente, puro lockdown pa rin. Maraming mawawalan ng trabaho, maraming maghihirap. Wala naman siyang ginawa, puro lockdown lang. Eh si Isko? Si Isko, may nagawa. Ang dami niyang ginawa sa Maynila. At saka alam ko na mabuti siyang tao. Alam ko na disente siyang tao. Mabait siya. Hindi siya nagmumura. Hindi siya nang-iinsulto. At marami pa siyang nagawa. Kaya siguro si Isko ang iboboto ko sa eleksiyon."
A couple of hours after the formal announcement, when the euphoria of Leni finally running for president died down, I saw a bunch of posts from supporters trying to keep a check on each other. We're all on an echo chamber. At least they're aware. It's up to us to educate everybody else if we are to make Leni president.
And then I thought, educate? They have to be educated? No wonder they think you're smug and out of touch. They're not stupid just because they don't think the way you do. And if the very real probability of Leni not winning happens - complete with a side campaign to make Isko suspend his ambitions to "unify" the opposition, very much an echo of Mar Roxas and Grace Poe in 2016 - it's not because these other folks let you down. It's because you think you're high and mighty, that you're entitled to win because you're with the "pure" and "true" opposition. It was never about uniting the country. It was about giving yourself the satisfaction of being right on a national scale. You're never going to convince anybody if you're that easy to read.