It’s been awhile, we know. Rappler editors have not visited your inbox lately because of the workload that the May 9 elections required. But the dust has settled, so to speak.
On Wednesday, May 25, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Sara Duterte were proclaimed president-elect and vice president-elect, respectively – even as there is probably no end yet to celebration or grief depending on the choices you’ve made.
Rappler made a choice in the last elections. It’s the choice to prevent lies from shaping the campaign and determining its outcome. It’s the choice to ask the difficult questions in an environment that rewards sycophancy. It’s the choice to tell it like it is.
We made this choice very clear early on.
When we launched our #WeDecide: Atin ang Pilpinas election coverage in May 2021, we declared: “In our coverage of the campaigns and elections, as our partner communities serve their localities and sectors, we will take back our regard for life, our respect for the others’ rights, our compassion for our neighbors, our dignity as workers, our capability to give our families a decent life. We will exact accountabilities as taxpayers.”
Our video series “Marcos Imbento, Bistado” is as in-your-face as one could get – because we are not in the business of nuancing a lie. A lie is a lie.
The FactsFirstPH coalition which we spearheaded did not merely build networks of truth-tellers that countered disinformation but also took the path of holding to account those behind it – one step at a time. Because facts are facts. For example: Our new president is the son of a dictator; our new vice president is the daughter of a tyrant. They won on account of their family names. That’s a fact.
The choices we made have had consequences – on the stories we pursued and did not pursue, on the hard truths we demanded, on the access we needed but were often denied, and on the perception of a hyper-partisan voting public.
Rappler is not only red and yellow but also pink, goes the info-ops line that is pushed to an efficient machine each time we come up with critical stories or blunt headlines. Rappler is being “tech-deterministic” and “elitist” by highlighting disinformation as the main problem not just in the elections that just passed, but also in the narrow democratic space that we’re living in, rue people who forget that we’ve tackled inequality, injustice, and incompetence in the same scale in the last decade since we were born. This was never a question of “either or” to us; it was a question of where the train wreck was headed this May – and we knew it was headed in the highways of lies. We did not pluck this from some theory or ideology; we see and live it every day.
Still, there is much to learn from the elections, and much more to unlearn. We, at Rappler, are going through that.
We are the choices we make.
Isko Moreno chose to play the Duterte Lite and Marcos Lite games, and he got some spanking on election day.
Ping Lacson chose to run for the simple reason that he wanted to, and voters saw through that.
Leni Robredo chose to bank on a volunteer movement that was untested in vote-getting, and now would like to harness it for what it can actually deliver.
Even Marcos Jr. believes that he should be judged through the “meaningful appointments” he’d make and not for how he would spend his first 100 days, in the words of his spokesperson and soon-to-be executive secretary, Vic Rodriguez.
So what do we make of Marcos’ initial choices so far?
Three appointments, aside from the cocky Rodriguez, are clearly campaign paybacks: Sara Duterte for education (though that’s not what she wanted, but that’s another story); Benhur Abalos for interior and local government (he managed the campaign dutifully even as LAM – Liza Araneta Marcos – hovered above him); Boying Remulla for justice (Cavite delivered big time on election day).
Then there are the professionals who rose in the ranks in the bureaucracy on their own merit: Arsenio Balisacan, who had served under Noynoy Aquino as NEDA director general and in various government posts prior, is returning to the same post. Benny Laguesma, who was labor chief under the Estrada administration but honed his skills as a conciliator in the 1980s, is also returning to the same post. Susan “Toots” Ople, a persistent migrant workers’ rights advocate who served as labor undersecretary under Arroyo, has been nominated to head the newly-created Department of Migrant Workers.
A top banker took all these choices in stride, telling me that the incoming administration was merely trying to balance the scales between the “deodorizers” and the “kawatan.” Ouch.
Whatever it is, in the aftermath of a bruising election, those who took the campaign to heart are left with clear choices as well: whether to rebuild or to fence-sit; to push back or to again nuance a lie; to repair democratic decay or to embrace its seeming inevitability.
There’s always a choice. The challenge has always been whether we know – and are ready for – its consequences.