It is not often that I find myself on the side of the “majority”. But that’s exactly where I was in this recent election. For many of my friends, it may have seemed like I made an uncharacteristic, easy, and “popular” decision. Many of them made a different choice.
Did I cop out? Did I abandon my principles? Did I just cast my vote for someone who will bring us all to the gates of hell as his detractors would like to believe? These are the unpleasant questions that have been plaguing me since I made my decision.
It did not help that the candidate I supported acted opposite of what I expected in several occasions.
I took Duterte’s word when he said that he will not run for president. As our longtime mayor, I knew him to be a man of his word. And despite my cynicism, I am still naive to believe that he was among those people who mean what they say. So I was confident that he will not run.
I did not want him to run not because I did not believe in him. I just wanted him to finally enjoy the quiet retirement he had been hinting at. I was also worried of what seeking the highest position in public office would do to him. I have known of good men ruined by politics. I have long been cynical of what taking on a position in public office can do to people with integrity. Those who compromised their principles became part of the systemic problems. Some of them may not have been involved in institutionalized corruption. But they became part of the problem when they chose to turn a blind eye to it. Those who held on to their principles were either undermined or left powerless. Some chose to resign to preserve their integrity. I did not want a leader I trust and respect to suffer the same fate.
Amidst all the drama that ended with him filing his candidacy, a part of me still hoped that he will not run. I considered not voting for him in a bid to prevent him from abandoning his retirement plans.
The campaign period was brimming with vitriol and negativity. It revealed the character of many of my friends on Facebook. The election related content flooding my news feed was overwhelming. I felt helpless every time I see people sharing and spreading misinformation. I felt powerless amidst all the bullying and name-calling. I cringed every time the person I decided to support did things that contradicted my beliefs. I thought long and hard if I should vote for him. In the end, I did what I believed to be the right thing. I trust the man that much.
If there was one thing that stood out for me from this experience, it would be this: There is no comfort even on the side of the majority.
Trying to keep an open mind was a constant challenge. It seemed like everything has to be in black or white. It was narrowed down to good vs. evil. Expressing an unpopular opinion could get you bullied or ignored. It does not matter if you are on their side. It was like pointing out things that may not be favorable to the candidate I support was unacceptable. I was uncomfortable with supporters who seemed blind to the misconducts of our candidate. I have come across people who try to rationalize the wrong things regardless of the evidences presented. It was a lonely place to be in. That spot where I did not seem to belong to a fixed box or line.
And it is not over. We may have made our choices and the majority’s choice has won. But I could still sense a great divide perpetuated by opposing beliefs. All I can do is to offer a silent prayer to the universe that the president-elect will get his chance. I hope that those who wish him ill would give him the benefit of the doubt. For our collective good. For our country. Most of all, I hope that I made the right choice. If I was wrong, let it be a mistake that will not cost us the freedom and dignity we are entitled to as humans.