In 2016, I will vote in the PH and US elections
I have a lot to look forward to in 2016. I will be able to do something for the first time that not many people get to do: vote in the elections of two different countries.
In May, I will be able to vote for the first time in the Philippine national elections, my country of residence, and in November, I will vote in the US elections, my country of birth.
I was born in the United States, but acquired dual citizenship in 2013 when I moved to Manila under the Dual Citizenship Act of 2003.
I’ve only lived in this country for 3 years and have been a part of Philippine media for most of this time. So when I decided that I would vote in both elections this 2016, there were 3 things that I considered:
1) Am I betraying my birth country, the US?
2) Who will I vote for?
3) Why am I voting?
Let’s start with number one. Am I betraying the country I was born and raised in? It took some thinking. But no, in the eyes of the law, it is the right of a dual citizen to vote.
I remember what it felt like voting in my first presidential election. I grew up under the president who started the “War on Terror” and ordered the invasion of a foreign country under false information, and whose rhetoric threatened the safety of peaceful Muslim-Americans, and whose leadership dragged the country into deep financial crisis. The debts of students and families were rising, wages were not. Everyone I knew were losing their homes they worked years to purchase, and so did we.
I was tired of Bush. I was tired of the status quo. And I was worried for the future. When 2008 came around and Bush couldn’t run anymore, I was excited.The candidates challenged the status quo, raised important issues and laid out their platforms on how they were going to move forward and try to change the grave errors of the Bush years.
But the most important lesson I took away from voting in that election was the importance of listening, studying and evaluating the platform of each candidate, and chosing the one I feel best fit to represent my needs.
In the Philippines that is not so easy, nor is voting approached the same way. I arrived in 2013 amid the mid-term elections where Senate, congressional and local positions were up for grabs. Where were their platforms? Debates? Why were there banners everywhere and why are people singing jingles instead of explaining their platforms on moving the Philippines forward? I didn't get it.
I had a lot to learn – and I still do.
Which brings me to number 2. Who will I vote for? At this point I am unsure. But I am crossing my fingers, toes, and praying that candidates this year will do a better job at not just saying what they will do, but how they will do it. Then I will be able to make my choice.
But I know better now than to just expect it, we must demand that our leaders answer these questions. I want to know how will the next administration and leaders work on making sure economic growth is inclusive? How do they plan on fixing the traffic mess in metropolitan areas across the country? Who will make sure that my tax money is being spent on fixing classrooms, building roads and making this country a safer place to live in, and not lining the pockets of politicians and other rich people? Who will bring the OFWs home?
Lastly, why am I voting? Because as a citizen, however late I may have acquired recognition of my citizenship, it is simply my duty.
Yes, I know elections here can turn chaotic and violent quickly. My vote could get stolen, thrown in a fire, miscounted, or any number of things. But it will not stop me from doing it.
So in May 2016, I will line up at a local precinct and cast my ballot and then in November I will also vote at the US embassy simply because I can and I should.
With every election we must vote wiser than the last. As political philosopher Alex de Tocqueville said, “In a democracy, people get the government they deserve.”
But just take a look out your window, or a walk down the street. It doesn't take a political philosopher to see that this is not the government we deserve. Or is it? – Rappler.com
Ryan Macasero was a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area, USA, before moving to Manila in 2013 to join Rappler. He is currently the #BalikBayan editor.