With only one more year to go, Duterte and his tyranny will finally end. This leaves the country’s democracy in a precarious position in the next 2022 elections. Will the country vote to regain democracy? Or will the country vote for Duterte version 2.0?
On May 9, 2022, the country will be voting for its new President and Duterte’s successor. After six years of Duterte tyranny and authoritarian rule, the country now has its chance to bring back democracy. While others breathe a sigh of relief, one must understand that Duterte’s rule is far from over. The President and his party, Partido Demokratiko Pilipino Lakas ng Bayan (PDP – Laban), are already placing into position as campaign season approaches.
Reports state that the party will be choosing from two “Preferred Presidential Candidates”: Duterte’s daughter, Mayor Sara Duterte, and Duterte’s former aid, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go. Some members of the party are also calling Duterte to run for Vice – President, which Malacañang Palace believes to be “Constitutional”. If all of these were to happen, Duterte will be able to extend his term, continue his authoritarian legacy, and consolidate further power.
As observed by Corrales and Penfold (2014), Presidents who relax and extend their term limits only erode their country’s democracy. This extension not only continues authoritarian rule but also leaves the transfer of powers uncertain. If the country were to defeat Duterte’s extension of authority and all-together defend democracy, there must be a few things in place.
For one, there must be a united opposition against Duterte and his party. Levitsky and Ziblatt (2018) note how successful gatekeeping will be able to keep authoritarians and populists off the ballots and entirely out of the elections. This is evident in the country’s recently launched “1Sambayan” pro-democracy coalition. The coalition seeks to unify the opposition and other political parties (both left and right-wing), at the same time unify different sectors of the country. The coalition also pledges to gatekeep their membership over politicians “identified with authoritarianism and responsible for extrajudicial killings”.
The coalition should also think beyond gatekeeping. Unlike the previous elitist “Otso Diretso” (Straight Eight) Senatorial bid, the coalition should build their campaigns to be able to reach and resonate with the people in the margins. Moreover, they need to show that they are a contender to Duterte and that they are different from the previous parties that use “democracy” as a front to their campaign strategies.
Informing the Voters
Next, there must be clear and factual information available to the public. Persily and Stamos (2019) reiterate the importance of “consistency, credibility, and clarity” of campaigns in deterring the spread of disinformation and fake news. It is expected that Duterte and his party will employ fake news sites, pages, and troll accounts to confuse the public. The coalition can counter this by pursuing better digital campaigning, engaging the public through online debates and discussions, and correcting any misinformation about themselves and their platforms.
The coalition should also “think outside the box” and innovate their campaigns now that we have a pandemic. Much like what US President Biden did in his campaigns, the coalition can embrace virtual fundraisers, use phone banking or calling to inform voters, and even do “drive-in” campaign rallies to keep with social distancing and other COVID-19 restrictions.
Getting the Voters to Vote
Finally, there must be initiatives and incentives to get the people to vote. Ellis (2021) states that populists will use the pandemic as an opportunity to make voting difficult for the public. They can either impose strict lockdowns, restrict the “Immunocompromised” (elderly, pregnant, and the sick) from voting at the polls, and more. The coalition can respond by launching innovative voter-education and registration campaigns across social media and other media platforms. This is exemplified in the U.S. “#TokTheVote” challenge, wherein TikTok creators would dance and encourage viewers to vote. The participants would then be rewarded with views or “points” redeemable to gifts.
The coalition should also think about giving out groceries and other essential goods to encourage people to vote. Like how Vice President Leni Robredo’s “Swab Cab” initiative was able to get more and more people to line up and get tested for COVID-19. Once they finish the tests, these people would get incentives such as food packs (rice, canned goods, etc.), care kits (face masks and shields), and even access to free-Wifi. Those who tested positive would also be incentivized with a greater food and family package. Not only does this strategy effectively increase COVID-19 tests, but also effectively attracts participation from the poor.
Overall, there’s still much to be done to regain democracy in the Philippines. The points presented in the paper only serve as strategies that the united opposition/coalition can do come campaign and election season. There’s also no guarantee that these strategies will work against Duterte and his party. Nevertheless, these strategies present a glimmer of hope as to what the nation can achieve by uniting, informing, and voting together in the next 2022 Presidential elections. Ultimately, it is the people who will decide the future of the country. Now the question remains, will the country vote for democracy or Duterte 2.0?
