Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Let a Million Lenis Bloom

By John Din, CLM

Regional Coordinator

Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation - Philippines


    After decades of historical denialism and massive disinformation campaign through social media, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr, son of the former dictator, Ferdinand Marcos, Sr, has been elected as the 17th president of the Philippines.

    The campaign period was characterized by a battle between truth and lies. There were ten presidential candidates but the race was narrowed down to Leni Robredo and Bongbong Marcos. According to Marites Vitug, a noted Filipino journalist and author, “Nothing less than democracy is at stake with this election.”

Vice President Leni Robredo
Vice President Leni Robredo
    Vloggers and trolls, while calling for “unity”, constantly bombarded the public with spliced videos in TikTok and Facebook posts aimed at vilifying the image of Vice President Leni Robredo, a staunch opposition to the son of the dictator. Although Bongbong Marcos denied having trolls, studies have shown that most of the social media campaigns boosted the image of the Marcoses while Robredo’s image was disparaged and berated.

    She has been accused of all types of falsehoods, such as being a communist, being the mastermind behind the killing of her own husband, bobo (stupid) and a puppet of the Aquino-led Liberal Party, among others. Even her three daughters were not spared from the vicious attacks.

    These started when Robredo ran as vice president in 2016, narrowly beating Marcos. The latter filed for a recount thrice, but the Supreme Court unanimously dismissed the case against Robredo in 2021. Despite the final judgment, Bongbong and his trolls continue to claim that he was cheated out of the vice presidency.

    As a public officer, Leni Robredo has inspired community volunteerism from all walks of life, from farmers to fisherfolks, religious people from different denominations and interfaith groups, priests, sisters and lay to professionals, artists, the LGBTQ community, street vendors, young and old, the healthy and the sick, etc. Multitudes of supporters flocked to attend her rallies in which food sharing, caring for each other’s well-being and helping each other to clean up after the event became a reoccurring sight. Hers was a campaign moved and financed with contributions from ordinary people, one that is comparable to the spirit of volunteerism that appeared to be dormant since the 1986 EDSA revolution.  In seven months, her campaign rating rose from 8% to 28%. Still, this was no match to the political machinery and well-funded disinformation strategy of the son of the dictator. 

Crisente, rightmost, with his family

      Former Columban Lay Missionary Crisente Talitayan and his family are inspired by the volunteerism and vision of Leni Robredo. Crisente is a member of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) in Zamboanga del Sur, Mindanao. In one of their meetings, it was recommended that every Catholic family would put a poster against vote-buying on their houses and to include the phrase: “Dili mi modawat ug kwarta.” (We do not receive money.) Many reacted to this phrase. Those who complained preferred to just put the no vote-buying phrase. The reason was that they are afraid that it will create division among their families, since some members of their families are working with the three candidates who are known to buy votes.

Crisente's daughter

     Crisente decided against the opinion of the many and created a poster that says, “We are a Catholic family; we do not receive money.” Together with his wife and children, they created a poster and hung it outside their house. They also posted it on their Facebook page.

    On their Facebook page, many suggested that the poster should be shared to all. Crisente said he tried to offer the poster to other Catholic families in the parish, but they refused saying they might not have the chance to receive Php3,000.00 (USD57), Ph 6,000.00 (USD114) or Php8,000.00 (USD152) from the candidates.

    Inspired by Leni, Crisente stood for the truth and that inspired many of us navigating in the flood of lies perpetrated by her opponents. Unfortunately, she lost in the election. Her effect was no match to the machinery run by lies, power and money. She was only one, who inspired a movement against all odds. But, imagine if more people like her bloom in public service…. So, in the midst of the looming martial law 2.0, let a million Lenis and Kikos* bloom….

*Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan was the running mate of Leni Robredo for VP and shares the same advocacies and views with Leni.  He is a lawyer, politician and farm owner who has been serving as a senator of the Philippines since 2016.

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