The 2022 elections is still a year away, yet the supporters and the opposition to the rule of President Rodrigo Duterte are already mobilizing for the political battles to come. With the country hampered by divisive issues while struggling to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, the upcoming polls may be the most important in our history.
In honor of the globally-popular television show Game of Thrones, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary since its premiere, here are a few quotes from the show that we should remember as we enter a critical period of our collective narrative.
1. “Chaos is a ladder.”
Times of crises reveal the true character of people. Some will immediately respond to the cries for help, through actions such as provision of much-needed food, water, financial aid, and other means of support to the most affected sectors. To them, publicity or political gain does not matter as much as taking an initiative to help alleviate the impacts of these crises.
And then there are those who have either capitalized on long-standing issues associated with Philippine governance or intentionally worsen these problems through acts of corruption, abuse of power, and violence. We have repeatedly seen officials accumulate either power or wealth (or both) during crisis periods, whether during the Martial Law era or even in the current regime. These days, it seems like some officials are intentionally creating controversy on a near-daily basis to divert attention from serious national issues, escape accountability and public outrage, and allow further centralization of power.
2. “Give them something by giving them nothing.”
This statement may be considered as a simplification of the art of real-world politics: different individuals or organizations negotiating to establish a working partnership, each giving something that has little or no strategic value to them but has tremendous importance for the other.
Unfortunately, many in the government, at the national or local level, have utilized this rule to strengthen patronage politics. A traditional Filipino politician gives relatively insignificant modes of aid to citizens in exchange for political support. In a weakened democratic system, some politicians take the expression “words are cheap” to heart by blinding the public with anger and hate and manipulating them towards extreme agendas and ideologies to secure power. This particular situation is not exclusive to the current Philippines; countries such as the United States and Brazil have also experienced this phenomenon in recent years. Come 2022, we need to be aware of those who will market themselves as champions of the masses and examine just who is telling the truth.
3. “Fear cuts deeper than swords.”
Even before the pandemic, it can be argued that the morale of the Filipino nation has never been lower since the Martial Law era. This is the effect of the rule of fear perpetrated by the top leaders of the current administration, attacking almost anything that is not associated with Duterte. The bloody war on drugs, social media trolls, extrajudicial killings, suppression of the media, and constant red-tagging, among others have only worsened the divisiveness prevailing in the country.
While fear has a place in leadership, any rule of a nation that primarily relies on it as a motivator or a source of power is unsustainable. As shown throughout history, such style of leadership causes more long-term damage to a country’s social, economic, and moral well-being that will be shouldered by future generations. If the administration fails to initiate positive change in the short term, more citizens will be persuaded to see it end sooner than later. In the case of the Philippines, its already weak democratic institutions have become more fragile in the past five years, which heightens the risk of more instability and mistrust.
4. “Power resides where [we] believe it resides.”
This is perhaps the most important quote to remember. The truth is, the Philippines is divided on where they think power resides. Some believe in the ideals associated with the democratic system of government that has ruled the country for decades, whose integrity must be respected and preserved. Others are of the opinion that it is with a select few, most notably the President, which gives them the right to ignore certain rules if it means the betterment of the nation.
The truth is that democracy at its core is a government “of the people, by the people, for the people.” This has been proven time and time again not just during the elections, but in events ranging from the EDSA People Power Revolution to the community pantries. Only when we stop believing in our ability to decide the direction and future of our country can incompetent, corrupt politicians get away with their wrongdoings, which results in poverty, inequality, and other societal ills. True power in the Philippines is not with one official, a political party, or one branch of the government. Power resides in each and every Filipino.
Never forget that democracy is a dynamic system that evolves with the vision of its constituents. As we face challenges such as COVID-19 recovery, poverty alleviation, sovereignty, and climate change, we must choose which aspects of our values and cultures we are keeping to guide us in addressing them, and which ones we should leave behind with the sufferings of the past.
As 2022 approaches and a handful of names and their allies compete for the proverbial throne, each of us must ask ourselves what we want for ourselves, our community, and our nation. Do we want to keep living in a night that is dark and full of terrors? Or do we want to break the wheel? – Rappler.com
John Leo is the Deputy Executive Director for Programs and Campaigns of Living Laudato Si’ Philippines. He has been a citizen journalist since 2016. – Rappler.com