An Open Letter to No One in Particular a Day Before the 2022 Philippine Elections

Dear beauties planning to read this, 

Let me tell you: May 9 has me anxious, big time. I am anxious about the elections because 1. The results are bound to divide our country 2. People are still getting the entire act of voting wrong. So, I need a distraction. Thus, I am writing. 

But no, this blog post will not tell you who to vote for on May 9. I’m not going to tell you what makes for a good or wise vote. I’m not going to offer my moral assessment of the upcoming elections. But what I will do is share some principles that I hope will help you determine for yourself whether a given vote is morally better or worse or at least morally permissible. Further, I think I would be overstepping were I to tell you how I think you positively should vote, assuming there is more than one permissible option (which includes not voting or voting for a third party, which I think are the only two options since the Philippines doesn't have compulsory voting). At most, I think I can, as someone who has thoroughly considered my options, warn you of the various paths you shouldn't even consider. Consider this an exercise in sharing, because I believe that sharing and caring, and to borrow the title of a film starring Rosamund Pike, I care a lot. Love guid and all that sh*t. 

I take my right to suffrage quite seriously. I am a sucker for anything that the state grants for free. Thus, it never crossed my mind to skip the chance to get vaccinated and get protected from COVID-19. I also welcomed and freely accepted all forms of aid the local government provided at various times during the (still ongoing) pandemic. I don't consider myself too good for anything. Besides, save for several incidences of jaywalking in my 20s (I'm too slow to jaywalk nowadays), I follow the law and pay my taxes. So, when my constitution-guaranteed right to vote is to be exercised, I will be there. 

Finally, before moving on, as early as now, I'm already disclosing that I will not at any point of this post be endorsing any candidate. I realize that I have already expressed my support for the Leni-Kiko ticket in several social media posts, but if you're looking for affirmation on this particular post, I am sorry but you may find it elsewhere in my social media accounts. I think I shall repurpose my Joel Abong post later, so there. If you're for BBM or Sara, or Isko or Manny or Ka Leody or Ping and preparing your pitchforks, thinking I'm just going to malign your candidate, go retreat and vent on someone else. 


Here are some principles I have used in arriving at who to vote for on Monday.

1. Your vote bears moral weight.

When you vote in a democratic system, you’re actually participating in the role of putting people into positions of governing authority. Therefore, your vote requires you to make a moral evaluation about what’s good and what’s evil and then to act based on your evaluation. You are morally responsible for this evaluation and act of judgment.

For example, Candidate A says they believe in positions 1, 2, and 3, while Candidate B supports positions 4, 5, and 6. When May 9 comes and I vote for Candidate A, I am giving them the power, the ability, and the agency to turn positions 1, 2, and 3 into law, which may or may not differ from positions 4, 5, and 6 of Candidate B. If A does get elected and succeeds in writing 1, 2, and 3 into law, I become morally culpable for those laws, at least in some measure, by virtue of cause and effect with my vote as the first cause. Our votes create the requisite agency these candidates need to legitimize their "rule". As citizens who choose to vote, we’re handing the candidate who the majority will choose most, if not all, of the state's weapons. 

Thus, voters who compose the majority, i.e. those who elect the winning candidate, will always share in the responsibility for the elected person's faults. And no, any and all successes are not counted. That's because as with anything in this world, anything you do that ends up successfully will always be considered part of your job and therefore, is what is expected of you. On the other hand, mistakes are another story. People vote for a candidate to do their job, not to make mistakes. Thus, for example, if you voted for President Aquino in 2010, you are culpable for the Manila hostage mishap of 2010 and the Mamaspano clash of 2015 that caused the deaths of 44 SAF members. 

What this means for you: Obviously, there is no perfect candidate. Every elected government official will have highlights and lowlights in their career. So, go for the candidate that aligns with most, if not all of your values. Yung kandidatong ma-jujustify mo ang mga gagawin, kabulastugan and all, for the next six years. 

2. In the end*, your justifications and motives won’t matter in the ballot.

* IKR, I bet may napapakanta na ng Linkin Park diyan. 

