Yesterday, I chanced upon screen shots of the latest Mocha Uson article in the Philippine star. In this article, she decries the current political field being divided into different colors (e.g. yellow and red/blue) and argues that all Filipinos should be of the color brown because it is the ‘natural’ color of the nation (ignoring the multi-ethnic population of the Philippines, but that is another post). With President Duterte as the rallying point, the color brown could serve as the color of unity for the country as the great leader ushers in a new era of prosperity and defends democracy from (yellow) colors that seeks to destabilize and reinstate themselves in power. In her final paragraph, she warns those who wish to oust the President to respect the 16 million Filipinos who voted for the President and avoid any calls for ouster.
With respect, I find this too simplistic.
Nobody in her right mind would contest calls for national unity. Surely, our age old values of bayanihan and pakikipagkapwa-tao which works so well in day to day life is the one thing we need for the country to move forward. If everyone will do their part, so the theory goes, the Philippines would achieve tiger economy status and we would be better off than we used to be. Anything stated in such a general sense cannot be disputed. Horoscopes put in the vaguest of terms always ring true. But I am afraid the specifics are much more complex.
For example, if we are to unite, and I hope we will, what direction should our unity take? The Philippines is divided into different economic classes each with divergent interests which are not always compatible with each other. For example, the business owner is interested in hefty profits while her worker is interested in higher wages. Acceding to both demands cannot always happen since higher wages would mean less profit and more profit may mean decreasing wages. In this issue, which direction should our unity go?
The Philippines is also divided into different sectors, 14 recognized by the government through the Social Reform and Poverty Alleviation Act, which includes farmers, women, the youth and the urban poor. Should we allow the continued proliferation of malls and condominiums in the city to the detriment of the urban poor or should we grant preference for the latter? Theoretically, malls and condominiums could increase the tax base of Local Government Units and allow them to provide better social services but that would mean demolition of housing and dislocation of the urban poor. The converse would mean a lost in economic opportunity. Surely, it is not too much to ask for the direction of our unity before we all finally ‘turn brown’.
The good Pres. Duterte does should not be denied. I personally know of no one who actively denies the good done by the Administration. The credit for distribution of TADECO lands, closing down of illegal or negligent mines, and the quick response from DSWD on disaster relief belongs to the President and his chosen alter egos. But if the President, and Mocha, is serious about defending democracy there must always be room for dissent, for calling out blunders, and constructive dialog that does not resort to name-calling or online bashing. Our different upbringing and experiences allow for different ways of thinking. Different government projects and actions have different impacts on economic classes and basic sectors. When dissent is dismissed, or worse, violently silenced (online or offline), our common desire for prosperity and freedom cannot come to fruition. Democracy is not defended when dictators are buried with honors and human rights advocates are threatened with death.
Let me end with one piece of truth: We are not all middle class, we do not all share same values nor do we all view reality from the same lenses. This means decisions made for the country should be made collectively instead by one person, alone. This requires adherence to certain normative principles for democracy to flourish. This includes the responsibility to diligently avoid misinformation, to take time to process complex realities, to not resort to dangerously simplistic beliefs, and to approach conversation without the desire to inflame the situation. People in positions of power who are serious in their desire to improve the lives of their fellow Filipinos need to abide by these principles.
You owe it to the 100 million Filipinos, Duterte supporter or not.
PS: Simplistic, in this post, is in no way used in a derogatory manner – not an insult, merely a description.
Image above is a screenshot from The Philippine Star: http://www.philstar.com/opinion/2016/11/29/1648447/whats-your-color
Yvan Ysmael Yonaha is a Development Practitioner, Technology Enthusiast and Productivity Buff. Yvan holds an AB Degree in Sociology from UP Diliman. He is currently an instructor in the Department of Social Science of the University of the Philippines – Los Banos. Follow him on Google+, Academia.edu or Facebook.