There’s light at the end of the tunnel, Reader. Two events this week have convinced me.
The results of the Palawan plebiscite, on their own, actually already had my heart leaping with joy.
Only consider: On one side, you had most of the political families in Palawan who wanted the break-up of the province into three provinces. And you can see why. There would be more governorships, more congressional seats, more government positions to go around.
Then, there were also the corporations wanting to get in on Palawan’s natural resources, figuring out that the partition would give them three times more chances of getting what they wanted.
And finally, there was China, which would have the same reasoning as the corporations cited above.
That makes a formidable team.
Then, on the other side, you had the Save Palawan Movement comprised of NGOs, CSOs, academics, grassroots movements, etc., mainly trying to preserve the environmental and natural resource integrity of Palawan. “One Palawan” was their advocacy. In other words, the people.
It looked like an easy win for the three-Palawan team, what with the financial and political resources they had. Moreover, the Supreme Court had rejected the SavePalawan/One Palawan plea to stop the plebiscite. But this did not dishearten the latter forces, and they soldiered on.
And won—in 19 municipalities out of 23, and 177,000 over 123,000 votes. That is what I call a rout. Even the municipalities that would have benefited from the partition voted against it.
It is an inspiring story.
What are my takeaways from this unprecedented (David won over Goliath is the description) victory?
It has disproven the oft-cited statement that in a simple yes or no question, the yes almost always wins.
The not-so-secret weapon of the Save Palawan/One Palawan Movement are its women—specifically Cynthia del Rosario and Gerthie Mayo-Anda.
It puts paid to the belief that the Filipino voter is dumb, or does not bother to analyze the issues. Just put it to them, and if it makes sense, they will do the right thing.
One factor that cannot be discounted is that the amount of time of the campaign period played a part. If you have no financial resources, you need more time to reach your audience mano-a-mano.
The behavior of the leadership was also crucial: Gov. Jose Alvarez must be congratulated for what he did not do—use goons or guns—and for what he did—concede defeat at the earliest possible time.
And as if that were not enough to make my week comes the news of the 1Sambayan group springing up to unite the opposition. Their reasoning makes sense, and is therefore very attractive:
President Duterte was elected by a plurality, not a majority. There were, after all, six candidates for president in the 2016 elections. Apparently, less than 40 percent of the actual voters, and less than 30 percent of registered voters, voted for him. So if the opposition does unite, the chances of victory are very great (60 percent of the total vote)
Filipinos who reject vile manners and language, human rights violations, the “kill-kill” mentality, the weaponization of the law against one’s enemies, the return to authoritarianism, and possibly the subservience to China, can all find common cause against him or his chosen candidates.
So all they have to do is unite, and choose a common set of candidates.
And there’s the rub. The Palawan plebiscite proves that financial and political resources are no match for the people’s will. So unity is an achievable objective.
The tricky part is the choice of the common set of candidates. Politicians are of course involved here (as potential candidates). What is to prevent them from disregarding the choice of 1Sambayan, if they are not the chosen one?
And how that final choice is made is an even trickier matter. Assuming that all the conveners are acceptable to the aspirants, is the final choice going to be the privilege of the conveners (all 14 or 11 of them, depending on which 1Sambayan document you are looking at), or a subset of them, or is it going to be the result of a numbers game, where individuals and organizations vote during the “consultations” that will be held, apparently all over the Philippines?
No doubt this will all be made clear in the near future. And it should be a transparent process. But meanwhile, will it be too much to ask our opposition politicians to commit to support the common candidates?