Philippine politics

[OPINION] A year later, the ‘pink movement’ needs to move on without Leni

John Paul Punzalan

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[OPINION] A year later, the ‘pink movement’ needs to move on without Leni
'We must continue to hold on to these beliefs with or without Leni at the helm'

A year ago, I was crying in front of my laptop as then-vice president Leni Robredo announced her candidacy for president. “Lalaban ako, lalaban tayo,” Leni said, and it prompted an outpouring of support.

Leni’s declaration a year ago was, in part, a sigh of relief — after months of “will she, won’t she,” she finally joined a crowded list of “presidentiables,” a label popularized in the Philippines for presidential candidates. To misquote Charles Dickens, the list showed the best of Philippine politics and the worst of it.

While it was, in part, relief, the other part was grief. At the time, Leni was perhaps the most vilified government official; her approval ratings were low thanks to misinformation, smear campaigns, and sexism. Expectedly, it was going to be an uphill battle — a fight against the establishment, against traditional politics, against massive political machinery.

With all cards stacked against her, she was bound to lose — at least, if you looked at public polling back then. And it was painful that seven months after she declared her candidacy, we saw the biggest electoral landslide post-EDSA. Despite the mammoth crowds from Pasig to Ayala, millions of Filipinos chose to hold on to misplaced and mistaken nostalgia.

After the election, people were quick to conduct a post-mortem analysis of Leni’s campaign. And make no mistake: this is not going to be one. After the election, social media websites were full of analyses and think pieces as to why the “people’s campaign” was not able to deliver.

Much has already been said as to why Leni lost: misinformation, allegations of elitism, distrust in traditional polling that proved to be reliable after all, mistaken complacency brought about by crowds in political rallies, and even election irregularity.

Months after the end of the people’s campaign, and a year after Leni declared her candidacy for president, the question should shift away from what went wrong. At the end of the day, Bongbong Marcos, for all legal intents and purposes, is now the president — a statement none of us thought would be possible. 

The question should now be, “How do we continue the spirit of grassroots politics that Leni ignited a year ago?”

From Our Archives

The pink provinces: Where Leni Robredo won

The pink provinces: Where Leni Robredo won

Because we must face two truths at this point: First, Leni is no longer the leader of the opposition, and any attempts to bring her back into the political scene might no longer bode well politically. She had even passed the torch on to Senator Risa Hontiveros.

Second, Leni ignited the movement, but that does not mean that it should start and end with her. And before someone subtweets me on Twitter, let me explain.

Leni’s presidential campaign was perhaps the first foray of many people into politics. Many young people — especially those who voted for the first time in 2022 — were drawn to Leni’s campaign. In a country with a relatively young population, this was Leni’s greatest asset. Most rallies were attended by young people, as attested by witty placards and gimmicks that made every event a spectacle. 

When Leni lost, it was understandable when these young people experienced pain and grief; a political heartbreak is just as painful as a romantic one.

But the pain of first experiences and losses in politics should not stop everyone from caring about this country. Nor is it an excuse to abandon the beliefs that Leni and the pink movement have taught us. It cannot be used as an excuse to laugh at someone’s misfortune over this ill-prepared government, or an excuse to say “deserve” at someone who’s aching over skyrocketing grocery prices.

The pink movement taught us that traditional politics must go, and that the norms of the past can no longer be used to build a future that we deserve. We cannot simply abandon what we have learned because Leni lost. 

And we cannot go back to where we were simply because we have lost an election.

I believe that it is now the time to separate the movement from the person who started it. A lot of people attribute the success of this movement to Leni. But the truth is this, the power rests on the people who, one year ago, hoped to have a country free from corruption and from traditional, patronage politics. The power rests on we who believe in good governance, and we must continue to hold on to these beliefs with or without Leni at the helm.

From Our Archives

[OPINYON] Saan tayo tutungo ngayon?

[OPINYON] Saan tayo tutungo ngayon?

It has been a year since then-vice president Leni Robredo announced her candidacy for the presidency. Where do we go from here? The answer is, and is always, forward. The pink movement that Leni started must move forward, even without the help of electoral machinery. Even without Leni at the presidency.

And we must move forward real hard, real fast: our country is now in the hands of leaders who seem to care more about hors d’oeuvres than what Filipinos deserve. John Oliver said it best: “Our freedoms are not guaranteed, because these freedoms are hard won but are easily lost.” We should not stop caring simply because the elections are over; we have to continue our fight because our goal is change and progress, not simply seats in office. 

She said it herself a year ago: “Ang kinabukasan, pinipili, pinagsisikapan, ipinaglalaban. Kailangan nating piliing humakbang.” 

Thus, this pink movement must now move forward wholeheartedly without her. –

John Paul Punzalan is a third year law student at the University of the Philippines College of Law.

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