Harmonizing discordant voices
THERE are at least three main challenges facing One Voice, the new citizens group initially composed of respected Filipinos who have come together to craft a five-point proposal to take the country out of the current political impasse.
The first challenge is getting heard loudly and clearly above the din and dynamics of the current political melee, particularly as the run-up towards the second impeachment brings to a boil. This early, the message of the group, precisely perhaps because of its more sober tone, runs the risk of being drowned out by the more insistent and more confrontational stance of the other messages out there. It doesn’t help, of course, that in our country today, controversy and hysterics get more attention and media airtime.
The adversarial positions being taken up by those advocating that the President be kicked out of office now as a nonnegotiable precondition for anything else, on one hand, and by those advocating Charter Change through the people’s initiative, on the other, seem to be presenting far more enticing (though not necessarily wiser) talking points.
The second challenge is convincing more and more Filipinos that their advocacy is far more desirable and ultimately, a more viable alternative that will usher the country out of the current political impasse. I have always maintained that the nonparticipation of most Filipinos in the raging national debate is not necessarily reflective of collective apathy, but more as a kind of protest over the limited, and largely “exclusive” (and often exasperating) menu of options being peddled out there.
There is widespread cynicism and distrust pervading today, and in a highly polarized environment, I believe that many choose to take the less contentious point of view—the one that offers a more direct lifeline to stability and security. Of course, this does not sit well with those who have cloaked themselves with the conviction of the moral and intellectual right. On many occasions, embracing the less contentious point of view has been ridiculed as weak and unpatriotic, giving the impression that nationalism has become an absolute concept, which has been franchised exclusively by particular groups. Unfortunately, this has only alienated people even more rather than drawn them into their cause.
Third, and as a logical consequence because the group is pushing for consensus, it will have to perform a major balancing act of accommodating the diversity of opinions and prescriptions out there.
Regretfully, one sector that One Voice has seemingly automatically marginalized is the group pushing for the people’s initiative. I personally do not agree with what that group is advocating (i.e., the specific points of what needs to be revised or amended in the Constitution), but I think there is space in the current political debate for recognition of various means to attain change. A people’s initiative is simply another way of empowering the citizenry and when we come down to it, it is as valid as say, people power, or for that matter, the coming together of the citizens that compose One Voice. They are variants of the same political animal.
But I understand that some items of the five-point proposal being pushed by One Voice are contingent on the defeat of some of the advocacy points of the people’s initiative. I also understand that the people’s initiative to amend the Constitution is potentially flawed although this has not been decided on with finality by the appropriate constitutional bodies. My point simply is that seeking consensus requires a more win-win perspective that does away with putting one perspective to advance another. After all, both groups purport to be in search of the same elusive thing: change.
One Voice also makes a compelling case on the need to craft a social agenda now, and on the imperative need to hold elections in 2007 as an indirect referendum on whether the President should be allowed to serve her full term, among others.
I agree that there is a need to craft a social agenda that focuses on the “common good” now. I have said this before in my blog (www.bongaustero.blogspot.com) and in that open letter that gave me my 10 minutes of infamy, but I will say it again here despite the risk of being ridiculed all over again by some quarters. People are sick and tired of the screaming and whining contest. It is time to bring the discussion to the level of what is the common good. It is time to look inside ourselves and come to terms with the fact that whatever we say or do, we are in the same boat together. We have differences in opinions and points of views but this should not deflect from the fact that this does not necessarily mean we are against each other.
If we can agree on a collective social agenda, then our disagreements can be made more civil and sensible. I truly think that what is tragic today is this preoccupation with short-term goals that divide us (such as how to give GMA the boot) rather than on larger goals that can serve as rallying points. The problems of this country are bigger and larger than keeping GMA in power or not, but yes, the social agenda should not preclude the possibility of a possible peaceful transition of power through democratic ways.
I believe that it is truly time for ordinary Filipinos to take the discussion and the crafting of the solution out of the hands of the politicians. This brings us to the contentious issue of impeaching the President, which is still a democratic option. But regardless of who files the impeachment complaint, the reality is that the impeachment process is a highly partisan and political process. We can rant about this until we are all blue in the face, but it is a numbers game that is beyond the control of the ordinary citizenry.
Thus, making the 2007 elections as an indirect referendum does present itself as a tempting, more realistic alternative. This is conditioned, of course, on the assumption that safeguards towards ensuring that the 2007 elections can be kept honest and clean can be put in place before then. This is possible of course if we put our hearts and collective energy into it.
You can download the position paper of One Voice and sign up at the group’s Web site at http://www.onevoice.org.ph.