Suppose you believe position 3 is evil, yet vote for A because you really care about issues 1 and 2. Because you voted for A, you cannot discount what your vote does, as it has given A agency to pursue not just issues 1 and 2 (issues that you agree with), but also issue 3 (something you do not agree with). Unfortunately, there’s no way to absolve yourself of moral responsibility for the one thing you don’t like and to keep it for the two things you do like. Voting ballots are dumb. They cannot discern your motives. Moreover, you can't divide your vote for positions that only require one person. You can't possibly give 1/2 of your vote to A because you agree with them in issues 1 and 2 and 1/4 of your vote to B because you agree with them in issue 5 and 1/4 to C because you want them to enact issue 8 into law.  Half-shading is not allowed. 

So, for example, you voted for President Duterte in 2016 because you believed in his promise to end labor contractualization and his promised tough stance towards China (you may have believed in the power of jetskis!) but you're iffy with his Davao Death Squad reputation. You couldn't have possibly asked COMELEC to count your 2016 vote only if by 2022, RRD would have indeed ended contractualization and China would have withdrawn their claim of the contested islands in the Spratleys. Hindisight lang po ang 20/20. Hindi ka naman manghuhula na alam na alam kung ano ang mga mangyayari sa loob ng anim na taon. 

Most of all, walang essay portion ang balota. All of us will not be given a separate sheet of paper where we can defend our choice of leaders in 250 words or less. Kebs ang Board of Canvassers sa justification mo kung bakit si A ang binoto mo kahit adik siya or bakit binoto mo si B kahit lutang siya. 

What this means for you: Because we are not given the chance to justify or divide our votes, as a person with conscience, make sure that you have all the moral and ethical justifications of your votes within you. Hindi man makita ng COMELEC ang 50-slide Powerpoint mo behind your decision to vote for Isko or why Ka Leody is your pick, makakatulog ka nang mahimbing post-May 9 dahil alam mo sa sarili mo na ginawa mo ang lahat to arrive at the right decision. Dapat napagmuni-munihan, napagsaliksikan, at nabusisi mo ang lahat ng options mo

"Mac naman, what's the big deal? Parang elections lang eh... ayoko nang mag-effort, noh?"

Inamu. Tanginang kakupalan lang. Hoy, pati paboritong kulay ng brip ng bias mo sa BTS alam mo, tapos pagdating sa mga katangian ng mamumuno ng bansa natin, ayaw mong bigyan ng panahon? Punta kang HYBE HQ at huwag ka nang bumalik ng Pilipinas. Leche. 

Anyhow, here are other tangenang kabaduyang/di pinag-isipang justifications for supporting a candidate: 

1. "Eh buong pamilya namin maka-_______ eh. So __________ din ako."

Beh, hindi lang pamilya mo ang nirepresent ni Catriona Gray nung 2018. Sabi niya, she stood not just as one but as a hundred and four million Filipinos. Huwag masyadong makitid ang pananaw na pamilya mo lang ang isaalang-alang. 

2. "Kung hindi kase dahil sa pamilya niya, hindi kami nabigyan ng bahay at lupa."

Unless nabigyan niya ng bahay at lupa ang lahat ng 104 million Filipinos na kinatawanan ni Catriona, sasabihin ko na sa'yo, ang selfish lang. Also, paying back your debt of gratitude towards a politician by voting for them is obviously you being a sellout. People in public service doing good should be a norm. Trabaho ng mga nasa katungkulan sa pamahalaan ang magandang serbisyo  publiko. Hindi dapat tinatanaw ang utang na loob kapalit ng magandang serbisyo sa pamamagitan ng pagboto

The only justification for voting for a public servant with a track record of good service is continuity, that the good service you or your family experienced can be experienced by the majority of the population. Kung pili lang kayong nakinabang, please reconsider. Otherwise, if you're voting for someone to return a favor (that favor being a benefit only you or your family experienced), that's practically admitting that you sold your vote. Have some standards, please.

 3. "It's my personal choice. Basta, wala na kayong paki-alam dun."

Napapaghatang hindi pinag-isipan. You can do better than that. If you can't justify your voting decisions to even yourself, consider it a red flag because you won't have other venues to justify them. As mentioned earlier, walang essay portion sa balota

4. "So what kung pala-absent? Marami namang natuungan."

Standards, beh. Iba ang totoong effective sa trabaho sa tumutulong to compensate for shortcomings. 

5. "Kandidato ko lang ang desente. Yung inyo kriminal at walang moralidad."

Di na natuto nung 2016 at 2018. Focus on your own journey in highlighting your candidate's merits and stop asserting that only you and your like have the monopoly of the moral high ground. 

6. "Wala naman nangyari sa akin at sa pamilya ko noon eh." 

