Big-name candidates spur interest in Philippine elections - New Canadian Media
Overseas voting began a month ahead of the May 9 elections to ensure ballots would be counted on time. (Roy Javier/Unsplash)

Big-name candidates spur interest in Philippine elections

Tens of thousands of Filipinos across major Canadian cities will be mobilizing until Monday to decide the political fate of their home country.

When the Philippines’ 2022 elections come to an end Monday, 84,154 ballots will be included from registered voters across Toronto, Ontario, Vancouver and Calgary, according to the Philippine Commission on Elections. 

This year’s election has brought on interesting conversations amongst Filipino communities due to the pool of big-name candidates looking to replace incumbent President Rodrigo Duterte. 

Notable names among the candidates include famous retired boxer and senator, Manny Pacquiao; former actor and current mayor of Manila, Isko Moreno; current Vice-President, Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo; and Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., former senator and son of the late dictator, Ferdinand Marcos. 

The frontrunners are Marcos Jr. and Robredo, with Marcos Jr. holding a lead of 56 per cent in preference polls

Ahmed Tillah II, based in Vancouver, comes from a political family and has academic training in both politics and governmental administration from the University of the Philippines. Tillah states that there is a big disconnect between the numbers from the preference polls and the attendance of rallies for these candidates. 

“Supposedly, both have quite equal followings in social media,” said Tillah. 

“But the news says more people attend Leni Robredo and Kiko Pangilinan (the vice-presidential candidate) rallies as opposed to rallies held by Bongbong Marcos and Sara Duterte (the vice-presidential candidate and daughter of Rodrigo Duterte, respectively).”

Spread of misinformation

Due to misinformation being spread about the election and some of the candidates, the Filipino-Canadian group Koaliyson Contra Daya (Coalition Against Cheating) began acting as a watchdog for Filipino-Canadians, sharing accurate updated information and reports about the election. 

“We want to make sure and safeguard that the coming elections will really reflect what the people want, that every vote will be counted,” said Marissa Corpus, national spokesperson of Koalisyon Kontra Daya and Malaya Movement Canada

Much of the fake news discussions stem from people’s varying opinions of the candidates, especially Marcos Jr., whose lead in the preference polls comes as a concern for some voters. 

Marcos Jr.’s father is a polarizing figure in Philippine history, with many of the atrocities and human rights violations that happened under his presidency being swept under the rug and attempts to rewrite parts of history happening to this day.

The Marcos family history is a long and convoluted one. Marcos Sr. ruled the Philippines for 20 years, exercising authoritarian power and undermining democratic processes before being ousted by the People Power Revolution in 1986. Marcos Sr. and his associates had also looted billions of dollars from the government, which led to a long legal battle to prove how much of that money was considered “ill-gotten wealth,” according to the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.

Marcos Jr.’s popularity 

Despite the ties to his father, Marcos Jr.’s supporters claim he is the most capable to lead the country. 

“Surprisingly, when they say that they are for Marcos [Jr.] and you ask them ‘why?’ their reasons are ‘because he’s the most competent,’” said Corpus of her conversations with voters in the Philippines. “How can that be? He didn’t even graduate, he hasn’t paid his taxes…and of course, the billions stolen by his family, which he and his mother are administrators of that money.”

Tillah says some of the polarization is due to the generational gap, with those who lived during the Marcos regime opposed to supporting Marcos Jr., and new generations after the People Power Revolution and Marcos Sr.’s death unable to connect with that era.

“They will now have experiences of Marcos…through what they read in historical literature in the history books about the Marcos presidency and what they see in Bongbong Marcos and Imee Marcos’ (daughter of Marcos Sr.) performance in government, and even Imelda Marcos’ (wife of Marcos Sr.) performance in government,” said Tillah, adding that the family may have been successful in rehabilitating their reputations.

Amado Mercado III is based in Richmond, B.C. and is a member of the Vancouver BC 4 Leni and Kiko 2022 group. Mercado states one of his concerns with Marcos Jr. is his lack of remorse for his father’s actions.

“They want to redeem themselves, but before that, you would want unity…but how could you unite without remorse?” said Mercado. “You cannot heal a nation if you don’t have remorse and admit all those atrocities that your family [did].” 

Mercado expressed that he fears a Marcos Jr. victory could set the Philippines back once again.

“A lot of us are very much nervous about the upcoming election ⁠— confident, but then nervous as well,” said Mercado. “But there’s one thing that cannot happen, and that is a Marcos going back to power.”

Never again

A Filipino who came to Canada 21 years ago — who prefers to remain anonymous — has been watching the campaign trail from Brampton, Ont. Although they are no longer eligible to vote, they say they want to help by speaking up. 

“What we need is a sincere, well-rounded, educated [person with a] good track of records, not corrupt and dedicated to the position,” said the Brampton resident. 

They added that their support for candidate Robredo comes from wanting a better Philippines for the future of their children and grandchildren when they go home.

They also said they were born during a time when Marcos Sr. declared martial law in defence of an alleged communist insurgency. Martial law lasted for almost 10 years, and during this time about 70,000 people were imprisoned, 34,000 tortured, and 3,240 killed

“I was born during martial law and I don’t want that to happen again ⁠— I don’t want that, never again,” said the Brampton resident.

Voting on facts

Mercado stated that Robredo could bring hope to the Philippines since she is not a traditional politician but a public servant, adding that she thinks her government would run differently with a focus on the people it serves. 

Before her time as vice president, Robredo was an “alternative” lawyer and public servant who worked with poor and marginalized individuals. After serving as a representative in congress, she began her work as the vice president. 

Mercado says despite the limited budget Robredo was given, she managed to help people in need, especially during natural disasters. 

“She has basically showed leadership by being there. Every time there’s a typhoon, she’ll be one of those first officials of the government that will be there overseeing the relief efforts,” said Mercado. 

“That’s what we need as a leader in the Philippines — someone who’s honest and who is hands-on.”

Given the influx of misinformation surrounding the election and its candidates, observers state they hope that voters do their research ahead of casting their vote.

“Vote wisely, vote on facts, vote on credentials, and vote with your conscience,” said Mercado. “The stakes are very high.”

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Rhea Lisondra is a Carleton Journalism and Humanities graduate and is based in Trenton, Ontario. She reports for New Canadian Media and is a co-host on the podcast AZN Connection.

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