Filipino voters to choose next president in high-stakes elections
By Diana G. Mendoza
Manila – “In Manila to see how this story ends.” New York-based Filipino journalist and journalism professor Sheila Coronel posted on social media about her coming home to witness how the Philippines will choose its next leader in what pundits describe as a high-stakes presidential election.
The nation's political fate is in the hands of 67.5 million voters who will head to the polling stations on Monday.
“This election is a battle between remembering and forgetting, a choice between the future and the past,” Coronel wrote in her social media post.
Her comment was still mindful of the rule that journalists should be non-partisan in their words and actions.
In the last few days of the campaign, some prominent Filipino journalists publicly posted about their candidate of choice. They openly joined rallies and house-to-house campaigns, all in support of Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo, who has been trailing a far second in the polls behind Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., son and namesake of the late dictator.
Marcos’ vice presidential teammate is Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, daughter of outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte.
Robredo’s running mate is Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan.
After leading contenders Robredo and Marcos ended their campaigns at midnight of May 7, silence fell on the streets the following Sunday as Filipino Catholics attended holy masses with priests preaching their last appeal to the country’s more than 67.5 million voters to vote bravely and wisely and to put an end to corruption, political dynasties and deeply-rooted patronage politics.
Jigz Galvante, one of the 7 million first-time voters, remained stuck on social media after getting some sleep from joining the miting de avance or final rally of Robredo in Makati City, the country’s financial district.
“I’m still nervous that Leni might lose to Marcos either by votes or by cheating,” he said. “But I’m praying so hard and sincerely that the outcome will be for the good of the country, which means the presidency should not be given to Marcos.”
Galvante is a youth volunteer who has raised his voice in rallies, helped paint Leni murals on street walls, and joined house-to-house campaigns to convince voters that Leni is the better choice over Bongbong. “I think I will never have this kind of experience again – going outside voluntarily and interacting with people in wet markets and poor areas,” he said.
The international media have been unsparing in their narratives of what is going on in the Philippines, painting similarities to 1986 when the people power revolution unseated Marcos Sr. and installed the country’s first female president Corazon Aquino.
The write-ups portrayed a Marcos Jr. win as disastrous to democracy and a Robredo win as a bright chance for good governance to clean up the country after the mess left by Duterte’s administration of corrupt practices and bloody drug war.
Robredo’s win would not only put a stop to the Marcoses entrenching themselves in power again, but to other political families who have lorded over Philippine politics for decades, such as the families of former presidents Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Joseph Estrada who were both convicted of graft charges.
In her post, journalist Coronel recalled being in the country in 2016 when “the mood was dark, grim, fearful” after Duterte was elected.
But after Robredo’s mammoth miting de avance when Maraki City turned pink, her campaign color, Coronel said, “I saw hope, joy, exuberance, a sense that history was being made, and that citizens have the power.”
Nervous first-time voter Galvante is trying to shake off anxiety as he heads to his polling precinct. “I can’t breathe but I feel powerful. I’m ready to cast my vote.”