Check. Your. Privilege. Stop invalidating other people's experiences because you or your family had it good.  

3. A candidate's character matters.

Does a candidate's character matter when it comes to the ethical significance of a vote? Yes, similar to the chain of moral causation described in point 1, but then the moral responsibility transfers not through issues but through the persons themselves. Gasgas na ito sa samu't saring parables na napopost sa social media about hiring an employee with poor character and getting shocked with their lousy performance later. If I know that a candidate has poor character and still opt to support them, I become at least partially complicit in any bad decisions they make. In localspeak, para akong kumuha ng bato tapos pinukpok ko sa ulo ko

A leader’s character and behavior teach and even authorize what’s morally acceptable within that leader’s domain. It has to do with the concepts of moral ascendancy and normalizing deviant behavior. For example, kung ugali ng boss mo ang magmura, mastataas ang chansang magiging normal sa team mo ang magmura. Una, kase regular niyo nang nararanasan, so eventually di na pinagiisipan kung tama pa ba or mali ang ugling yan. Pangalawa, kase kung nakikita niyo ang masamang asal sa pinuno, you get emboldened and entitled to do the same. In other words, a public servant's character has a very real and tangible effect on a body politic that’s analogous to passing a law. It’s like the passing of an informal and unspoken law supporting those things, which people will notice and follow. 

Suppose then you knowingly have a team leader who's a pathological liar. Do you not risk becoming at least somewhat complicit in his behavior? If so, the same principle must apply to voting for a dishonest and unvirtuous candidate. 

What this means for you: Obviously, no to liars and the morally decayed. For PRRD supporters, I know this is a rather touchy subject because the scenario became DDS vs. mga "desente" because it reached the point where people had to justify uncouth behavior and character as "Okay lang magmura, at least hindi corrupt" or "Okay lang nanananching ng katulong, basta nagpeperform." I'm not saying that the desente yellows would have done a better job -- we'll never know that because we had RRD for six years, so that would be a hypothetical situation. But then, wouldn't have it been better if we had a performing government that is free of corruption and also... GMRC? To parahrase a beauty pageant vlogger, "My Gosh, itaas naman natin ang diskurso! Utang na loob!" Seriously, why settle for a corrupt-free performing government when we can have a corrupt-free performing government with upright character? Standards, utang na loob, standards!

4. The Philippines is not a compulsory voting country. 

People say, surely there’s always a morally righteous choice. Thus, there is a need to always select and always exercise our right to vote. 

Not necessarily. Compulsory voting, also called mandatory voting, is the requirement in some countries that eligible citizens register and vote in elections. Penalties might be imposed on those who fail to do so without a valid reason. And there are countries that implement compulsory voting. 

Thailand, Australia, Brazil, Peru, and Uruguay come to mind. Ours in the Philippines is a voluntary participating system where voting is highly encouraged but not mandatory. Yun lang, pag hindi ka makaboto ng dalawang successive na elections, you'll have to re-register. Otherwise, you are not forced to vote. Walang sasalakay sa bahay mo at pilitin kang bumoto at gunpoint. 

What it means for you: Considering the first three points, if you do not see any candidate meeting the standards of character you are looking for, or if you see yourself compromising on your justifications and the number of issues that you agree with for each candidate, then you actually have the option of not voting for anyone. You can abstain. You can undervote. Hindi ka tatamaan ng kidlat kapag wala kang mapiling pangulo. Kung mayor lang ng lungsod niyo ang gusto mong iboto, then walang makakapigil sayo. 

"Eh, Mac, sayang ang boto ko!"

Sayang kung sa sayang, but why force yourself to choose among people that make you compromise your ideals and values? Pili ka, vote for someone who you don't believe in "para hindi masayang boto ko" or stand by your convictions and uphold your standards? Voting for someone just to "beat the opposition" is another way of compromising and is more or less similar to the lame-ass reasons I stated earlier in principle 2.     

5. Some issues are heavier than others. 

A government that practices good governance has to attend to various issues —the economy, defense, foreign relations, healthcare, national defense, criminal justice, other social issues, et cetera, et cetera, kung si Yul Bryner pa. It just so happens that some of these issues are more important than others. Thus, for us voters who want to vote ethically, this means accounting for most, if not all of these issues and at the same time acknowledging that some of these issues would be more important than others. 