Photo: “Philippine flag at ‘Isang Milyong Martsa’ sa Luneta” by James Sarmiento is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Allan Benedict Solacito
I enjoyed reading your piece, Shania. I love how you presented you points in such a manner that it is centered to one of the most integral part of democracy – elections. This is a good analysis and these are good suggestions. I, however, agree that this is going to be difficult. Seeing how divided we are as a nation in terms of beliefs regardless of the kind of education and innovation to educate people about the misinformation there still seems to be a bias. I do think it is because of self-identification which is why I personally like your take on the Otso-Diretso campaign. It seems like the division is not really due to the credibility and veracity of information they receive. It seems to me that we are divided because the people finally saw someone who they can identify themselves with and relate to. And that is going to be difficult to break or penetrate. They are already blinded by their association with the persona and so they accept whatever message these people put forth.
Also regarding the second to the last paragraph, I think those are two different contexts – swab testing and getting people to vote. I always say that incentives can go on either extreme directions. For swab testing, people are motivated by this incentive of free groceries and essential goods because the context is these are pandemic solutions and aid. For elections or for people to vote, we can always say that this is for democracy solutions and aid. However, it can always be seen as bribery. There is that asymmetric information and/or moral hazard. People who will receive goods for voting are expected to vote, yes. They will probably vote but they may also vote because they feel indebted to the person who gave them food. We don’t want our people to just vote for the opposition for the sake of that motivation. We want them to vote because they finally realized that there is something wrong with the system that has to be fixed and these are the leaders that we need.
The post is timely and relevant especially that we are also months away from knowing who are the candidates for the election next year. As of this moment, All the attentions are now with Sara Duterte, especially that some of her allies have already confirmed her candidacy. A slight change is with her allegedly Vice President Gibo Teodoro.
In your analysis, I like how you find measures in order to defeat the agenda of the current government however I’m a little doubtful if we can fully achieve this given the past actions of most Filipinos. Aside from that, the local news has been reporting that we are going to receive more vaccine supplies from various manufactures in the coming months and I think that the current administration will capitalize on that matter to gain more votes. I also think that maybe in the coming months the government will improve its approach towards handling this pandemic as part of its strategy.
Given this, the election next year is still very unclear and we can experience more tensions in the coming months but one thing for sure we should hope for the best and expect for the worst.
Joshua Emmanuel Ramos
Hello, Shania! This is a very insightful op-ed. I appreciate your recommendations to resist further democratic backsliding in the Philippines. You have brought up an extremely important point – the constitutionality of Duterte’s rumored bid for the vice presidency in 2022. This is a test once anew to the commitment of the administration to the Philippine Constitution which explicitly states that “The President shall not be eligible for any reelection.”
The pronouncement of the Malacanan Palace is once again a manifestation of democratic erosion in the Philippines. Again, they are trying to aggrandize the Executive by allowing the sitting President to vie for the second-highest position of the land. Moreover, on May 31, the ruling party, PDP-Laban, formally asked the President to run for vice president and urged him to pick his presidential candidate. Advocates of democracy should be alarmed because a President handpicked by a popular former President while the latter serves as the former’s VP foregrounds who calls the shots in governing the people. This will prolong Duterte’s rule, which will allow him to evade accountability.
In this light, I agree with your ideas on how to get the people to vote in 2022. There are more Filipinos who did not vote for Duterte in 2016 than those who did. This should give us hope that a united opposition can defeat his “anointed one” next year.
Indeed, we should maximize the use of social media in advocating not just for free and fair elections but also for democracy and good governance. In Africa, as Yarwood has explicated, there have been instances where the collective power of ordinary people was tapped by artists and non-politicians to topple autocrats. Only when we realize that power ultimately emanates from the below – from the people – can we resist what you call Duterte 2.0.
Anne Jeaneth Casalme
Hi, Shania! I like your topic because it is very timely for the upcoming 2022 elections. You have presented your points very well especially highlighting the significance of elections. I believe we can all agree that it will be very difficult for the opposition to defeat Duterte at the 2022 Philippine elections. I also agree that information is one of the key elements that the opposition must set its focus on in order to gain the trust and confidence of the Filipino people. Most importantly, the emphasis on factual and credible information cannot be stressed enough as the country suffers from disinformation. We eat fake news on a daily basis. This is something that must be fully addressed by the opposition. However, while I agree with most of your points, I, personally am doubtful that the opposition can succeed in the upcoming elections. The reason being is because of the scattered opposition we have here. A united opposition is what we need in order to defeat the authoritarian rule of the current administration and prevent it from leading on to the next term. Apart from having a strong digital campaign and encouraging people to vote, the opposition must communicate clearly their positions especially regarding the most pressing issues in the country: extrajudicial killings, and other human rights abuses. Moreover, it is equally significant for the opposition to not back down in holding Duterte accountable for his bloody human rights legacy. ANd most importantly, a united opposition that is capable of defeating Duterte must be neither red nor yellow but pro-Filipino.