Giving campaign bullies the ‘Silent’ treatment
On a recent afternoon in Greenhills, San Juan City, a man was driving his SUV—one practically covered with the campaign stickers of presidential candidate Mar Roxas and running mate Leni Robredo—when another car got dangerously close.
The car driver—who showed his own preference with a Rodrigo Duterte poster on his vehicle—rolled down his window so that he and his passenger could flash the dirty finger at the “Ro-Ro” supporter and his companion, before speeding off.
Another Ro-Ro volunteer was waiting in the lobby of St. Luke’s Medical Center in Bonifacio Global City when a Duterte supporter saw him wearing a Mar-Leni baller. The latter approached, looked at the Ro-Ro supporter from head to foot, and gave a parting sneer as he walked away.
A netizen called Duterte a “lazy choice” on Facebook and immediately reaped a whirlwind of insults, with one online bully even threatening to rape her and members of her family. The experience prompted her to run to the Commission on Human Rights for help.
Jozy Acosta-Nisperos, an entrepreneur who gave up her job in New York City in 2010 to invest in the Philippines, keenly felt such an atmosphere of fear and bullying, which she believed had prevented many voters like her from expressing their choices in the May 9 polls.
Thus, together with five friends, the 48-year-old Nisperos opened the Facebook page “The Silent Majority” on April 10. “We are The Silent Majority. Whatever our reasons, whatever the depth of our conviction, we believe that Mar Roxas NEEDS to win in the upcoming elections,” the site declares.
“We recognize that Mar’s candidacy is handicapped by a perception that he will not win. This has led many to remain undecided, to vote for another candidate perceived to be stronger to avert a win by one that is undesirable, or to simply give up and abstain rather than compromise their vote on a ‘winnable’ candidate they don’t really want,” it added.
“This community was created to counter that perception. By showing that Mar does, in fact, have the numbers, we can provide assurance to hesitant would-be supporters that their support is not misplaced and that their vote will not be wasted.”
The site which was opened at 3:30 a.m. had attracted about 5,000 members by midday. The number climbed to 10,000 in 12 hours. It reached 100,000 in just under a week. As of April 30, the membership stood at 210,000.
“I said to myself, ‘what’s happening?’” Nisperos told the Inquirer in an interview on Friday. “And when we reached 100,000, the question now was what to do next? Do we stop?”
She and other members of The Silent Majority did the opposite, ratcheting up the work by encouraging other members to come out in the open in support of their candidates and try to convince the undecided.
Two volunteers reached out to her through The Silent Majority webpage—Victor Janolino and Verna Payawal. Janolino is a marketing executive who took a 45-day leave from his work to volunteer for Ro-Ro, while Payawal is an advertising executive who also decided to dedicate time and effort to the campaign.
Nisperos conceded that “it is hard for many to defend the Daang Matuwid (Straight Path, the Aquino administration mantra that the Ro-Ro campaign now echoes). While the Aquino years scored gains on the economic front, she said, there remain nagging problems in infrastructure development, the transportation sector, the quest for inclusive growth and the battle against corruption.
“(But) I do not want the country to keep starting from the beginning every six years. Personally I really want continuity, to build on the achievements of the past,” she said.
This conviction, she said, was expressed—no longer just online—during the “Silent Ro-Ro Sit-In” held at Rizal Park and timed with the last presidential debate organized by the Comelec at the University of Pangasinan on April 24. The afternoon event was initiated by performance artist Carlos Celdran and amplified by The Silent Majority.
“If people won’t come, we were afraid it would backfire on Mar and his campaign,” 52-year-old Janolino recalled.
But an estimated 35,000 showed up—seven times the number Nisperas and her core group expected—and watched the debate live on two giant LED screens, as siopao, hopia, pandesal and bottled water were shared freely to sustain the sea of yellow.
The event was also considered a statement against the “bullying” suffered by many of the sit-in participants just because they have been vocal about their choices on social media and in public places.
It gave them “a sense of safety and instant camaraderie among strangers,” Payawal added. “I just can’t stand in one corner and hand over the reins of our country to a bully. An unstable bully at that. I really see this as a battle—a classic case of good versus evil. I have to do what is good, choose what is right, fight the good fight for God and country.”
“Whatever the outcome will be, I know I took a stand,” Janolino added.
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