What this means for you: Each of us has our own pet issues that we deem most important depending on our ways of life: Women have reproductive rights, OFWs would love to have continuous smooth diplomatic relations between the Philippines and other countries, LGBTQIA+ peoples push for equal rights, blue-collar workers demand workers' rights, so on and so forth. As a voter, it is your responsibility to balance the bases of your decision, obviously to go for the candidate that has your best interest in your priority issue but at the same time have also non-conflicting stands on other issues that may not be heavy in your scale but definitely very important to other people. Not championing that balance is, as in other points, a selfish and therefore immoral vote. 

This principle reminds me of that brilliant TV program shown a few years ago - The Good Place! In one of the episodes, philosophy professor Chidi was put by Bad Place architect Michael in the actual trolly problem -- If he were operating a runaway train trolley, where will he run the trolley into a track that has five unsuspecting people or a track that has only one person on it, but that person is a friend? Will you choose a leader who will act on your issue favorably to the detriment of the other issues? Will you choose a leader who acts on principles or someone who considers realistic outcomes?  

6. It is morally permissible to not vote or to vote for a candidate that is certain to lose.

To clarify what I said earlier in principle 4, I still think it’s morally better to vote than not to vote. A vote is a right guaranteed by the constitution and if you're religious, a gift from God that should be utilized properly, not like the servant who buried yung talent na binigay sa kanya ng boss niya sa lupa (naalala niyo yung Parable of the talents sa gospel?) Why should we vote? For we love our neighbors and we want to build a just and humane society.

That said, as mentioned in principle 4, we are not obliged to vote. Therefore, if you are convinced in your conscience that you’d be making a mistake by choosing among BBM, Isko, Manny, Leni, Ping, Leody, Norberto, and the others, then you shouldn’t vote for any, and deciding to go NOTA (none of the above) is an available option.

Another better option than abstaining from voting is to vote for a candidate that one’s conscience can accept, even if that candidate is certain to lose. That way, you’re still participating in the election process and formally registering what you believe is right and just.

What that means for you: A confession: All the presidents I've voted for have never won. In 2010, I voted for Gibo Teodoro. In 2016, I voted for MDS. In 2010, an endorsement from GMA was practically a kiss of death for Gibo, so it was pretty obvious from the start that he was going to lose. In 2016, MDS was a shadow of her former brilliant self and Dutertemania was at its fever pitch. It didn't matter that they were running a losing race, as I chose them with conviction and conscience. 

7. There are morally permissible laws and there are immoral laws.

Some actions promised by a candidate, in and of themselves, are morally permissible, even if they eventually prove to have unjust outcomes. For instance, one can argue that President Duterte's war on drugs was morally permissible at the start, as it should supposedly benefit people who shall live their lives in a drug-free Philippines, and only turned sour later because of the extra-judicial killings that had to be done just so that the administration can show something for that program. Then, there are laws that are just simply unjust by their very nature and are always unjust. For example, the ningas cogon action against labor contractualization. 

Our stand regarding morally permissible laws with bad or unjust outcomes should be different than our stand toward inherently morally unjust laws. With a morally permissible action or law, we can talk about reducing the bad outcomes while continuing to affirm the action's moral permissibility. On the other hand, the goal with unjust laws must be to overturn them, plain and simple, lest our ongoing support affirms what’s inherently unjust. For example, if we want to truly end labor contractualization, why should you support a senator that has businesses with contractual employees?

But then, realpolitik considerations sometimes involve compromises. Still, even as we accept halfway measures for the sake of reducing bad outcomes (for example, accepting wage increases for all eployees across the board), we must not lose sight of our overall goal and strategy which is overturning the unjust law.

8. Evaluating our votes ethically involves moral principles and strategic calculations.

We need to view our votes within the larger picture of democratic governance. The larger picture consists of several other smaller pictures and many other scenarios. Besides, the beauty of the larger picture cannot be appreciated if you only consider one frame. You look into each frame by how it contributes to the outcome of the entire picture. And the large political picture gets added on over multiple election cycles.

For example, a friend tells you they intend to vote for candidate A who supports issue 3, something you and your friend believe is wrong. Yet because of several realpolitik considerations, they believe voting for A is a better long-term strategy for your shared cause. Hypothetically, it is possible they are right, though you have serious doubts about it. How should you morally evaluate their action? You might still warn them that their vote is incorrect, but also affirm that you’re not ready to burn bridges with them because you know you all share the pursuit of a good end.

