The Collective Conscience speaks

FREEPIK

Today, May 9, 2022 is General Election Day. The day when eligible voters will elect 18,180 new officials for the executive and legislative branches of the government — 77 national posts and 18,103 provincial and local positions, except for the barangay officials.

According to the Commission on Elections (Comelec), of the country’s total population of 110 million, there are 65.7 million registered local voters (61%) who are expected to go out and vote today, aside from the 1.8 million overseas voters who have had the opportunity to vote earlier.

Tempering expectations to a voter turnout of about 82%, like at the 2016 General Elections, that would mean about 55.35 million Filipinos would vote today to choose their leaders for the next six years (for President, Vice-President, and Legislators) and three years (for local governments). A difficult decision.

Today, the Collective Conscience will speak. Whether the good and deserving or the bad and undeserving win or lose, the Collective Consciousness will have chosen. And whichever candidates have won or lost in this perhaps most virulent, ugliest, and brusquely contentious fight for jealous suffrage in decades, they might not have won on pure merit but on the perception of the voters of their capacities to deliver the expectations from such office. It is not even morality or spirituality that will raise the winners, for how can it be explained that even deeply religious and upright people have tenaciously supported the candidates of obvious moral lack and utter dearth of character?

The popularity surveys that proliferated in this most vulnerably impressionable time before elections have insinuated into the collective consciousness, whether they were believed or not, causing mixed emotions of fear or reinforcement. Those who opposed and doubted surveys have brought up concerns about “mind conditioning,” where the repetitive reinforcement of supposedly scientifically derived conclusions convinces the target audience that they should likewise approve of the candidate like those randomly selected interviewees in the surveys. But despite the cynicism about the accuracy of surveys (perhaps more by those whose preferred outcomes are not validated), surveys do call to the bandwagon effect, either positively (join!) or negatively (go for the underdog). Information is always absorbed and processed, consciously or instinctively, by the collective mind — that is what collective consciousness is.

“A lie repeated often enough becomes the truth,” as the infamous Nazi spokesperson Goebbels espoused. Fake news and disinformation have clouded the collective consciousness in this critical time, amidst political and social insecurities exacerbated by the lingering anxieties of the COVID pandemic that would not go away yet. Perhaps the intermittent isolation/restrictions and gradual relaxation — made more confusing with the insistent new variants of the virus — have dissipated suspicion of fake news for want of excitement and novelty in day-to-day living. The internet and its seemingly unlimited information might have surreptitiously taken the lead in molding the collective consciousness, especially of the young, who are more “techie” and more adaptive to new technologies.

The “Young” (those between the ages 18 and 41 as defined by Comelec) are 37 million (about 56%) of the 65.7 million voters in the country — a “prime mover” of the May 2022 election results, Comelec said (CNN Philippines, Feb. 8, 2022). The turnout of the youth in the 2016 election was about 30%, but the turnout this year is projected to be much higher, according to Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez. This might be because the young are more aware of their rights, and of issues about these rights and freedoms — thanks to the accessibility and exchange of information and communication on social media.

“Perhaps the biggest challenge facing young volunteers (campaigners) has been the wave of disinformation that has lionized the Marcos era and vilified Ms. (Leni) Robredo as a communist… Tsek.ph, an independent fact-checking project in the Philippines, found that Mr. Marcos (Jr.) has benefited the most from disinformation this year, while Ms. Robredo has been its biggest victim so far. The group said that of more than 200 election-related posts it analyzed, 94% targeted Ms. Robredo; only 10% went after Mr. Marcos Jr.” (nytimes.com, May 1, 2022).

The sinister, selective bashing in social and mass media of the more instinctively liked candidates who have no history of wrong-doing is revising history itself. How can the collective consciousness erase in its mind and soul what history taught it by experience to be the ideals and values for living in peace and harmony in life? Historical revisionism is the betrayal of the collective conscience. “Never again!” is the battle cry of the collective conscience to always remember what the Filipino soul fought for at the EDSA People Power Revolution in February, 1986 — when the dictator Ferdinand Edralin Marcos (Sr.) was ousted after 14 years of bloody martial law that trampled and stole the people’s life, rights, and wealth. “Tama na, sobra na!” Enough is enough!

It turns the knife in the wounded soul of the collective consciousness to now reduce the EDSA Revolution to a fight between “the Yellows” (anti-Marcos) and the pro-Marcos (those who think Marcos did nothing wrong, and even did good for the country back then). The reversal and re-assignment of moral roles — with the Yellows as the bad ones and Marcos as the good one — was a most blatant and despicable mental bullying of the collective soul by present-day pro-Marcos campaigners.

After the counting of votes by the Comelec Board of Canvassers, it will be known who the winners are for the positions to be filled. It will be known if the surveys were right; it will be known if social media was true or false; it will be known if the euphoria of those pre-election rallies of hundreds of thousands for “the good one” (the morally and ethically upright candidate) was premature and naïve. What if the consistent top-notcher (“the other one”) in the popularity surveys wins as President despite moral and ethical doubts on his character?

The moral considerations in choosing whom to vote for in this election have roused the religious (the Catholic clergy) to unprecedented direct involvement in the campaign. Five days before the elections, the Clergy for the Moral Choice (CMC) with over 1,200 (now 1,500) priests, bishops, and deacons, officially endorsed the candidacy of Leni Robredo and her running mate Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan. The CMC reminded Catholic Filipinos (who make up 86% of population) of “their sacred duty… to vote and to vote only for the right leaders of this our beloved country, the Philippines, to choose and to elect true servant-leaders whose hearts are really after the heart of the Good Shepherd” (Rappler, May 4, 2022).

On Teleradyo on May 5, hosts Tony Velasquez and Danny Buenafe asked Fr. Francis Lucas, President of the Catholic Media Network and Director of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) if the active voice of the Catholic clergy in the elections was a transgression of the constitutional separation of Church and State and against the prohibition in Canon Law for the clergy to be political. Fr. Francis clarified that the endorsement by a group of Catholic clergy was not an institutional endorsement by the Catholic Church, and thus did not violate the Constitution nor Canon Law.

The indigenous religious sect Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) publicly (institutionally) endorsed candidates Bongbong Marcos and Sara Duterte and 12 Senatorial bets for election. “INC requires its members (who make up 2.3% of population) to vote as one, in accordance with the church’s beliefs and the importance it places on unity” (ABS-CBN, May 5, 2022.) The endorsement of certain candidates by the “Moral choice” Catholic clergy was far from being a directive to vote for those endorsed — there is no buying or bribing; no quid pro quo, no forcing, no threats.

Fr. Francis reinforced the concern of the CMC that the collective conscience must make a moral choice on who should lead our country. He prayed: “Panginoong Diyos, mahilom nawa ang mga mali naming pananaw sa buhay; ang pagsalanta namin sa Iyong mga batas at sa Iyong adhikain sa aming ikabubuti.” (Lord God, may our wrong views on life, our disruption of Your laws and Your cause for our good be silenced.)

Heal our collective conscience that has lowered our moral standards by our own disrespect of Your laws, Oh God, and our selfish disregard of Your guidance on what is good for us all.

Amelia H. C. Ylagan is a doctor of Business Administration from the University of the Philippines.

ahcylagan@yahoo.com

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