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Anti-establishment Votes: Brexit and the 2016 Philippine Elections

e often hear that there is wisdom in election results. After an election, we say the people have spoken. And the majority of voters are usually right—but not always. On occasion, voters make the wrong choice; even in a country with a long democratic tradition like Great Britain. The country that gave the world the Magna Carta, parliaments, and revered academic institutions like Oxford and Cambridge, seems to have stumbled this week when the majority of its citizens voted to leave the European Union.

Some analysts describe it as an anti-establishment vote. The desire by ordinary citizens to take back their government from the power elite who control it—be they from within the UK or from Brussels. There was also the fear of immigrants and refugees that caused many to vote to leave. Ironically, London, which has by far the largest immigrant population within the UK, voted overwhelmingly to remain.

In May of this year Filipinos also went to the polls and overwhelmingly voted for an anti-establishment presidential candidate. A candidate who would use crude and oftentimes vulgar language, one who showed little respect for institutions like the Church, and who hinted at using extra-judicial methods to rid the country of evil and corrupt elements once-and-for-all. President-elect Rodrigo Duterte takes his oath of office in a few days.

With the British people now wondering if they made the right choice given the recent collapse of the financial markets, and the negative repercussions of their "leave" vote slowly coming to the fore, will Filipinos experience similar misgivings soon after June 30th?

Like the majority of Filipinos, we hold out hope that Duterte will do what's right and resist the temptation to abuse his mandate. However, as we noted in a previous editorial (here's its LINK), it might not be Duterte we should be worrying about but the people under him who tend to abuse their authority. Even before his being sworn-in, there have already been a significant number of killings and abuses by police and local government officials—mayors, governors, and Baranggay officials—hoping to make a name for themselves and show the new administration that they too are really tough on crime.

Only time will tell if the British people can turn their leaving the European Union into something positive. And only time will tell if Duterte will be able to walk that fine line between being tough on crime, and overstepping his bounds by abusing his power, and trampling on the human rights of his people.

The Philippines is one of the few countries in Asia where democratic elections take place and its people are free to choose their leaders. Let's make sure it stays that way." Published 6/26/2016

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