What’s crucial, however, is that their overall goal must still be to overturn the intrinsically unjust law, as explained in principle 7. They cannot hope for people to just forget about the injustice and say for example, “Wala na talagang pag-asa itong issue ng mga mangagawa. Makapag-move on na nga sa ibang bagay.” In short, a controlled amount of flexibility might be allowed only at the tactical level, especially when it leads us closer to overturning that inherently unjust law, not for them to have a change of heart and just forgive, forget, and move on. 

Final Thoughts

How then should you ethically evaluate your different options for the elections tomorrow? I've shared my principles, and if you've gotten this far, it's now all up to you. Try to go over these principles, and add your own that you think might be missing. You still have hours to get to know the candidates. Talk with your friends and your social media network. The key here is to talk and engage. This is not the time to argue and shove your ideas down their throats. Consider all perspectives before arriving at a decision. Pray for wisdom, if you're religious. And vote! 

Remember, after May 9, you'll still have to deal with COVID-19, the traffic that seems to be back to pre-lockdown levels, the pandemic pounds you've gained, and your crush who still isn't giving you the time of day, char. Your chosen one might win; your chosen one might lose. May you have the wisdom to learn from this experience and the courage to get on with your life, especially if things don't go your way. 

Love guid, 

Mac xoxox   

Today on KPop MVs: The Curious Case of the Giant Sweat Stain

What usually dapper Choi Siwon is wearing for this video is distracting me because it looks like he has a giant sweat stain on his chest.

Devil (Dance-Only version) - Super Junior, 2015

Book Diary: Paper Towns

I have read most of John Green's books, including The Abundance of Katherines, Will Grayson, Will Grayson, Looking for Alaska, and of course, the overly popular The Fault in Our Stars. I deliberately have missed out on Paper Towns, thinking last year that since they would be making a movie of it, I would make time to read it before I get to watch it.

Alas, the movie was about to be shown in a week when I finally mustered the diligence to read it. And I was quite delighted by the book, delighted enough to say it has actually become my favorite among Green's novels. The story didn't rely much on the melodrama (or lack) of star-crossed teenagers with a disease or someone with a of dating only girls named Katherine (which rather got tiring fast). This one's about a guy infatuated with his childhood friend, who after not being friends in high school, spent a night with her executing a series of pranks against her cheating boyfriend and other people she felt have wronged her, goes looking for her as she went missing the next day. 

Without the threat of going cheesy as what The Fault in Our Stars may have led Green to, Paper Towns comes out as more genuine and less affected. Gus and Hazel Grace, by virtue of their love story and disease, felt forced in a way that I felt that they needed to act as quickly as possible before their ill-fated love story ends. The trip to Amsterdam, the kissing in Anne Frank's house, the search for the difficult author all felt too grand. Good for YA audience, a tad melodramatic and staged for regular folk. 

On the other hand, Paper Towns felt more organic, with Q and Margo, although waxing philosophical through Walt Whitman and in the latter conversations, felt more authentic. That's who they are - an obsessed teenager in love with someone he idealized and an attention whore who thinks she's too cool for school, yet actually wanted to be found. That I wanted to slap Q in the middle of his obsessive search for Margo and Margo's lame excuse of not wanting to be found convinced me that these characters have more depth than the highly romanticized Hazel Grace and Gus. 

A lot of people may take the opposite view and see Paper Towns to be not as successful as The Fault in Our Stars because of a lack of grandness and heartstring-pulling found in the latter, but for me, it is one of the book's plus points. Q and his friends, in trying to find the missing Margo, became more fleshed out characters I didn't get the same feeling with The Fault in Our Stars, whose story had in fact fewer characters, which I thought should have provided Green more room to make them more real. But then, cancer and love story got in the way. 

Also, the hanging ending may cause people to be tepid in their appreciation of the book, but it also worked, at least for me.    

What I didn't like about the book were the chapters on Q's stakeouts in abandoned subdivisions. They dragged the narration and went on and on and on. It snapped me out of the Oralndo world Green created with these characters because they were just so boring to read. And when you bore a reader, you kind of lose him/her. I only got back because I wanted to finish the book, any book, and didn't want to bail out on it when I have already invested some time with the first chapters . Otherwise, I would have stopped. Well played, Green.

It has been three years since John Green's last book, and I hope he releases a new one soon, which I hope will be better than Paper Towns. The bar set by Paper Towns isn't that high, so I could only hope for better from him.