The lesson around the need for Filipino voters to choose wisely sinks in the most with those who supported — and, worse, voted for — “vice president” Leni Robredo. One tweetizen proposed a pretty good term to encapsulate this: “voter’s remorse”.
Before we go on, recall first that there is a major precedent to all this — back in the 2009-2010 presidential campaign that saw former President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III ride on the back of a similar emotional and Yellow-stained campaign straight into Malacanang. BS Aquino was, at the time, also the popular and “decent” choice by a vast margin to the alternatives. Ateneans said so. LaSallistas said so. The priests and bishops said so. A bevy of celebrities and credentialed “thought leaders” said so. Hell, the Scribes and the Pharisees may as well have said so!
This is the whole problem with Filipinos’ investment in their traditional belief systems, their school book definitions of “decency”, their rote learning of “values” from their traditional social circles, and the mainstream media they regard as their bible. When these traditional sources of information and thinking fail, they fail big time. In this case, they failed on a vast national scale.
On one hand, one’s gotta admire those who possess the rare courage and capability for self-reflection to change their minds publicly. Former supporters who changed their minds about Robredo represent strong testimonials to the way the true character of the “vice president” emerged over the last several months. They supported and voted for Robredo presumably on the strength of her emotional appeal, the seductiveness of her promises, and, perhaps less sensibly, because she was “the lesser evil” to the alternative: a Bongbong Marcos vice presidency. But, as keen observers focused on performance, they quickly realised the emptiness of her campaign and the flatness of her character in the context of actual practice.
On the other hand, as mentioned earlier, there is a bigger lesson to be learned by those who changed their minds after finally stepping outside the echo chamber that had once been the sole context surrounding their decision to vote for Leni Robredo and regard the broader landscape of information available to make more sensible decisions. In this regard, there are two parts to this lesson:
(1) Keeping an open mind
In the age of social media, information essential to making informed decisions has never been more readily accessible. The key differentiator of those whose eyes have been opened to the dud that is the current presumptive “vice president” is that rather than shut out, “block” or ignore those who begged to differ to the popular sentiment at the time, they kept their minds open and, eventually, took steps onto the enlightened path andembraced the truth.
(2) Routinely challenge the popular sentiment
So far, the popular sentiment had already failed Filipinos three times — (i) when we watched like sheep as the Yellow camp took ownership of the 1986 EDSA “revolution”, (ii) when we chose BS Aquino above far more qualified candidates to be president in 2010, and (iii) when we gobbled up hook, line and sinker, the BS of Leni Robredo’s laylayan and tsinelas campaign rhetoric.
So we come to the final and most important aspect of the lessons surrounding the today’s epidemic of voters’ remorse.
Popularity has never been a strong indicator of what is sensible.
When an undertaking is too easy, too popular, or too easy to swallow, this should be regarded more as an alarm bell rather than a prompt to act impulsively. In hindsight (to those who were victims of the popular sentiment) the lure of an Aquino presidency in 2010 then the Robredo “vice presidency” in 2016 were simply too juicy, sugary, and colourful to resist. They pushed all the right buttons — appealing to our religious upbringings, our textbook notions of “decency”, and our addiction the warm fuzzy comfort zones of our social circles — sort of like that man in a trenchcoat in a white van parked outside a schoolyard offering candy to little kids.
The only truly admirable thought leaders here are those who, as a matter of habit, consistently step back from the morass of emotional and shrill activism that surrounds elections — and, for that matter, one or the other outrage fad — to regard with a sound mind the full landscape of information available on the matter. They do this even at the risk of being alienated by their own social circles. As a society, Filipinos need to move away from blind emotionalism and the habit of reacting on the back of incomplete information and get better at thinking things through independently as human individuals instead of like cows moving with a herd.