Letter to a young voter
You have learned about our rich history, diverse cultures and beautiful land.
You have learned about our plunderers — Filipinos and foreigners alike — and how they conquered us by exploiting our divisions.
You have learned, in and out of school, about the predicament of our rural and urban poor: from the farmers who are massacred in the name of anti-insurgency operations to the informal settlers who are killed in the name of a fake “war on drugs.” You have also seen the glaring inequality of privilege and misery coexisting in the cities where we live.
You know that this state of affairs is not acceptable, but you think you can make a difference. Most of the time, you’re never really 100-percent sure about anything, but deep in your heart, you know that you love the country and care for social justice.
Which was why you actually registered to vote for this elections — perhaps for the first time in your life — and bothered to look at the candidates’ platforms, promises and track records.
Which was why, on Monday, you actually turned out to vote.
Which is why today you are devastated, because many, if not all, of your senatorial choices seem to have lost, while those who clearly do not deserve to hold any government office are firmly in the winning circle.
How could they vote for those liars and thieves? You ask. How can they support people who have all but pledged blind allegiance to a tyrannical President, even as they proudly profess ignorance about lawmaking?
You entertain the thought — suggested by some — that the elections were rigged. You recall how many of the candidates made a mockery of campaign rules with impunity; how requests for more debates were roundly rejected; how the results were delayed by inexplicable glitches. Clearly, you conclude, the Commission on Elections was incompetent, corrupt or both.
But with surveys consistently showing the same candidates rising, you also acknowledge that beyond your bubble, many of the winning candidates are indeed popular. You marvel at how a combination of money and power can shamelessly but surely buy a Senate or party list seat; you lament that a teleserye appearance can weigh more than a distinguished public service career.
You think of your exams, the coming finals week, your looming workload. What’s the point of studying in a kakistocracy, paying taxes in a kleptocracy, working hard in a country where merit does not seem to matter? Despite your professed love for the country, you find yourself entertaining, even if momentarily, the thought of migrating elsewhere.
My foremost response is to say that I understand and share your frustration. Who would not feel devastated today? Like the snap elections of February 1986, like the quo warranto decision, this is a moment when one cannot but weep for the motherland.
Even so, I want you to know that your act of voting was not for naught.
In the first place, your vote is likely the main reason why you care so much about the outcome. Because you voted, you’re especially outraged at the thought that cheating took place. Because you voted for them, you feel a connection with your candidates. And because you voted, you realize that elections are not the end-all and be-all of democracy, and that you must stay engaged in our politics.
In the second place, there are other races where your vote may have been decisive after all. Within and beyond the Senate race, once-invincible “trapos” (traditional politicians) have fallen, and so have once-unbeatable dynasties. While our eyes are on the national stage, don’t underestimate the potential of local government officials to effect meaningful change in your community.
Finally, your vote matters for the senatorial candidates you voted for. Indeed, the fact that millions voted for them will certainly be an encouragement to run again in the future and to continue being voices of independence and dissent. Even now, their dignified, resolute postelection speeches remind us that we already have worthy leaders in our midst — we just need to work harder to get them elected.
They may not have won this time around, but they have given us something that you and I must not let go of in the months and years to come: Hope.
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