According to Senator Bam Aquino he will be joining a “coalition slate, which will be made up of people willing to speak out and stand up against Malacanang’s policies that may be damaging to the people”. In a post on his website, Aquino called for a need for a “genuine opposition”…
“In 2019, hindi lang ‘The Force’ kailangan, we need ‘The Resistance’ – a genuine opposition slate. Kailangan ng mga taong magsasama-sama, magtutulong-tulong para labanan ang polisiya ng administrasyon na nakakasakit sa tao. You will find me on that slate,” said Sen. Bam.
“You need a slate that’s independent from PDP-Laban, that’s willing to oppose, willing to stand up even if it’s unpopular, and even when it’s dangerous. Kailangan natin ng oposisyon para sa ating demokrasya,” the senator added.
One wonders then… was there ever an “opposition” against the administration of current Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte? According to Aquino, there hasn’t been one — at least not one that was “willing to oppose.” The fact that he is calling his new little project a “genuine” opposition suggests that he is creating the real deal and that any previous “oppositions” were all mere fake oppositions.
Perhaps someone should ask Aquino: So what were all those rallies, movements, and calls for “international criminal court” investigations against Duterte in the last 18 months all about? Who are the communists and the Yellowtards? Were all these political posturings, mass actions, and the symbolic gestures made by communists and Yellowtards not expressions of genuine opposition to the incumbent?
What exactly does Bam Aquino mean by the term “genuine opposition”?
Perhaps I can answer that question for him. The garden-variety “opposition” that has long characterised practically all “opposition” movements and parties (and, yes, even “coalitions”) in Philippine politics have all done no more than serve as platforms for personalities to challenge people in power and pitch themselves as mere replacements. The art and science of political “opposition” in the Philippines has never involved anything bigger or more meaningful than individual personalities and individual agendas. There has never been any long-term vision for the Filipino people nor any clear defining construct around what the Philippines stands for. As a consequence of these persistent intellectual deficits in Philippine politics, there has never been any form of roadmap to the future laid out before Filipinos.
Therefore, the goal of a truly genuine opposition is to provide that vision and a definition of “The Filipino” that could frame truly national aspirations towards which a yet-to-be-drawn-up roadmap to the future could guide a nation.
The first step is to fill or, at least, narrow the intellectual deficit towards achieving the foundation mindset upon which a truly genuine opposition movement could be built. Aquino should recognise that the Philippines he plans to take on this journey is home to a society that is fixated on the past and is hobbled by much cultural baggage. Indeed, much of these are evident in the very rhetoric of the current presumably non-genuine “opposition”. Today’s “Opposition” cannot move on from using ominous “reminders” of past “tyrannies” which it uses to make Filipinos scared of embracing new ideas and experimenting with new approaches. It is also an Opposition that is backed by the Philippines’ Roman Catholic Church — an institution that has, in many instances over the last 500 years, hindered deep reform in Philippine society by imprisoning Filipinos within medieval mindsets by encouraging belief at the expense of modern facts-based thinking.
Aquino, therefore, has an immense challenge in this first step alone — changing the way Filipinos think.
The way Filipinos currently think is what sets the agenda of the national discourse. Much of what underpins the rhetoric consists of obsolete problems that beg obsolete solutions. One such obsolete problem is the “Martial Law” bogeyman which is used ad infinitum as fodder for that old “return to authoritarianism” scare tactic that hopelessly paralyses Philippine political discourse. Everything that an incumbent administration does — the way it manages military action, implements emergency measures, proposes changes in governance, and manages public relations — is criticised by traditional “opposition” elements through the lens of a tired reminder to be “vigilant” against imagined but, nonetheless, “chilling” trends that could “lead to a return to authoritarianism”.
An athlete that had recovered from an injury cannot get back on top of his game if he or she remains paralysed by the fear of getting injured again. This is the reason, perhaps, why Filipinos cannot seem to unite around forward-focused agendas and, instead, unite in fragments around romanticised historical relics and “heroes”. Different factions and personality cults in Philippine politics have different interpretations of the past. But the future is different — because there is better hope in uniting Filipinos around a common future vision.
Therein lies the key to uniting Filipinos on common ground. The focus of the political rhetoric needs to be shifted from the past to the future. In this way, every political activity can answer the question What’s Next? Proponents of current forms of most political movements and activism in the Philippines are left scratching their heads when asked this simple question.
“No to a return to authoritarianism!” Ok, so what’s next?
“No to US-[insert current president here] dictarorship!” Ok, so what’s next?
“No to jeepney phaseout!” Ok, so what’s next?
Any truly genuine Opposition needs to provide Filipinos innovative options and strategic alternatives. The fake oppositions Filipinos have been subject to (and remain subject to even today) push their agenda through fear and emotional blackmail. It’s high time a truly genuine opposition lead the way for Filipinos looking for real alternatives. Truly genuine oppositions should not merely oppose for the sake of opposing or for the sake of a person’s (or specific clan’s or clique’s) agenda but build upon the good outcomes of both incumbent and previous administrations as well.
It remains to be seen if Senator Bam Aquino really knows what he is talking about when bandying around the term “genuine opposition”. To that, one can only suggest for now: abangan ang susunod na kabanata.
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