OFW's voice: I voted for the mothers
I voted for the mothers.
I voted for Grace Poe for president and Leni Robredo for vice president. I voted conscientiously and with peace of mind.
The worst of the worst would have been to vote for the Rodrigo Duterte-Bongbong Marcos combination. That’s like voluntarily damning you and your children to a future of fake revolutions, phony leftist leanings, strongman dependence, highly selective justice, extrajudicial killings and other major injustices, and the quick erosion of recent national gains. (READ: CAMPAIGN NOTES: Staple jokes, loyalists, and the Marcos boys )
I voted for the mothers because one of them has, to my mind, the least unfavorables of the candidates, all things considered. The other unpretentiously projects progressive thoughts and leadership. It’s also because bullying acts, corruption, inefficiencies, and dishonesty do not suit my plate.
I voted for change, not continuity. But the change I want is not the Dutertesque type of change.
Comparing people with flaws
It’s hard to vote this election cycle. There are just so many downsides and disadvantages to all of the presidential candidates. It is comparing people with flaws and studying what flaws or tendencies we, as voters and citizens, can stomach. It is comparing what can be palatable, what absolutely cannot be tolerated, and then just selecting from the top two who can best represent a better future for the country. (READ: Guide to the 2016 Philippine elections )
This election cycle is pretty much one of the more divisive elections I’ve voted in. Very strong emotions flood Facebook feeds, friends go to battle in defense of their bets, while erstwhile timid folks ostensibly show rage and scorn if criticisms are hurled. People are unfriending each other, hiding posts, and seeing less of their friends’ postings on social media.
It’s easy to say things are going back to normal after the elections are over, that Facebook friends will make up for lost time. I’m not so sure about that. We don’t really know what will happen during and immediately after May 9, so normalization of friendships torn by dirty politics cannot be guaranteed. Some friends – real ones and Facebook/social media ones – may actually be lost forever. (READ: #AnimatED: Online mob creates social media wasteland)
Why it was difficult to choose
I got my election ballot and other paraphernalia a full 3 weeks before May 9, 2016. These were sealed and delivered by the Philippine embassy from Washington, DC. I opened it, looked at it, read through the instructions, and then put it away. At that point, I was not really sure who to vote for president. (READ: Record-breaking: 200,000 overseas Filipinos vote)
I wanted to wait for what the candidates had to say in debates, election rallies and to the media. I wanted to be better informed and educated about individual perspectives and stances on issues. I wanted to digest the candidates’ platforms and compare them. I was creating a spreadsheet in my mind as to the 5 presidential bets’ positions on the most important concerns for an OFW like me.
I wanted to take my time. I was in no rush to vote – at least for president.
But VP was an easy choice
However, weeks before the election, I already knew I’d be voting for Leni Robredo for VP (or at least a 95% chance). I watched some portions of the VP debate and, although I liked the fact that many of them tried to skin the Marcos heir, Robredo delivered what to me sounded as the most sincere approach to solve the country’s problems.
More importantly, the country has to be in safe hands in terms of the vice presidency. Who knows who will win as president? But if we have a reliable, calm, progressive, hardworking, and talented vice president, then we will hopefully be in a better, safer place for the next 6 years. Even if Robredo aspires for president in 2022, she does not seem repulsive in any way.
Assume for the sake of discussion that Duterte wins as president, but Robredo wins as VP. There is already an innate check-and-balance in that combination. As no one really knows what a Duterte presidency will be, you can just look beyond whatever (destruction) will happen from 2016 through 2022 and focus on how Robredo will rehabilitate the country in 2022 and beyond – if indeed she will run for the higher post.
The VP is the easier part. The harder part is who should be elected as president. Who truly deserves my/our vote? I am but a mere OFW voter, but I still want my vote to count as it is a vote for this generation and for the succeeding ones, for Filipinos residing in the country and elsewhere.
This election is extremely important because of what is happening in the world today. For example, with China’s aggressive and relentless island building, a new president in 2016 who believes in backing down from China’s bullying tactics is giving away the natural resources of the country. That president will shrink the country’s territory, something that will not be restored in the coming years.
