[OPINION] For the opposition, all hope is not lost
All but 3 seats (belonging to Grace Poe and Nancy Binay, who just got reelected, and Lito Lapid, who made a successful comeback after 3 years) were won by either Duterte-supported or Hugpong ng Pagbabago-anointed candidates, the coalition created by Sara Duterte, the President’s daughter who also got reelected as mayor of Davao City for another 3 years.
Social media sites were flooded with somber posts from netizens who expected Senate seats for opposition bets such as Otso Diretso’s Chel Diokno, Samira Gutoc, or former Representative Neri Colmenares. However—and I know that people are going to hate me for this—I anticipated their losses as early as December last year.
Many netizens fear the administration’s total sweep in the senatorial polls would deprive citizens of the much needed checks and balances in the government. Many also fear a “rubber stamp” Senate, although Senate President Tito Sotto maintained that the Senate will remain independent.
For the opposition, it might take some time to examine what happened in the recently concluded polls.
However, the best questions to ask ourselves after this election are not "Who gets the blame for the opposition's loss?" or "Is the election rigged or not?" The two questions that need to be answered for now are, first, where did we go wrong? And where do we go from here? (READ: [OPINION] Should we be optimistic after the 2019 elections?)
For the first question, it's straightforward. One can offer at least 3 explanations for where we went wrong.
First, we were wrong on underestimating Duterte's popularity. We were relying on the notion that social issues such as policies on China, inflation, or economic growth eroded Duterte’s popularity. It didn’t; in fact, it can be compared to former presidents Fidel V. Ramos (FVR) or even Noynoy Aquino (PNoy)—with at least very good rating.
Duterte’s policy issues are also widely approved and lauded by most Filipinos, as clearly reflected in opinion polls by SWS or Pulse Asia.
In addition to this, the opposition erred on choosing a strategy on how to deal with the President’s popularity. As we can see, and as observed by how they campaigned, the opposition took an offensive stance against the President; they presented themselves as the boxers, with the administration as the punching bag.
This strategy would’ve worked under a widely unpopular president, but it won’t work under a popular one, let alone an extremely popular president. As a result, this strategy backfired.
Even if the opposition presented a clear policy solution to fix the current administration’s problems, in the eyes of a regular voter, it’s just more and more criticism.
Lastly, we focused so much on our echo chambers that we forgot the bigger struggles outside of it. Otso Diretso’s grassroots social media campaigns – particularly Chel Diokno’s – mobilized the youth the same way Duterte made the netizens rally behind him.
However, the problem with this was it only focused so much on Twitter that at one point, it’s nauseating seeing identical tweets promoting Diokno, Hilbay, or Gutoc, catering to the same people repeatedly. It’s not just algorithm; Twitter became an echo chamber for progressives.
Despite these mistakes, I don’t see the opposition’s loss here as a loss per se; I treat this as a victory. The question now becomes where do we go from here?
Go anywhere in the Philippines, just don’t migrate. (READ: Pinoys tweet, search about migrating as election results come in)
The opposition needs to stay here and fight. For now, the citizens are the only remaining checks and balances of this administration. We must do it here, not in Canada, not in Europe, and, God forbid, not on Mars. (READ: [OPINION] In defense of those who want to leave)
At some point, everyone must realize one fact: Otso Diretso’s chances of winning this midterm elections were slim. However, we’re missing the big picture here; the opposition’s strong showing provides a greater opportunity that can be utilized 3 years from now.
If there’s one thing that this election produced, it’s the new and stronger leaders of the opposition, in the likes of Chel, Samira, and Florin. The major upsets in local governments here in Metro Manila that signify the end of dynasty rule in San Juan, Manila, or even Makati could be the start of a wave that must be sustained and even improved until the next election.
Who knows, this might be the start of something bigger.
At the end of the day, wipe those tears (or maybe not, it’s okay to cry) and remind yourself all hope is not lost for the opposition. – Rappler.com
John Paul Punzalan is an advocate for pro-student and pro-people campus journalism. He was the co-founder of Assortedge, a social media youth organization. Currently, he is taking up BS Business Administration at the University of the Philippines-Diliman.