All the King's Horses

December 29, 2021

Chelsea Fernandez

“Man by nature is a political animal.” Two thousand years later, the famous words of Aristotle live on in the impassioned service of Paula*, a student volunteer for Atty. Chel Diokno’s 2022 Senatorial Campaign. Day after day, she looks out at the riotous expanse of a government that fails to govern, and says, “Enough is enough.”

 

As election season starts, Halalan 2022, or the 2022 Philippine Elections have proven to be one of the most divisive ones yet. Out in the streets, people are organizing caravans and fundraisers donning the political colors of their candidates. However, for Paula, her patriotism takes a different form.

 

As a volunteer I would describe myself as someone na very lowkey lang. Hindi ako sumasali sa mga committees na need i-publicize and super heavy workload, kase may school din. Pero I try na tumulong in some ways like sa pag-ayos ng server for that certain candidate, ganun.

 

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(As a volunteer, I would describe myself as someone who is very lowkey. I don’t join committees that need to be publicized, or those that have a super heavy workload, because I also have school. But I try to help in some ways such as setting up servers for that certain candidate.)

The Duterte administration has been criticized for both its heavy handed pursuit of discipline and its failure to fulfill key campaign promises. Since the 2016 inauguration, over 30,000 lawyers, activists and suspected drug users have been killed in the country’s Drug War, a figure only exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this, there has been no significant decline in the Philippines’ drug trade.

 

For Paula, there was no singular, defining moment that spurred her towards open defiance against the current regime, only the constant injustice that was dealt upon the Filipino people.

"Ah, siguro the turning point talaga was during the current president’s regime, the extrajudicial killings, ‘tas yung panget na government response. Dun ako napaisip na “Ano ‘to, parang mali ito, it has to be corrected.” ‘Tas it became a deeper understanding nung sumali ako ng NDMOs and volunteered."

 

(Ah, maybe the turning point was during the current president’s regime, the extrajudicial killings, and the substandard government response [to the pandemic]. There I thought, “This is wrong, it has to be corrected.” Then it became a deeper understanding when I joined NDMOs and volunteered.)

“Ano 'to, parang mali ito, it has to be corrected."

("This is wrong, it has to be corrected.")

According to her, vote buying may be one of the biggest problems in the upcoming elections. The gap between economic classes never fails to make itself so visible as in times of purchasing power. Paula makes a point not to blame the voters that fall victim to this, as

 

“Kinukuha nila yung bayad to vote for someone kasi naging biktima sila ng failed government response na yung dapat right ng lahat ay di nakakamit. So they have to really work hard and get financial support talaga from anyone, kase kailangan nila yun and that money will eventually lead them to survival, lalo na this pandemic."

(They accepted the cash to vote for someone because they themselves became victims of a failed government response wherein the rights of all are not met. So they have to really work hard to get financial support from anyone, because that is what they need and that money will eventually lead them to survival, especially this pandemic.)

Paula champions an increasingly progressive ideology, joining 1Sambayan, a political coalition made up of individuals and organizations dedicated to combating the current regime, and creating a unified opposition in the upcoming elections. She also joined a National Democratic Mass Organization (NDMO) named DIWA, that focused on educating the youth to take action against state-sanctioned tyranny.

 

Her primary goal is to win the fight to end red-tagging, the practice of labelling politically challenging figures to be “communists” or “enemies of the state”, and calls for the government to repeal the Anti-Terror Law of 2020. She also prompted the state to legalize abortion and same-sex marriage and to return the title of land to its “rightful owners, the farmers”.

Her vision, in her own words, goes:

“I wanted change for the Philippines [in the] mission and vision of the candidates that I am volunteering [for] right now. I wanted the Philippines to become better, and I just want our nation to be, uh, somehow, mapa-totoo yung “It’s More Fun in the Philippines"

Her undisturbed passion rivals only her role in the social hierarchy. As a student, she finds herself at the mercy of the whims of authority figures whose views parallel that of her own. When asked about what got her into politics, she said, “Pamilya. BBM tsaka DDS sila. So, like, anubayan. Eh, dati na brainwash pa ako.” (Family. They are [Bongbong Marcos supporters] and [Diehard Duterte supporters]. So, like, what’s up with that? In the past, I used to be brainwashed.) This, she says, is her greatest fear: to be caught helping the opposition.

Despite her personal circumstances, she is adamant in her right to exercise her democratic freedoms.

 

“I don’t believe in someone who is apolitical, but rather they are just someone who doesn’t want to get involved. [They are the ones] staying safe and more on leaning on the side of the oppressor.”

 

To this point, she urges everyone to be more active in the political spheres in which they participate, as democracy is both a right and a responsibility, dependent on the contributions of its constituents. According to her, those who shout the loudest in times of crisis, are those who just want to be heard.