The OFW vote
I’ve seen this online posting before: why should OFWs vote anyway since they’re doing nothing except enjoy the privileges in their adopted countries, earn in denominations stronger than the Peso? They are not physically residing in any of the 7,100 islands. (READ: '#OFWVote: Presidential bets on solving illegal recruitment, abuse' )
That’s a mischaracterization. That is almost like saying OFWs abandoned the motherland and should as a result be stripped of the right to vote. That’s dumb thinking. Here’s something even dumber: OFWs don’t really care that much about the country’s welfare “kasi nagpapakasarap lang sila sa States (because they are having it good or living the good life in the states)” or in Canada, Europe, Japan, Hong Kong, Middle East, or elsewhere.
OFWs sacrifice being away from many of the things that make up their Filipino-ness not just for the financial gains of distant family members but also because it is a way to help in nation building. Just imagine a Philippines without OFW remittances and without OFW purchases of condominium units or other real estate investments at home. (READ: What they don't tell you about the OFW life)
OFWs are actually one of the most concerned groups of people relative to the Philippines’ present and future. OFWs often go abroad to seek greener pastures because the country’s employment prospects are not really that green. Once abroad, the OFW is able to see, discern, and compare the host country’s economic and legal system to the Philippines. Conclusions are drawn, proposals to improve are devised, and constructive criticisms are developed.
OFWs are able to assess in a better light the good and the bad of the country simply because they are living afar and have become more open to outside ideas. OFWs become more objective in reasoning and analysis. They have experienced different cultures and various ways of accomplishing things. (READ: '#AnimatED: The OFW vote' )
Many OFWs can later on opt to go back to the country and work there, start businesses, open up and head foreign subsidiaries, and essentially move back in with transnational skills and work experience. This is the reason why OFWs should vote and why their vote is critical: the Philippines is still their country.
And here’s the other side of the coin: if the OFWs see for themselves – after the elections – that the country is going to the dogs and have scaled back its present gains (to put it lightly), then there is little incentive to come back, start businesses, create jobs, and help pump up the economy. If the new government is bad or worse, OFWs will have no reason to go home on a more permanent basis. Instead, more new OFWs will be created and diaspora will be further enlarged. (READ: 'The 'OFWS' agenda: Recommendations for next president' )
Another reason for the importance of the OFW vote is that OFWs have a right to know where the benefits of their remittances go and where their taxes go. Note that OFWs still pay Philippine taxes – not necessarily income taxes but sales tax, VAT, property taxes, and a host of other direct and indirect taxes.
The OFWs not only send remittances and balikbayan boxes back home on a regular basis, but they have actually propped up the country despite the brazen corruption of generations of elite political families and provincial strongmen. Hindi lang nagpapakasarap sa States o kung saan man kundi tumutulong sa pamilya at sa bayan. (OFWs are not living the good life in the States or elsewhere but are actually sacrificing to help their families and the country in general.)
Vote for your children
People vote for all sorts of reasons. They may have been impressed by a speech, found the “rape joke” funny, like FPJ, believe in President Aquino, or incredulously think martial law and the Marcoses are the greatest. Some may just vote as a protest to the horrendous Manila traffic, the worsening MRT train conditions, and the laglag-bala (bullet-planting in suitcases at the airport) phenomenon. Some may have been handed money bills to vote for a candidate.
There are many selfish and greedy and offensive reasons for voting for someone.
But the truth is we must vote for our children and their future. It is not enough that we are impressed by humor, looks, academic accomplishments, or political lineage. We cannot be carried away by political smooth talkers either.
What we need to vote for are leaders from the president down to the barangay kagawads who can provide a much better future for our children and their own offspring. We’re not voting merely for ourselves. We’re voting for our children’s legacy. – Rappler.com
Disclaimer: The ideas and content above are solely the opinion and perspective of the author. They are not representative in any way of the position, opinion, or outlook of his past or present employment affiliations, nor should they be interpreted as any form of legal or tax advice.
Author Carlo Osi is a lawyer and writer based in Metro Washington DC He was educated by Georgetown Law, University of Pennsylvania Law School, Wharton School of Business, Kyushu Law, and UP Law.