An open letter to Juan dela Cruz, the voter

May 3, 2022

To the average Filipino voter, I ask you this … what is the matter with you?!

Why do you keep voting for the same kinds of people over and over again? If it is not a famous member of a political dynasty, it is a relative. If it is not that, it is a celebrity with little to zero experience or expertise in public governance who thinks philanthropy and public service are the same thing. And if it is not any of them, it is a candidate that either has a pending case or is convicted of a crime that clearly indicates unworthiness of being elected.

If you expect a different outcome for voting the same type of candidates over and over again, it makes for a culture of insane voting habits. Decades of poverty, injustices, and inequalities should have taught you by now that this culture is not the key to addressing your or our problems. 

By doing so, it makes you a part of the problem. You become responsible not only for the poor state of our nation, but also for whatever adverse impacts these people would lay on you. You cannot exactly be forthcoming in demanding accountability from these people in power for their failures and negligence in their duties without holding yourself accountable for putting them there to begin with. That just makes you a hypocrite.

No, we should not absolve these so-called leaders of the blame for the state of the Philippines and place it on the voters because that is exactly what they would want: to avoid being liable. That is similar to how plastic producers want to shift the narrative by placing the responsibility on consumers for the environmental problems of single-use plastics, when consumers do not exactly have a better choice in this society that requires convenience just to keep up.

But that is where the difference ends. Voting is a matter of choice. And considering the track record of previous administrations, especially the one that is about to end, there is a better choice available.

Yes, we are dealing with problems going back to political, social, and cultural processes spanning decades, even more than a century. It would take more than three or six years to fix problems in our agricultural sector, energy security, lack of public infrastructures, or climate change impacts. 

But that does not mean you should let others solve these problems, with you not doing anything. You can say that you as an individual cannot make a big impact, but using that logic, why are you then anointing some traditional politician or actor to single-handedly save this country? You demand that your right to vote or freedom of speech should be upheld according to law, and yet you do not even know how to use it responsibly.

The truth is these people are becoming more brazen with their flaws over the years because you let them maintain their power and influence. They figuratively slap you in the face with their acts of corruption, abuse, and in some cases violence. They laugh at you for believing every single word they say. 

And yet you glorify and idolize them like they are heroes from a soap opera or a movie. You think you owe them your gratitude, your loyalty, or even your whole lives just because they show up and give you some type of temporary relief that one time or two. 

You do not owe them anything. They are public servants. It is their mandated duty to help you. Just because they had some bridge built or you did not experience the atrocities that they may have committed does not mean you should blindly and willingly defend every little thing they do.

The truth is these people you elect are not the alternative. They are not outside the ruling class or the institutions you have grown to distrust over the years. They are part of the ruling class.

And you wonder why the Philippines never moves forward the way it is supposed to. You wonder why many of our skilled professionals choose to seek greener pastures abroad. You wonder why our athletes never get the respect and accolades they deserve unless they basically do it on their own accord. You wonder why some of your beloved ones have to sacrifice by spending their years far away from you in foreign lands, just so they can earn money for you and your family. 

All of these need to be said so matter-of-factly because enough is enough. Aren’t you tired of being bogged down by these problems? Would you rather stick to what you know just because it is the norm and there is some comfort in that? Wouldn’t you take a chance to build a better life not just for yourself, but for your loved ones, your community, or even for this nation? 

You deserve better. We deserve better. But we cannot just let somebody else solve our problems. The time is long overdue for you to stop being enamored by this romanticized dream that never existed. Wake up!

John Leo is the Deputy Executive Director for Programs and Campaigns of Living Laudato Si’ Philippines and a member of the interim Secretariat of Aksyon Klima Pilipinas. He has been representing Philippine civil society in global and regional UN conferences on climate and the environment since 2017. He is also a climate and environment journalist. 

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