For a more constructive and helpful approach to policymaking by the opposition


IT will be more constructive and helpful if in issuing his counsels and press statements, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon takes time to frame his suggestions thoughtfully, so that they do not sound like instructions or banalities.

We refer to Senator Drilon’s two most recent press statements:

First, that the Senate should not rubber-stamp the government’s tax reform package; and

Second, that the government and the communist rebels should find a way to resume their peace negotiations.

The first statement from Senator Drilon reminds us of the famous attack line, “When did you stop beating your wife?”

Just as there is no man alive who will admit that he is in the habit of beating his wife, we cannot think of a Philippine Senate that will admit to being the rubber stamp of the President, even if it were true.

This is basic and elementary. The Senate will not admit to being a rubber stamp any more than it will concede that its members are cowardly or servile.

But in fact, what we need most is a Senate that will zealously perform its role as a deliberative body of the republic. In much the same vein, we need a Senate opposition that will commit to constructive engagement in the work of policymaking.

Drilon’s second proposal is similarly obvious and redundant.

It is manifest that both government peace negotiators and the National Democratic Front would serve their principals better if they seek ways to restart peace negotiations between the government and the CPP-NPA.

But the talks cannot go forward in the situation where we find ourselves – wracked by bloody encounters between government and communist forces.

Senator Drilon is indubitably correct when he said in an interview on DZBB last Sunday: “We must search for areas of agreement between the two sides. Some things must not continue with impunity; not the collection of the revolutionary tax, which is extortion, and not the repeated ambushes by the NPA of our government forces.”

Drilon faulted the communist rebels for the latest gridlock. ”It’s not right that while there are peace talks, there are continued attacks on our soldiers.”

On this point, he is in agreement with the President. Last July 21, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the government peace panel to drop the peace talks with the NDF, after the NPA attacked an advance party of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) in Mindanao. He dared the CPP-NPA to continue fighting for another 50 years, if that’s what they want.

It will be easier to find solutions on most issues of moment if the administration and the opposition can find points of agreement between them and then work together to achieve common objectives.

Talking in clichés, we submit, is not a sound way forward.

“Rubber stamp” is clearly a word of abuse which the opposition uses against the administration party. No majority party ever accuses the minority of being a rubber stamp.

Similarly, “peace talks” has become an automatic demand of many groups whenever there is armed conflict in our midst. But there are times of emergency when it is sound and necessary for the government to engage in conflict

The communist insurgency has now gone on for half a century, yet it shows no signs today of withering away on its own steam.

We think the majority and minority members of the Senate, and for that matter of the entire Congress, should reflect long and hard on this reality, and search for a common policy going forward.


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