In the course of the 2016 Philippine elections, long before the filing of certificates of candidacy till sometime after the proclamation of winners, we have seen the Filipino nation—100 million strong—break into numerous conflicting factions, distinguished by different philosophies and energies, from conservative reason to devil may- care radicalism, from wholesome competition to all-out war.

It was a time when skeletons were yanked out of the closet as fodder for massive black propaganda campaigns and social media’s polarizing capacities found even the best of friends making mincemeat out of each other in the name of their respective political candidates. Against the tide of negativity rose consolidated efforts to rouse civic activism and critical thinking.

The collision of these forces is a curious case of systemically organized chaos that time and again sweeps our country into a disunited state, leaving us, at best, with mixed feelings about the future.

Nevertheless, people still believed in the elections, if the turnout numbers were anything to go by. Out of the 54 million registered voters, 81 percent did cast their votes. From the overall results, we can more or less say what the Filipino people were thinking.

It has been said that as a government we are no more than an oligarchy disguised as a democracy, where those clashing for power are the same political groups since the time of our independence.

Experts’ dissection of our entire political culture as elitist and personalistic, characterized by graft and corruption, social amnesia and weak civic nationalism paints an overwhelming picture of the Philippines mired in crises, sinking deeper into despair with its every attempt to break free. Years of experience as a republic has led to a country with a serious case of democratic/oligarchic fatigue.

Do the results of our elections correspond to this? There has got to be more to our way of life as Filipinos than this portrayed masochistic passivity.

A democratic election, being an exercise of choice naturally divides people. The inherent power struggle in this exercise causes pain necessary to bring about change. Whether this change is good or not should be the object of intense scrutiny and debate.

What we should not overlook is the fact that although our dissenting choices of leaders may pit us against each other, a terminal division is not the end-all and be-all of this exercise. All the bitterness in between may have been expected, but if it were to linger as a driving force, moving forward may be extremely difficult.

We are supposed to fight wholeheartedly, accept victory and defeat with grace, and go ahead TOGETHER. In the face of conflict and uncertainty, we have to seek unity. We have to seize this opportunity.

Going ahead as one nation does not mean abandoning our personal or collective stand on issues, or turning a blind eye to the realities in our life.

A vital component of democracy is the people’s active participation in building society. It’s not only about positive support from its citizens but equally important are their critical contributions.

We cannot just leave governing to our officials. We, citizens, are the voice and the willpower behind them. It is as much our responsibility to hold them accountable to the people as they represent our collective aspirations for a better Philippines.

If there is another thing we cannot lose sight of, that’s our ability to create change. In spite of the seemingly tragic experiences we have been through, we have survived. We have made it. We cannot stop believing that solidarity is possible in the face of overwhelming differences.

It’s true that we have not resolved so many of these differences and their tragic consequences; there may not be hope for resolving them at all. But is this good enough reason to give up or run away from the sheer enormity of the work that begs to be done?

All these doubts and fears, no matter how real and valid they may be, should never rob us of hope. Hope is as restless as the beating of the human heart, as desperate to start again as is each gasp for air after a long weary sigh. Hope is what we have, and if we safeguard it together, we can always have a chance to make a difference in the world.

Jeffrey Gil Lingamen
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