[Tinig] Confessions of an Ex-Loyalist
14 Mar 2023 | Tinnah M dela Rosa
Youthful Myopic Loyalty
When I was much younger, I really admired and greatly idolized the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos. There were many qualities about him that I looked up to. I was such a fan that I had stickers and posters on my school bag. When President Marcos declared the snap election, I campaigned for him and proudly wore Marcos pins daily to school.
I remember as a first-year high school student then, we had a guest speaker come to our school. She was the widow of the slain Ninoy Aquino. Her name was Cory Aquino. She was an alumna of our school. She came to address the students of our school about her cause. She spoke of the injustices that were commonplace then–journalists missing or killed, political prisoners who became such because of their disagreement with President Marcos, the growing armed conflicts, the oppression, poverty and so many more. She also spoke of the injustice that her husband had experienced and what she experienced especially when her husband was assassinated. The school was filled with students wearing yellow ribbons.
Because of my staunch loyalty to the President, I refused to join my classmates in that rally, I stayed in the classroom and listened with disdain to her speech that was happening in our school’s open field. I watched what seemed like foolishness to me. In my young mind, I could not understand what was the fascination about her. In hindsight, I think part of me also refused to understand.
Experiencing Cognitive Dissonance
When the snap election was declared, I was asked to help in relaying votes for NAMFREL to double-check the COMELEC results for the elections in 1986. I excitedly said yes because it was a great opportunity to be involved and to do something for the president that I loved. After all, I had skills in morse code and in relaying votes. I also had a passion driven by my deep admiration for President Marcos. I stayed over at the relaying station the day before the election began and brought enough to wear for a few days after since manual counting was a long process. I was 15 years old then.
On Election Day before votes could even be counted, I heard many firsthand reports from around the country asking us if there was anyone who could help. There were numerous reports of anomalies, cheating, and violence. We even received reports of armed men in military uniform who partook in the violence and ballot-box snatching. I heard firsthand the frantic voices of people who experienced being held at gunpoint and asked to surrender their ballot boxes. These happened all over the country. The reports were chilling for me. I was a little fearful for these people and also for myself as the hearer of such news.
And then the relaying of votes began. We were sending the election results coming from the different precincts around the country and relaying these numbers via radio to NAMFREL at the La Salle Greenhills station. We used morse code to transmit the numbers. We were also keeping track of the official count of the COMELEC. We were seeing before us the great disparity between the votes being received and those being reported by COMELEC. The records we were receiving from the polling stations revealed my idol’s opponent, Cory Aquino, was the one winning based on the raw reports from the provinces.
I could not believe what I was beginning to realize–there was massive cheating in the elections in favor of my idol. In my mind, I wondered: who had access to all that power to manipulate the results? Certainly not Cory Aquino.
Then it hit me. Only the government wielded that kind of influence and infrastructure. But who led the government?
I prayed very hard that the conclusion I was arriving at was wrong. Honestly, who would ever want to follow the wrong leader anyway? I asked the Lord to grant me clarity as I was processing and to lead me to the truth.
Imagine my horror when I realized that the man I idolized could be involved in election fraud! Imagine the humility I needed to submit to in order to admit the truth of what I heard on the radio transmissions from all over the country! I realized that I was wrong in my belief. I was very humbled.
Two days later, on February 9, as votes continued to come in via our radio transmissions proving that Aquino was winning, we heard the news that thirty-five COMELEC employees tabulating the votes walked out of the PICC Plenary Hall. They walked out in protest of what they said was the cheating they were being forced to participate in. I was not surprised after hearing the reports of cheating in the country.
This is not an easy story to tell the world. I am not proud of being a former blind loyalist. I am not proud that I failed to see President Marcos for what he truly was. I am even more ashamed for closing my mind to the possibility that I could be wrong as I marginalized the voices of those I did not agree with. But the data I had before me could not lie.
Learning from Being Wrong
It is never too late to make a change. God has made it a point to teach me a lesson in a way that would make a life-long impression on me. Since then I realized the huge implications of having a well-formed and informed conscience. My faith demanded that I actively seek what will form my conscience. It was not enough to read. I had to check if what I read is a reliable source. After all, blind followership without critical engagement and evaluation is mere fanaticism. And fanaticism does not help us build our democratic institutions.
What are the implications of forming our conscience? When you see deceit or lies, call it out. Report it on your social media platform if the person persists. When you hear of programs, proposed bills, or reforms, research about them and inform your conscience. Then make the most moral choice you can make with what you do know from a diligent search for truth.
And when tables are turned and you are called out for an unfair statement you shared/said brought about by your negligence, lack of research, or lack of diligence to seek the truth, do not go into victim mode. Be accountable for what you shared. Retract your statement and apologize. An admission of one’s mistake accompanied by a sincere apology and the resolve to not fall into the same trap next time is a noble, worthy act.
I will push this further, especially for those of us who are able - we also ought to help others who might be blind, ignorant, or misinformed to see. But let us never forget to do so with the utmost kindness and compassion we are able to muster. I invite you to seriously take this call to respectful discourse. Our faith demands it. After all, we have been blind, ignorant, or misinformed at some point in our life but there were others who patiently took the time to educate and mentor us.
I think what we must ensure is that we remain open to the voice of our conscience within and follow its lead. When our conscience calls, we must be true and heed its call. For that is the only dignified way to be and to live as a human being.
Tinig is a monthly opinion and analysis series from the School of Humanities. The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the School of Humanities or Ateneo de Manila University.
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