2022 Philippine Elections

[OPINION] Centering the marginalized: A people’s campaign

Pheelyp Aytona
[OPINION] Centering the marginalized: A people’s campaign
'When the masses see themselves in the bright future promised by Leni and Kiko, that is when this future comes true'

Given the explosive grassroots support that Leni Robredo and Kiko Pangilinan have been enjoying, it is hard to imagine anyone failing to see how Kakampinks come from all walks of life. Yet that is exactly what happened not too long ago. Adrian Gache’s tragically misinformed piece “Moral politics and the elitism of the Robredo campaign” was Will Smith’s attack at the Oscar’s – a blow as shameless as it was undeserved. 

When Gache heaped disdain on Robredo’s campaign due to its supposedly “upper class character,” where a “significant portion…(are) more interested in talking over, or down to, the masses,” therefore disqualifying it from being a “people’s campaign,” it was disorienting. What was he talking about? 

A people’s campaign 

For someone who (rightly) championed being attentive to ordinary folk, surely he had read about how they had come out so strongly for Robredo? There was no scarcity of documentation about them: dozens of fishermen in Basilan and Isabela held a fluvial parade while tricycle drivers distributed campaign materials in gratitude for her assistance during the pandemic; farmers from Sumilao, Bukidnon marched for her as she had marched for them, when she helped them regain their land from San Miguel Corporation as a pro-bono lawyer; members of the Aeta community trekked to her rally in Tarlac City to be counted just as indigenous people’s leaders from Capiz issued a resolution endorsing her trusting that she would help enforce their rights to their ancestral domains.  

That this upswelling of support has only gotten stronger after the piece was published makes its claim even more surreal. A national confederation of family farmer organizations began a 40-day, 4,400-kilometer march from Bukidnon to Manila to push for Robredo, while a 50,000-strong transport group of drivers and operators entrusted to her the steering wheel of the nation. Just a few days ago, farmers from San Simon, Pampanga reduced Kiko to tears as they raised his and Leni’s hands in the biggest Kakampink rally to date. 

After a lifetime of systemic injustice, it takes daring for the marginalized to hope for a better future. But they found their courage, and much like Aedh in Yeats’ classic poem, they offered what they had to give and wished it would be enough: “I, being poor, have only my dreams;/ I have spread my dreams under your feet;/ Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.” 

Erasure 

It was bad enough that Gache erased the very groups he implied he cared about in his fixation to label the Robredo campaign’s “class character” as “upper class.” What added insult to injury was that when he bothered to recognize that not all Kakampinks “(drink) frappuccinos and (take) videos on their smartphones,” he was quick to dismiss these supposed outliers as inconsequential.  

“Individual people from the masses supporting a campaign does not make it a ‘people’s campaign,’” he declared. “It takes the kind of time and energy that is easily given to people by privilege to volunteer for a work-intensive campaign.”  

Imagine saying that to Jesus Jimenez, the 64-year-old farmer from Bacolod who donated to the campaign. “Kahit maliit lang kita ko at binigay ko sa kampanya ni VP [Leni] at ni Sen. [Kiko], sana makatulong ito….” Or to the market vendor in Pangasinan who stood firm in her support even if it meant fewer sales, and whose sacrifice Vice Presidential daughter Aika Robredo honored: “May picture ang stall na may Leni tarp (at nabawasan daw ang benta dahil Leni). Pero hindi natinag, andiyan pa rin ang tarp. Salamat sa pagtindig.” Or to Street Vendors 4 Leni who organized themselves and freely gave what was theirs to offer during the Camanava rally.  

Ordinary people living out their principles at deep cost to themselves. When their efforts are diminished and cast aside? Pain. Bewilderment. Indignation. 

The Twitterstorm that emerged was more than justified. Testimonial after testimonial refuting Gache’s mischaracterization followed – the very “experiences of campaigners on the ground” that he claimed to know. Some wrote more extended pieces: Timothy Gerard Palugod rightfully described it as “disrespect to the people working tirelessly on the ground and those who attend the rallies.” Gillian Hero Angeles expressed it as “punching each other in the face while discrediting each other’s efforts – even as we claim to stand in the same trench.” 

Given this glaring disconnection with reality, one can’t help but ask – how could Gache have gotten it so wrong? What could have emboldened him to make such definitive blanket statements about people who it was shown he knew so little about? 

Cleansing information ecosystems 

Rappler CEO and Nobel laureate Maria Ressa has spoken about how technology “has allowed a virus of lies to infect each of us,” compromising our ability to perceive facts, trust one another, and have a shared reality. Bad actors have polluted our information ecosystems, with Robredo in particular bearing the brunt of most disinformation attacks.  

So what can be done to cleanse our online spaces of this particular falsehood? 

Hold space for the marginalized. Magnify and amplify their voices because they are the best spokespersons for themselves. As veteran journalist John Nery observed when describing the testimony of tricycle driver Ronald Carigo, there is eloquence in the earnest simplicity of the Everyman when they speak truth in behalf of the powerless.  

Examples abound: Gloria Beltran summoned tears when she assertedOo, mababa ang pinagaralan ko, pero nakakaintindi ako,” in explaining her support for Robredo. Elmer Cordero, one of the jeepney drivers arrested for requesting for government aid, declared, “Si Leni, tapat ‘yan, ‘pag sinabi, ginagawa.” After farmers surprised the 220,000+ crowd in Pampanga and raised Pangilinan’s hand when other politicians would not, a farmer roared, “Leni-Kiko tayo!

These heartfelt declarations have been honored by the campaign. As Kakampinks launch an invigorated house to house campaign to build on Robredo’s explosive surge in the latest survey, it would be right and just to highlight the faces and stories we find there. 

When the masses see themselves in the bright future promised by Leni and Kiko, that is when this future comes true. – Rappler.com

Pheelyp Edward Aytona is a lecturer at 9.0 Niner, a review center for international English exams. He is also a nurse who advocates eating a plant-based diet for health, food security, and climate change mitigation.

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