Small wonder that they continue to look so lost and broken. Rather than lead, the Philippine Opposition in its current form today merely react. One can easily observe just how disturbingly reactive the Opposition are — turning their attention from one thing to another depending on what is “trending”. This sort of behaviour all the more highlights the hollowness of the Opposition rhetoric which remains anchored in counterproductive 1980s-style obstructionism and not much else. It all lays bare the lack of any compelling strategic or ideological foundation in the Opposition proposition to the Filipino public.
Over the last week three primary issues attracted Opposition buzz:
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(1) The race angle of the novel coronavirus outbreak. Way before the outbreak of this new virus, the Opposition already had an axe to grind with China and its residents living in the Philippines. Opposition “thought leaders” had made criticising Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s “pivot to China” a centrepiece of their platform, citing the cozy relationship the Duterte government had fostered with China as something really bad. By the time the coronavirus crisis erupted, the Opposition were locked and loaded and ready to fire at any opportunity to demonise anything to do with China and, worse, its citizens living in the Philippines.
(2) The copy-and-paste social media “robots” that aimed to attract sympathy to the plight of Chinese nationals residing in the Philippines. Over the weekend, some “vigilant” Opposition Netizens spotted a number of social media accounts posting identical messages all over Facebook and Twitter meant to elicit sympathy for Chinese nationals. Latching onto this as “evidence” of a “troll army” employed by the Duterte administration, Opposition Netizens engaged in weekend-long chatter over this “discovery” and busied themselves making mock copy-and-paste versions of these posts and having a laugh amongst themselves.
(3) The rise-and-fall of the “OustDuterte” hashtag and the subsequent rise of the “OUSTLENI2020” hashtag. Opposition Netizens working in concert succeeded at “trending” the #OustDuterte hashtag on Twitter at the start of the weekend. This, not surprisingly, eventually waned only to be succeeded by the #OUSTLENI2020 hashtag which “trended” and garnered more than double the tweets originally amassed by the former. Opposition Netizens’ were aghast and tried their best to be dismissive of the the latter hashtag. In the process, they missed the real point — that hashtag “activism” really is a pointless exercise as social media scoring mechanisms like number of Likes and Retweets are unreliable as measures public sentiment.
The three circuses — what we call flypaper issues because of the way buzzing Netizens get stuck on these — served not only to cause more division, incite xenophobia, and waste time on inconsequential social media hashtag “activism”. Meanwhile, the more important — and more intellectually challenging — tasks of developing a vision for the Filipino people and a compelling strategic alternative to Duterte’s popular approaches to governing have fallen by the wayside. Too hard perhaps? That’s a real possibility, to be fair, seeing that the finest minds the Opposition could have mobilised to the task are such intellectual lightweights. Beyond the all-too-familiar Yellowtard call to “hit the streets”, the Opposition rhetoric remains woefully thin on substance.
Before the Opposition could hope to make things of national consequence happen, they need to reacquire power. How are they going to do that if they lack a compelling value proposition to Filipinos? Furthermore, what hope could they have of acquiring power legally if they continue to subject themselves to the leadership of lame characters like “vice president” Leni Robredo? It seems the Opposition are not at all serious about winning the next election. Perhaps it is because they had been reduced to a bunch of whiny spoilt brats by decades of being led to believe they hold a birthright to power in a democracy. Now there’s an oxymoron right there.
It is high time the Opposition aspire to be something more than the unruly mob of shrill crybabies and learn to dissent intelligently. Maybe even learning a bit of wit (in contrast to the slapstick jolog humour characteristic of their usual chatter) is in order. Maybe being a bit more innovative in their slogans is long overdue. Whatever the Opposition need to do to become relevant and compelling as a political force once again, the time for them to step up is now. After all, it takes time for an old dog to learn new tricks and time is not on the side of the Philippine Opposition considering that elections are, in the bigger scheme of things, just around the corner.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.