MUCH has been said about Edsa@31, how we started finding our star and how we held on to each other to reach that star. Those were good times when being Filipino made us stand straight and hold our head high. Those were times where imperfect individuals, yes, they were implementers of martial rule, decided to stand against the rising tide and dared go with soldiers so accustomed to war. That there were no bombings and shootings were proof of the DNA of Filipinos—we are not an aggressive lot; more like a happy race, hospitable to most, close family ties and loves to entertain where food, song and dance are the thing. Yes, the fire is there, an ember perhaps, but it takes long before the combustion happens again and we will always stand tall despite the frailties of our leaders.
Our character defines us, not our reputation. And in defining moments we see in us and among our leaders that which we may respect or abhor. “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” And in the several events this past eight months, we have seen a lot in our leaders and celebrities that may not be to our liking.
EDSA@31 would have been defined by what PRRD said: “No single party, ideology, religion, or individual could claim credit for the bloodless revolution in EDSA. In the same way that no party, ideology, religion, or individual could claim a monopoly of patriotism.” Or the retort made by Davao Mayor Sara Duterte against a Catholic Archbishop: “I find it hard to understand why this bloodless revolution has become the standard definition of freedom for our country and this standard is forced down our throats by a certain group of individuals who think they are better than everyone else.” Or BSA3’s, “we would mark it with a celebration. Now, it seems like we need to do more than just remember the revolution. Maybe, this is a reminder for us that the fight continues, it’s not done yet.” And Vice President Robredo’s, “I hope we never forget that the people hold the power. Whatever we want to fight for, we can do it if we are united.” So, if the people are not with you, there will be no destabilization.
But in the end what appears top of mind was the public meltdown of a known celebrity, too yellow in color that he forgot decency and character. And then some even exalted what this celebrity did by harping on the Duterte Youth being also a BBM supporter. The slip showing is such that if one is Duterte and BBM that the group was planted to agitate the “owners” of the People Power Monument? That if the individual is pro-Duterte and later turned out to be a supporter of BBM, there was malice? And that it was all right to subject them to bullying. Worse, the celebrity went forth and proclaimed to the world that “it felt good.” All that EDSA stood for melted away and not one from among the Liberal Party called him out for being out of line and damn wrong. That is EDSA, 31 years after.
And so we go to our democracy that has been played out so many times that we do not know who is the real Opposition. Since time immemorial, our politics have often been transitioning from one monolith party to another, bringing everyone under one roof, setting aside the role of a true opposition party. We had monoliths like KBL, LDP, Lakas-NUCD, Partido Masang Pilipino, KAMPI, Liberal Party and today, PDP. The last time we had a real opposition was in 2007, under UNO and then it became a labor-management settlement, thus destroying altogether the role of an opposition in a democracy.
The Opposition is the check and the balance to an overreaching party in governance. A check on a dictatorship or insensitivity to the masses. Ideally, a constructive opposition, “would emphasize more on discussion, ask more questions, resolution of problems being faced, help in amendments and passage of important bills. Also, unite with the ruling government in issues of national interest. At the same time, the opposition must warn or bring in focus issues that government is not addressing effectively at its level.” A disruptive opposition—opposing everything for the sake of opposing—is not good for democracy (and taxpayers) for it simply avoids discussion. A strong opposition complements democracy. In the event of a weaker opposition, the ruling government and its representative may become complacent and insensitive for the duration of their rule. A party in opposition may be the next ruling party and the other way around. If we are to be governed by political parties and not personalities, we must be able to see a clear and distinct opposition. Voters would need to see their actions and how they will be remembered or forgotten. Super majorities are just that because there is no party behind it and when there are no parties, there are no policies uniquely defined by party ideology or plans, programs and activities formulated and implemented by the party at the grassroots level.
BSA3 never implemented any political party reform in his six years. The Duterte administration has not even articulated any political party reform save the change of form and structure of government. No institutional reform with COMELEC despite the leak as further pointed out by the Privacy Commission. No political party measure certified. So, it’s the same politics that governed from 2010 to the present, save for a change in label, from LP to PDP. If we do not have a clear opposition, we will be forever subjected to destabilization efforts by those whose ways are not embraced by the prevailing political disposition.
How can we push for change when we do not know who among the political players are just riding the carpet for political survival and are not really for the structural change that PRRD has been talking about. Three crucial points that PRRD promised: controlling illegal drugs use, fighting corruption and poverty alleviation. Launch the Build.Build.Build and the PPP approved projects and we will see in actuality if this administration walks the talk in fighting corruption and putting more jobs in the market. Continue with the illegal drugs campaign with joint efforts of the PDEA and the PNP but this time be cognizant of the lessons and the issues. Correct the line that 7,000 have been killed.
Build in the rural sector first and we touch the poorest. With the agricultural produce, ensure that pricing is not dictated by the middlemen so the farmers and fisherfolk earn a decent keep. If we hit the poorest in terms of agriculture and infrastructure, we hit the poor provinces of the country. If we connect them to the center, we build corridors and break paths in ecotourism. Then with moral suasion, PRRD should ask the 40 families controlling the PH economy to settle in one of the poorest provinces and revitalize the local economy, even just being a spoke in the wheel.
Change should be focused on the economy, that growth is inclusive. Change should be grassroots-centric so that Filipinos feel the change. Strengthen further frontline services because that is what defines a Duterte-brand service. One does not need a revolutionary government. One needs to think in revolutionary ways to change the status quo but that would need a lot of patience and reaching out because you cannot shock the system all at the same time.
How would Duterte want to be remembered is how it should refocus and re-engineer a year after being in office. The social welfare/poverty cluster should be the face of a Duterte administration while the economic cluster should be the engine. The rest stabilizes the ship of state. Don’t look at destabilization as paralysis. Make it the reason to move faster, the people are still with you.
Politicians must remember, “where there is no shame, there is no honor” and “men and women of genius are admired, men and women of wealth are envied, men and women of power are feared; but only men and women of character are trusted.”