COMMENT: On to the next fight for Leni Robredo’s Pink Movement

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Supporters of Vice President Leni Robredo gather at the Ateneo de Manila University during Robredo's thanksgiving event last May 13. (Photo: VP Leni Robredo's Facebook Page)
Supporters of Vice President Leni Robredo gather at the Ateneo de Manila University during Robredo's thanksgiving event last May 13. (Photo: VP Leni Robredo's Facebook Page)

It has been exactly a week now since the Filipino electorate trooped to their respective polling precincts to cast their votes. A lot has happened since.

I will not deny it: I have been dispirited about the presumptive results of the 2022 Philippine elections. Not only did my presidential bet – the one with the most impressive and visible credentials and track record and the one that BBC described as a “dream candidate” – lose the race, but the presidential bet with the least impressive and visible credentials and track record is poised to win.

In the past seven months, the country and even the world have seen the great “Pink Movement” that Robredo’s campaign has birthed. It would be impossible to define this movement without the volunteerism (or “Bayanihan” as we call it in the Philippines) from celebrities and influencers, educational institutions, and different religious groups down to the private individuals who all contributed, whether big or small, to this campaign. This is evident in the hundreds of thousands of supporters who thronged Robredo’s campaign sorties and the establishment of several volunteer groups such as Teachers For Leni, Lawyers For Leni, and Doctors For Leni, among many others.

But things were not all pink and roses. I do not want to be the party pooper here, but let us face it: the machinery of the abusive powers proved to be too big already that even the overwhelming turnout of the Pink Movement was not enough.

Maybe we really did not do enough. After all, the fact that we gave Imee Marcos a position in the Senate, that Imelda Marcos is not yet in prison, that the dictator Ferdinand Marcos was buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (with full military honors!), and that his son Bongbong was even allowed to run for the presidency should tell us already that we did not do enough to keep them from ever returning to power.

Robredo’s loss...tells me that the Philippines is looking like a helpless case already. Because if what we saw as the great Pink Movement was not yet enough to campaign for the opposition, then what will be enough?

We managed to throw them out of power back in 1986, but we failed to sustain the fight.

So, now, they are back in Malacañang.

Disinformation is the true winner in this year’s election. We saw in this campaign how disinformation trumped experts, historical data, and facts. How do we compete against their machinery of amplifying their disinformation campaign that, as we saw, can poison millions of Filipino voters’ minds and whitewash the atrocities of the Marcoses during the Martial Law?

It pains me to say this but Robredo’s loss, despite all the great efforts from high-profile individuals and groups to the people in the grassroots and various sectors, tells me that the Philippines is looking like a helpless case already. Because if what we saw as the great Pink Movement was not yet enough to campaign for the opposition, then what will be enough?

Two types of leaders

When Marcos lost to Robredo in the vice presidential race last 2016, he spent P66 million ($1.2 million) on his electoral protests. His protests continued even though the Supreme Court had already ruled in favor of Robredo.

But now that Robredo is tailing far behind Marcos in the 2022 presidential race, Robredo said that she will focus her energy on fighting disinformation (Tsek.PH, an academe-based fact-checking initiative, revealed early this year that Robredo is the "biggest victim" of disinformation while Marcos is the beneficiary of positive but misleading messaging on social media) and launching the largest volunteer network in the Philippines through Angat Buhay NGO.

Then and now, Marcos and Robredo show us the two types of government leaders that there are in the world: one who is part of a political dynasty and who is not, one who is after the power and who is after the service, and one who ran a heavily funded machinery and one who mounted a volunteer-run campaign. Marcos never managed to lay down concrete plans while Robredo already had everything planned out and yet, in the end, Marcos is winning.

Marcos is a liar and a coward, corrupt and incompetent. I am saying these based on historical data and records. So how has it become okay for my countrymen to have that kind of person become the next president?

How did the Philippines come to this point, where we elect a person based on their popularity and where we disregard their lack of platforms and agenda, non-attendance to important debates and forums, and brutal past?

The Filipino people have become a curious case of a different kind of electorate. For one, Marcos is a liar and a coward, corrupt and incompetent. I am saying these based on historical data and records. So how has it become okay for my countrymen to have that kind of person become the next president? The search for answers seems to be unending because I know I will never be able to find an acceptable one.

Maybe Robredo is right. Maybe combating disinformation and formalizing the country’s largest volunteer network would be the start of a true people’s campaign against the greediness of the Marcoses. Maybe the Philippines is not yet a helpless case, as I hope so.

The fight for Robredo is not yet over. She may have lost the presidential race but I believe she is also in the position to be the main opposition leader, especially now that the incoming administration does not seem to have a key opposition figure. In a democracy, it is only right to have one.

The fight for the Pink Movement, on the other hand, is also not yet over as they are now challenged to stay in the movement and continue what they have started. Now that Robredo is taking upon a bigger challenge, are members of the Pink Movement also up for it?

While we have failed to keep the Marcoses from returning to Malacañang, the 15-million-strong Pink Movement still has the power to show the kind of change the country needs.

Juju Z. Baluyot is a Manila-based writer who writes in-depth special reports, news features, and opinion-editorial pieces for a wide range of publications. He covers cultures, media, gender, and the 2022 Philippine elections. The views expressed are his own.

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