Election Day in the Philippines, May 9, came like a storm. Many of us in the Filipino community couldn’t sleep. We were glued to the news as we watched reports of massive fraud and violence in the election. The nightmare had come true as the numbers pointed to possible Marcos-Duterte “victory.”
Kontra Daya — a broad campaign of religious leaders, artists, youth and students, lawyers, IT experts, teachers, government employees and ordinary Filipinos — released reports of election fraud and other undemocratic practices during the election period. Within 24 hours, massive disinformation, fake news, voter disenfranchisement, vote-buying, vote counting machine glitches, harassment, intimidation, violence and fatalities unfolded at the polling stations across the Philippines. The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) grossly mismanaged the distribution and handling of ballots to the point that more than 13,000 Filipino absentee voters in the United States did not receive their ballots due to wrong addresses.
“Make no mistake. These are not disparate events, this is part of an overall scheme to rig the 2022 Philippine general elections,” said Elle Mendiola, the regional coordinator of 1Sambayan USA Washington. “Knowing well that it was Duterte himself who appointed the COMELEC representatives and that tens of thousands of Filipinos experienced voter disenfranchisement, we cannot accept the numerical outcomes of the vote count thus far. Seeing the reports from the polling and overseas observers, we can conclude that this is a stolen election!”
The Coalition for Hope and Democracy immediately called for an all-out protest march in Seattle, starting at Dr. Jose Rizal Park to Hing Hay Park. The Washington Coalition for Hope and Democracy members include: Malaya Movement Seattle, International Coalition of Human Rights in the Philippines, Solid Leni-Kiko Overseas, Bicol Association of Washington, and 1Sambayan USA - Washington. On May 10, more than 150 Filipinos and allies came together to reject the Marcos-Duterte presidency and expose its massive fraud, marching with families, elders and a vibrant youth movement at the helm.
Since the news of the Marcos and Duterte families joining forces to revise history and pave the way for their return to the seat of power in the Philippines, Filipinos everywhere have been organizing to stop them via massive Pink rallies and mobilizations. Student organizations from major universities, like the University of the Philippines and Ateneo de Manila University among others, have declared an academic walkout. They decreed, “No Classes Under a Marcos.”
For those of us in Seattle who remember the Marcos dictatorship — including those who left the Philippines to flee martial law, high debt and extreme landlessness and joblessness, such as my own parents — this election in particular signifies a return to dark days.
During the rally of the “Reject Marcos-Duterte Protest Walk,” martial law survivors Tita Josie and health worker Rene spoke about their experiences during the 20-year dictatorial rule.
Tearfully, they shared how thousands were killed, tortured and imprisoned for criticizing the government. They said that under the Marcos regime, unemployment was at its highest, and Filipinos had to stand in long lines just for basic commodities. During that time, the Philippines had so much debt that Filipinos were forced to migrate to find work overseas.
While this election’s finale was shocking, it wasn’t really surprising. There was inexcusable mishandling and lack of preparation from the Philippines consulates regarding voter outreach, registration and insufficient solutions to late or lost ballots during a crucial election year.
There are approximately 4 million Filipinos in the United States. Yet, the consulates did not do their due diligence to provide ample opportunities to voters who were at risk of becoming inactive or ineligible to vote in this election, as well as individuals qualified to register to vote.
In Washington state alone, there are 113,000 Filipinos. However, the closest consulate is in San Francisco. There were voters who received their ballots on time, and the Consulate General of San Francisco offered in-person voting options at the San Francisco location that were not accessible to those in Washington.
The website and appointment system did not provide nearly enough slots for the services necessary. Unpaid volunteers had to organize and coordinate the mobile consulate visit that only served 1,000 Filipinos out of the 113,000 who needed services. Many of the Filipinos that we surveyed demanded that we should have a permanent consulate in the Pacific Northwest area.
Yet, these were not priorities of the Duterte regime. Instead of adequately funding government services and the elections system, Duterte poured millions of pesos into new military equipment and excessive funding of the National Taskforce to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ECAC).
Instead, Duterte spent six years on a war on the poor via the “drug war” that took more than 30,000 lives; a failed response to the COVID-19 pandemic; and endless counterinsurgency attacks, namely against the National Democratic movement.
National officers of BAYAN USA and GABRIELA USA, including myself, have been terror-tagged by the NTF-ECAC. Being terror-tagged is not just harassment and silencing — it’s also a form of voter repression set to target workers and other sectors. It is very dangerous. This hits close to home. It brings back memories of 1981, when two Filipino Seattle labor leaders — Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes — were targeted and assassinated for their work organizing Filipino cannery workers and speaking out against Marcos.
In the Philippines, terror-tagging efforts have led to disappearances, illegal arrests and brutal killings of teachers, healthworkers, attorneys, peasant leaders and Indigenous people. This crisis of democracy is what cultivates a militant people’s mass movement. It is what has propelled community members old and young to resist. MAKIBAKA HUWAG MATAKOT (“Dare to Struggle! Don’t be Afraid!”) was the common chant during the rally to reject Marcos-Duterte, as well as the battle cry for activists who fought against the Marcos dictatorship.
Like those before us, we must hold these fascist tyrants accountable for any crimes committed during their regimes. We must remain vigilant against the attacks the Marcos-Duterte Tandem will launch to stifle the people’s resistance and add to the misery of exploitation and oppression faced by workers and landless peasants.
This is why we have to pass the Philippines Human Rights Act (PHRA), a congressional bill spearheaded by International Coalition of Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) and the Kabataan Alliance.
The PHRA would cut U.S. military aid to the Philippines and launch investigations into human rights violations committed by the Duterte regime. It has been such a struggle to pass the PHRA. President Joe Biden and several congressmen — including Washington’s Adam Smith — continue to keep a blind eye to the atrocities committed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippines National Police. It seems our own U.S. government would rather fund the military oppression of people overseas than ensure ample funding for housing, education and health care here at home. Biden has already called Marcos to congratulate him on his presidential “victory,” showing that U.S. imperialism is ready to welcome the incoming regime.
Despite hardship all around, I still remain hopeful.
I see everyone working hard and working together to resist the Marcos-Duterte tandem, whether it’s organizing a rally on the anniversary of the EDSA People Power or flyering at Seafood City to commemorate when the Filipino people ousted Bongbong’s dictator father in 1986.
It could be the youth and students of Anakbayan Seattle holding banner drops along Rainier Avenue, or BAYAN members planning two marches on International Workers Day in downtown Seattle and Skagit Valley in solidarity with Starbucks workers and Farm workers.
Watch parties and pink caravans, walks, picnics, concerts and people calling for clean and honest elections together with the Washington Coalition of Hope and Democracy participated. The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines and Malaya Movement’s Prayer Vigil for the Philippines at Beacon United Methodist Church joined. Members of Migrante Seattle and GABRIELA Seattle held vigils outside the Seafood City in Tukwila, which later turned into Kampuhan Kontra Daya (Anti-Fraud Camps) to gather community members to process the Philippines elections results and expose the rampant corruption in the electoral system.
All of these actions add up to a growing mass movement that projects the unity of the masses, Filipinos and non-Filipinos, standing up for democracy. This election was never about one single person. It was about the decisive will of the people to fight for self-determination and raise the demands for health care, livelihood and human rights. Our work will continue well beyond the elections until the Philippines is truly free. Isulong!
For immediate text updates from the Washington Coalition for Hope and Democracy, text “ELECTIONSPH22” to 833-495-4914.
Jill Mangaliman is a contributing writer.
Read more of the May 18-24, 2022 issue.