 

“I think they’re just ordinary people. They’re just Filipino. Kase at the end of the day, Filipinos lang sila na gusto ng mas magandang Pilipinas (Because at the end of the day, they are just Filipinos that want a better Philippines). For me kase, as a volunteer, I never thought of them as depending on their class. I thought of them as volunteers because they wanted change… and always remember na just because they criticize the government doesn’t mean they are part of panatiko sila ng certain political color. They just exercise their right to criticize the government and pro-Filipinos sila. No color, Filipinos lang talaga. Yan lang.”

 

Lahat ng mga Kabayo ng Hari

December 29, 2021

Chelsea Fernandez

“Natural na mga politikal na hayop  ang tao.” Makalipas ang dalawang libong taon, ang tanyag na mga salita ni Aristotle ay nanatili sa walang kupas na serbisyo ni Paula*, isang estudyanteng boluntaryo sa kampanya para sa pagsesenador ni Atty. Chel Diokno sa darating na 2022 senadorial na eleksyon. Araw-araw, tinitignan niya ang lawak ng gulo na nabigong pamunuan ng gobyerno, at sabay sabing, “Tama na.”


Sa pagsisimula ng panahon ng eleksyon, ang Halalan 2022 o ang 2022 Philippine Elections ang isa sa pinatunayang pinaka nakagagambala sa ngayon. Sa mga lansangan, nag-oorganisa ang mga tao ng caravans at ang mga fundraisers naman ay nakasuot ng sagisisag na kulay ng kanilang sinusuportahang kandidato. Gayunpaman, para kay Paula, ang kanyang pagkamakabayan ay may ibang anyo.

As a volunteer I would describe myself as someone na very lowkey lang. Hindi ako sumasali sa mga committees na need i-publicize and super heavy workload, kase may school din. Pero I try na tumulong in some ways like sa pag-ayos ng server for that certain candidate, ganun.

 

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(Bilang isang volunteer mailalarawan ko ang sarili ko na tahimik lang. Hindi ako sumasali sa mga komite na kailangang isapubliko, o yung may mga mabibigat na trabaho kasi nag-aaral pa ako. Pero sinusubukan kong makatulong sa ibang paraan katulad ng pag-aayos ng mga server para sa partikular na kandidatong iyon, ganun.)

 

Ang administrasyong Duterte ay matagal nang napuna dahil sa mahigpit nitong pagpapatupad ng disiplina at ang kabiguan nitong gampanan ang mga pangunahing pangako ng kanyang kampanya. Mula noong inagurasyon ng taong 2016, mahigit 30,000 na mga abogado, aktibista, at mga pinaghihinalaang gumagamit ng droga ang pinatay sa ilalim ng kampanya kontra rito; mga  numerong lalong lumala sa pagsimula ng pandemya dulot ng COVID-19. Sa kabila nito, wala paring nangyayaring mahalagang pagbabago sa kalakalan ng droga sa Pilipinas. 

 

Para kay Paula, walang mahalagang pangyayaring nag-udyok sa kanya upang ipahayag ang bukas na pagsalungat sa kasalukuyang rehimen, tanging ang patuloy na kawalan ng katarungan na dinaranas ng mga Pilipino. 

"Ah, siguro the turning point talaga was during the current president’s regime, the extrajudicial killings, ‘tas yung panget na government response. Dun ako napaisip na “Ano ‘to, parang mali ito, it has to be corrected.” ‘Tas it became a deeper understanding nung sumali ako ng NDMOs and volunteered."

 

(Ah, siguro ang naging kasukdulan talaga ay [ng kanyang pagpasya] noong kasalukuyang rehimen, yung mga extrajudicial killings, at ang mahinang tugon ng gobyerno [sa pandemya]. Dun ako napaisip na “Ano ‘to, parang mali ito, kailangan itong maitama.” tapos ay mas naging malalim ang pagunawa ko nung sumali ako ng NDMOs at naging volunteer.)

“Ano 'to, parang mali ito, it has to be corrected."

("Ano 'to, parang mali ito, kailangan itong maitama.")

Ayon sa kanya, ang pagbili ng boto ay maaring maging isa sa malalaking problema ng darating na halalan. Ang puwang sa pagitan ng mga katayuan sa buhay ng mga Pilipino ay hindi maitatangging kitang-kita sa oras nang pagbili ng posisyon. Pinahayag ni Paula ang kanyang punto na hindi dapat sisihin ang mga botanteng biktima nito, 

 

“Kinukuha nila yung bayad to vote for someone kasi naging biktima sila ng failed government response na yung dapat right ng lahat ay di nakakamit. So they have to really work hard and get financial support talaga from anyone, kase kailangan nila yun and that money will eventually lead them to survival, lalo na this pandemic."

(Kinukuha nila yung bayad upang iboto ang isang kandidato dahil naging biktima sila ng palpak na tugon ng gobyerno, na yung dapat karapatan ng lahat ay di nakakamit. Kaya kailangan talaga nilang magtrabaho ng lubos at tanggapin ang pinansyal na suporta mula kahit kanino, kasi kailangan nila yun at ang perang iyon ay makatutulong sa kanila lalo na ngayong pandemya.)

