Reclaiming Us: How the Power of Juans Can Be More Powerful than the People in Power

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The quote "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely" by Lord Acton may be one of the most famous statements on power. Centuries of conflict, corruption, politics, and invasion have proven it repeatedly. 

This dictum also holds true in the Philippines, a country still recovering from the intergenerational trauma of invasion and corruption, including the 14-year long Marcos dictatorship. According to Amnesty International, the 1972 martial law resulted in 107,240 primary victims of human rights violations, 70,000 people arrested mostly arbitrarily without warrants of arrest, 34,000 people tortured, and 3,240 killed by the military and police.

This year marks the 36th anniversary of the EDSA People Power Revolution, the most significant nonviolent revolution in the history of the Philippines against the Marcos regime. And while we are still healing from the atrocities of martial law, we are now faced with another pivotal moment in history, the 2022 presidential elections.

How do we, as Filipinos—a race that has been systematically oppressed for hundreds of years—reclaim our power in this critical time?

Liberate others from disinformation

Language and information are power. As Michel Foucault says, information or knowledge is inextricably connected with the control and access over information. When an entity with its own agenda (say, a political group or individual) holds control over the content we consume and the things we read online—regardless if they are true or not—we are handing them our agencies to think and decide for ourselves.

The digital age has put into the spotlight the importance of language and information. For example, nearly 50 years after the darkest chapter in Philippine history, the "Marcosian lie" has begun to resurface. Maneuvered through short, digestible videos and shareable posts, anyone with Internet access can read, watch, and share content about the supposed "golden age," hidden gold, and more.

This misinformation hinders the rights of Filipinos to access the truth and takes away their power to decide for themselves. In fact, a 2021 study by the Ateneo Policy Center reveals that 75 percent of the youth still fall prey to fake news. So how do we liberate others from this prevailing disinformation? We can do it by building critical literacy skills through education.

We can start by observing what people in our online community share. Reach out to them through various ways: explaining why their shared post is fake, how clicking or sharing misinformation affects others, and sharing tips and valuable materials on spotting fake news.

In turn, they can educate other people, nurturing informed, knowledgeable individuals who can make the right choices.

Undo inherent colonial ideologies

Multiple colonial powers have invaded the Philippines for hundreds of years. Unfortunately, with this comes certain perceptions that devalue local knowledge, experiences, practices, and tradition—forming an internalized oppression through ethnic and cultural inferiority.

These lingering ideologies from our colonial past may come in many forms, from our beauty standards, bias to foreign brands and artists, religion, the way we speak, to the “othering” of indigenous groups. Reclaiming our power also means understanding our past and looking within—which ideologies are we manifesting in our everyday lives, and how can we challenge them?

We can assess which ideologies we consider “truth” and start decolonizing our minds through self-awareness. Parents also have a crucial role in giving back power to the next generation by raising children free of these perceptions.

As consumers, we can begin by strengthening the local economy and culture by supporting and promoting services and products of artists, creators, indigenous groups, and more.

Undoing inherent colonial ideologies take time, but even just a small change can affect others, creating a society that respects and empowers the culture and beliefs of the people.

Listen to and decide for Juans, not just for one 

Your “own problem” can be the problems of others, too. By listening to others share their lived experiences, either through small focus groups or casual conversations, you begin to identify societal problems that need to be addressed collectively.

These problems are at stake, especially at a time like the upcoming elections. Though you may think your one vote might not count, it does. And choosing someone who addresses your concerns means you are voting not just for yourself but for the interest of others.

Voting means reclaiming your power to decide who will lead you and other Filipinos in the following years, and in this critical time, your decision holds power.

There is strength when we realize that we are more powerful than those who have claimed control over us. By reclaiming what was lost, little by little, we can create changes and construct new and better realities not just for you but for every Juan. As Wael Ghonim says, “The power of the people is much stronger than the people in power.”

Words by Monica Antonio | Cover art by Pia Maralit | LFJ logos by Jaime Pacena II

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