If we are to believe our top “activists” and “thought leaders”, it would appear that the Philippines’ most pressing problems are the ABS-CBN broadcast franchise, the Anti-Terrorism Bill (which is now a law), and “gender issues”. Perhaps this is because the voices that dominate the discourse happen to be the ones who command strong followings in channels that have traditionally enjoyed a captured audience — television and university campus “happenings”. As a result, it is the “plight” of a politicised TV station and the threat to campus militantism that are given the most air time in the national discourse nowadays.
Do these “issues” really matter to ordinary Filipinos? That’s highly-debatable.
For one thing, the issues themselves are ill-framed. Take that of the ABS-CBN franchise renewal “issue”, for example. It is being framed as a “press freedom” thing. But to most ordinary Filipinos, ABS-CBN is no more than a source of cheap (free on television) entertainment. They see the corporate media behemoth not as a hero of “freedom” but as a mere distraction from the realities of their wretched lives. Small wonder that no big mass rallies have so far materialised to rescue ABS-CBN from the jaws of death despite the awesome “fandoms” of the likes of Kim Chiu and Coco Martin being mobilised to that end.
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The difference today is that there are many other channels through which Filipinos get their information and their kicks. In the old days, before social media, campus activism did attract kibitzers at the very least — simply because there were no mobile phone screens connected to headphones at the time against which the shrill slogan chants and the red placards bobbing up and down during these circuses would have to compete for attention. Same with television. Whereas, in the past, Wowowee or It’s Showtime going off air would have been nothing short of a national disaster, today, Filipinos would very likely merely shrug and whip out their smartphones to google alternatives if that were to happen.
Filipinos are also better-informed (believe it or not) and, as such, less inclined to swallow nonsensical ideas and downright lies hook line and sinker. This is bad news for the communists in particular who seem forever stuck in a rhetoric that had failed to evolve since the end of the Cold War. Information on who and what parties had been in bed with the communists and vice-versa is literally at everyone’s fingertips and just about anyone can challenge their “street parliamentarians” on the sense (or lack of it) behind the tired slogans they brandish in their “rallies”. The idea of vandalising public property to get one’s messages across is no longer as dramatic as it used to be seeing that a new breed of digital creatives can put a meme before millions of eyeballs at the click of a button.
For lessons on what consequences await those who habitually insult the intelligence of their captured audience as ABS-CBN and the “woke” activists do today, one need look no further than the sad case of the Roman Catholic Church. The Church had the captured audience to end all captured audiences long before communism, television, and social media were invented. As recently as the 1980s, the Church was regarded as the eminent kingmaker of Philippine politics, so much so that no less than the late Jaime Cardinal Sin joined the other prominent Yellowtards of the time as venerated “heroes” of the 1986 “EDSA Revolution”. The Pastoral Letter which a priest reads before his wide-eyed congregation during the Homily segment of their Sunday Mass was a potent tool of mass persuasion rivaled only by television.
Today, the Church as a means to influence politics and upon which depended the political fortunes of oligarchs is but a shell of its former self thanks to the shortsightedness of its monarchs. Just like the hammer and sickle of the communists, and the “L” hand gesture of the Yellowtards, Catholic icons have lost their hypnotic effects on the masses. Years spent more on sticking to dogma and orthodox ideology and less on taking on board fresh ideas and evolving on the bases of these had made them all obsolete.
One idea that hasn’t become obsolete is the idea of the people’s will. Ultimately, the whole point of democracy is to ensure that the people’s will is given priority in decision making and legislation. This is the reason legislators and executive leaders are elected officials — because they being the popoular choice ensures that they represent this popular will. It is this simple feature of democracy that the Opposition seems to have lost sight of; instead, focusing on their pet notions that are simply irrelevant to the ordinary voter. One can argue that “human rights”, for example, is a noble concept worth “fighting” for. But, at the end of the day, you need political power to uphold it. And, under a democracy, the only way to legally acquire political power is to get elected. To do so, you and your platform need to be seen to be relevant to ordinary people.
The Opposition need to come down from their Ivory Tower and reconnect with their people. To do that they need to do less mutual high-fiving among themselves and take the time to listen with their ears close to the ground. They need to learn how to make themselves relevant again by charting a view of the future ordinary folk can directly relate with.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.