It has been a year since the May 9, 2022 presidential election. Although the campaign was intense and exciting, the outcome saddened me. My candidate, the candidate of many friends and relatives, lost. Our candidate Leni Robredo lost by a wide margin to Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.
We knew nevertheless from the outset that we faced an uphill climb. The Leni campaign started late in the game. Marcos Jr. enjoyed an overwhelming advantage in terms of financial resources, political networks, and party organization. The self-declared Statement of Contributions and Expenditures (SOCE) indeed showed that Leni’s campaign spending was about three-fifths of Marcos Jr.’s spending. Marcos Jr. also benefited from the votes of supporters of then President Rodrigo Duterte.
These big disadvantages were not easy to overcome. Thus, during the miting de avance, or the final campaign rally, Leni urged her supporters to keep the faith. She said: “Natutunan natin, walang imposible.” (“We learned, nothing is impossible.”)
Leni’s walang imposible was more about a krusada (crusade) that does not end regardless of the election outcome. Leni’s krusada is about reforming if not overhauling the system, about a future with dignity, about practicing radikal na pagmamahal (radial love).
A year ago, too, on the eve of the May 9, 2022 elections, I wrote a BusinessWorld column titled “Walang impossible.” I took the cue from Leni’s miting de avance speech. I wrote:
“What we have is a big, spontaneous movement. It is the 21st century edition of People Power…
“It is this explosion of people power, including youth power. That makes me say that Leni, as well as the movement she leads, has won.”
My interpretation of Leni’s walang imposible went something like this: The 2022 presidential election was almost impossible for Leni to win. The writing was on the wall. Independent, trusted, and scientific surveys said so. (And shame on those who disparaged Pulse Asia and labeled it “False Asia.”).
But win or lose the election, we carry on. People power being alive gives us the energy and impetus to advance a longer-term krusada that Leni has initiated.
We did not attain victory in the 2022 presidential election, but we have secured solid gains on other fronts. The revival of people power, the reawakening of the youth, the sense of decency, the renewal of hope, the practice of radikal na pagmamahal.
A year after the 2022 elections, I remember that period positively, despite Leni’s loss. Contemplation makes me see the joy and triumph of the pink movement that Leni inspired.
Why joy and triumph? On a personal level, the experience of campaigning tirelessly and passionately for Leni and being with like-minded citizens voluntarily driven by a mission is a happy moment in my life. Simply precious.
On a more abstract level, I ask: Should the election campaign be measured only in terms of a win?
Of course, we and Leni wanted to win. But winning the election is not the only metric of success. Here, we expand our time horizon. Social, political, and economic reform is a long game. A loss at a particular time does not end the game.
The time was not propitious for reformers or progressives to win in 2022. The conditions simply did not favor us — the global rise of right-wing populism and authoritarianism, the spread of disinformation that was not easy to counter, the people’s disenchantment with a liberal order that exacerbated inequality, to name a few.
But there’s a time for everything. The baby boomers are familiar with The Byrds and their song “Turn! Turn! Turn!” The song’s lyrics come from the book of Ecclesiastes, King James version of the Bible. I quote part of the lyrics:
To everything (turn, turn, turn)/There is a season (turn, turn, turn)/And a time to every purpose, under heaven.
A time to build up, a time to break down/A time to dance, a time to mourn/A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together.
In May 2022, we mourned Leni’s electoral defeat. Losses along the way can nevertheless bring us closer to strategic victory. Lessons are learned.
There’s “a time to every purpose.”
Leni’s campaign served another purpose. It ignited a massive and spontaneous movement for reforms, for decency, and for radikal na pagmamahal. This movement — and the challenge is to gather stones together — is a significant step towards future wins.
A quote from Albert Einstein should give us pause for thought: “Failure is success in progress.” Remember that the Leni campaign is a krusada. It’s a long game.
The brand of people power that the Leni campaign generated will not vanish. It will be part of a national consciousness that will reawaken citizens. It has contributed to the revitalization of a civic culture. This movement will likewise strengthen over time and contribute to rousing democratic sentiments and enhancing civil norms.
And so, a year after the 2022 elections, like Leni, we strive to have happiness, ease, and serenity.
Filomeno S. Sta. Ana III coordinates the Action for Economic Reforms.