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Pink revolution

In a country where recall matters to get elected, a “pink revolution” is making waves after Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo announced her intention to run for the presidency. The internet has been awash with her color, and last Saturday saw well-attended caravans and mobilizations across the country to support her candidacy.

But how long can Robredo sustain the momentum? In the past elections, vicious attacks were made against presidential candidates that then doomed their prospects. Her predecessor, Jejomar Binay, was topping the surveys a year before the 2016 elections, only to fall to fourth place come election day.

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Binay’s fate should serve as a lesson to Robredo’s camp. Running as an independent candidate and using the pink color to shy away from the “dilawan” branding is a good start. The more substantive part is how can Robredo be presented as someone who is relatable and compassionate yet strong and competent. How can she break away from the landed elite and traditional political families associated with her erstwhile camp, the Liberal Party, that have dominated Philippine politics for so long? How can she go beyond campaign slogans by crafting and delivering solid socioeconomic results that are felt by ordinary citizens?

The next Philippine president will lead a country profoundly wounded by the mismanagement of the current health crisis, traumatized by corruption scandals, polarized and riven by personality politics bordering on cult worship, threatened by the geopolitical competition between China and the United States, and increasingly crushed by the impact of climate change. Winning the critical May 2022 election matters a whole lot. But democracy is not just about the procedural aspect of getting elected. The main business of democracy is to select, via the majority’s vote and consent, the best person who would lead the country and work to improve the people’s well-being.

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The opposition remains deeply divided at this time. It is very difficult to defeat an administration that has proven time and again to be a strategic force, with proven experience in swaying public opinion in its favor by fair means or foul. The opposition must respond with the same smarts and cunning; it needs to strategize as much if not more.

The opposition that Robredo seeks to lead is a mixture of ideologies, income classes, and regional backgrounds. Its members and leading figures come from the left, right, and center, from the landed elite on one hand to the working classes on the other, along with the intellectuals, millennials, the middle class, etc. If Robredo’s team does not manage this well, there will be further divisions and conflicts, which would likely lead to the opposition’s dismal electoral defeat.

Serious discussions are needed on how these varying interest groups can work together for long-term common goals. The coalition may win the elections as a unified front, only to break away and fight with each other if Robredo does win. The resulting disappointments and broken promises would be yet another opportunity for a would-be dictator to exploit later. Thus, it is crucial for the opposition to come together and create a concrete policy road map that would maximize the participation of various interest groups in this country. While this administration thrives in the “othering” of Filipinos — chiefly “dilawan versus DDS” — Robredo has the chance to change the narrative and provide a space where citizens can work together even if they disagree with each other, for the sake of the country’s future.

This message must come across to people — that Robredo has empathy and warmth while she is also competent and evidence-informed in her approach to governance. Robredo’s team can harness the drive of tech-savvy young people to spread her message of hope across the country’s various sectors and regions. Robredo’s burgeoning pink revolution should be a strategic machinery and movement meant not only to earn her the presidency, but, more importantly, to deliver genuine change for the Filipino people, who have been yearning for it for so long.

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Ron Jay P. Dangcalan is an assistant professor and political economist at the Department of Social Development Services, College of Human Ecology, University of the Philippines Los Baños.

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TAGS: #VotePH2022, 2022 presidential race, Commentary, Leni Robredo, Pink Revolution, Ron Jay P. Dangcalan
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