Nagtataglay si Paula ng patuloy na umuunlad na ideolohiya sa pagsali sa 1Sambayanan, isang politikal na koalisyon na binubuo ng mga indibidwal at mga organization na dedikado sa pakikipaglaban sa kasalukuyang rehimen, at gumagawa ng pinag-isang oposisyon sa darating na halalan. Siya ay sumali din sa isang National Democratic Mass Organization (NDMO) na tinatawag na DIWA, na nakatuon sa pagpapamulat sa mga kabataan na gumawa ng aksyon laban sa mga paniniil na pinapahintulutan ng estado.


Ang kanyang pangunahing layunin ay ang manalo sa laban upang wakasan ang red-tagging. Ito ay ang kagawiang tatakan ang mga indibidwal na hinahamon ang mga namumuno sa pulitika, bilang mga “komunista” o “kalaban ng bansa”, at ang panawagan sa gobyerno upang bawiin ang Anti-Terror-Law ng 2020. Kanya ring hinimok ang estado na gawing legal ang abortion o ang pagpapalaglag at ang same-sex marriage, at na ibalik ang mga titulo ng lupa sa mga “nararapat na may-ari nito, ang mga magsasaka”

Ang kanyang pananaw sa kanyang sariling mga salita:

“I wanted change for the Philippines [in the] mission and vision of the candidates that I am volunteering [for] right now. I wanted the Philippines to become better, and I just want our nation to be, uh, somehow, mapa-totoo yung “It’s More Fun in the Philippines"

(Gusto ko ng pagbabago para sa Pilipinas [sa] mission at vision ng mga kandidatong pinagboboluntaryuhan ko ngayon. Gusto kong maging maayos ang Pilipinas, at gusto ko lang na ang bansa natin ay, kahit papaano, mapa-totoo yung “It’s More Fun in the Philippines.”)

Ang tanging hadlang sa kanyang hindi mabuwag na haling ay ang kanyang papel sa lipunan. Bilang isang estudyante, nakikita niya ang kanyang sarili sa ilalim ng kapritso ng mga indibidwal na may awtoridad na ang mga pananaw ay hanay sa kanya. Kapag siya ay tinatanong kung ano ang nagdala sa kanya sa pagkakaroon ng interes sa pulitika, sambit niya,  “Pamilya. BBM tsaka DDS sila. So, like, anubayan. Eh, dati na brainwash  pa ako.” Wika niya, ito, ang lubos niyang ikinatatakot: ang mahuling tinutulungan ang  oposisyon.

Sa kabila ng mga personal na mga pangyayari, siya ay desidido na gamitin ang kanyang karapatan sa demokratikong kalayaan.

 

“I don’t believe in someone who is apolitical, but rather they are just someone who doesn’t want to get involved. [They are the ones] staying safe and more on leaning on the side of the oppressor.”

 

(Hindi ako naniniwala sa isang taong nagsasabing na sila ay apolitikal, dahil sa halip, ayaw lamang nilang makisali. [Sila yung mga] nag-iingat at mas sumusuporta sa kampo ng mga maniniil.)

Sa kanyang puntong ito, hinihimok niya ang lahat upang maging mas aktibo pagdating sa larangang pampulitika kung saan sila ay kabahagi, dahil ang demokrasya ay parehong karapatan at responsibilidad, na nakadepende sa kontribusyon ng kanyang nasasakupan. Ayon sa kanya, yung mga taong sumisigaw ng malakas sa mga panahon ng krisis, ay ang mga taong nais lamang mapakinggan.

 

“I think they’re just ordinary people. They’re just Filipino. Kase at the end of the day, Filipinos lang sila na gusto ng mas magandang Pilipinas (Because at the end of the day, they are just Filipinos that want a better Philippines). For me kase, as a volunteer, I never thought of them as depending on their class. I thought of them as volunteers because they wanted change… and always remember na just because they criticize the government doesn’t mean they are part of panatiko sila ng certain political color. They just exercise their right to criticize the government and pro-Filipinos sila. No color, Filipinos lang talaga. Yan lang.”

(Sa tingin ko, sila’y mga ordinaryong tao lamang. Sila’y mga Pilipino lamang. Kase sa huli, Pilipino lang sila na gusto ng mas magandang Pilipinas. Para sa akin kasi, bilang isang volunteer, hindi ko sila iniisip na depende sa kung anong estado nila sa buhay. Iniisip ko sila bilang mga volunteers dahil gusto nila ng pagbabago...at laging tandaan na hindi dahil lang sa pinupuna nila ang gobyerno, ibig sabihin na sila ay parte ng panatiko ng isang partikular na politikal  na kulay. Ginagamit lang nila ang kanilang karapatan na punain ang gobyerno at maka-Pilipino sila. Walang kulay, Pilipino lang talaga, Yan lang.)