Cory to Marcos: “All it takes is one ballot”

Orly Mercado

Posted on August 2, 2009

In the Philippines, after the assassination of Senator Ninoy Aquino in August 21, 1983, most began to feel that this was the beginning of the end of the Marcos dictatorship. The funeral procession for the slain opposition leader was unlike any in our history. Marcos appeared to have recovered from his kidney transplant, but was on the ropes, politically.

The opposition did not seem to be able to get its act together. It was divided. In 1984, there was a scheduled election in May, for the regular Batasang Pambansa (parliament). There was a lively debate about whether those opposing Marcos should participate or boycott the elections. The left was leading the movement to boycott what was feared to be yet another election to be stolen from the people. There were those of us who believed that the election by itself was to be a critical catalyst in ending the Marcos regime. It was 1984, and George Orwell’s omnipresent big brother of a government, was to receive a blow that would stagger it, and prepare it for the final round: Marcos versus Cory.

Cory Aquino was a true believer in non violence and in the power of the ballot. In 1984, although the assemblymen were to be elected locally, the issues were national. And her role in the campaign ensured the victory of a credible opposition that would keep the struggle for democracy alive. I was unsure whether my votes in Quezon City would be counted. The turnout was overwhelming. I was a political novice, but was honored to lead our team, together with Justice Cecilia Munoz Palma, and Bert Romulo to victory. We could not have done it without Cory Aquino.

In the Batasang Pambansa where we took to our task of fiscalizing with gusto, I met Assemblyman Jhalmar Quintana. He was one of the four elected assemblymen from the opposition who made a clean sweep of Quezon province. He was quite a character who seemed to more adept at delivering a campaign speech in a public plaza than in the halls of Congress. But he had a great line. During his campaign, he borrowed a line from a Fernando Poe movie whose title was: “Isang bala ka lang” (all it takes is a single bullet). Jhalmar modified it into a nonviolent threat to Marcos: “Isang balota ka lang”

In the 1986 presidential campaign, Cory adopted the line. It was one of the most effective campaign lines that embodied what she stood for. The inexperienced housewife challenged the dictator who ruled the Philippines for too long with the non-violent threat “Isang balota ka lag” and the Filipino people went to the polls.

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