A new hope » Manila Bulletin News

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By Senator Bam Aquino

Senator Bam Aquino

It has been a year and a half since I wrote about a politics of hope – almost two years without writing about my optimism and faith in what the Filipino can be.

In that time, a lot has happened in our office. We ran a successful vice presidential campaign and passed some major reforms. We were also kicked out of the Senate Majority.

Indeed, change has come… at least for us. Personally, it’s a major adjustment.

Just last year, we had more allies in Congress and in general. These days, we’re branded as outsiders and rabble rousers.

We’ve been thrown into the minority and shoved into an unfamiliar role – the opposition – while navigating through this new political terrain.

And while we welcome the challenge to be vocal and step up to the plate when others seem to be walking on eggshells; it is clearly also an opportunity to evolve the traditional role of the opposition.

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Firstly, the opposition needs to propose and not just oppose.

The days where the opposition merely points out deficiencies and lack of efficiencies should be long gone.

An emerging role is one where the opposition proposes alternative approaches and alternative solutions to the ones that the administration espouses.

Drugs and criminality should be addressed, but the focus on enforcement and reliance on violence above prevention and rehabilitation should also be reexamined.

An independent foreign policy is definitely how we should craft our relationship with the rest of the world, but over-reliance with one or two countries to the detriment of others may not be the most prudent policy direction.

Of course, it goes without saying that the administration deserves support and even praise when it does something right.

I’ve been very vocal expressing praise for the agencies our office has been closely working with in the past months; namely, the DTI, DepEd, and CHED.

We’ve also thrown all our support behind the Armed Forces of the Philippines in their fight to take back Marawi and will assist in every way to rebuild the city.

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Another role the opposition can take on is to safeguard spaces for people to discuss and debate without fear of attack and threats.

We need to defend this basic aspect of our democracy which has been taken for granted for the past years. We need more spaces where our countrymen are allowed to share different, even clashing, views, while still being protected from hate speech and threats that lessen and diminish the national conversation instead of enhancing it.

The administration’s online allies have shown their disdain for dissent, and the opposition must not fall into the same trap of only wanting to hear what is already reverberating in our own echo chambers.

Dissent can be productive and criticism can even lead to better solutions to our nation’s problems.

But our countrymen deserve more than bickering from the opposition. We need to move past being faultfinders and become true problem solvers.

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Lastly, the opposition needs to reconnect with sectors, communities and institutions that have split and detached from one another.

There are a number of issues, like the fight against the death penalty, that are bringing together groups that were once on opposite sides.

Even politicians and personalities that were once seen to be against each other, now find themselves in similar political waters.

Vital issues that strike the core of our values, like the death penalty and the lowering the age of criminal liability, will likely lead to a new configuration of individuals and groups.

A new configuration that can be the start of a new opposition.

It will be community members, farmers, fishermen, indigenous peoples, students, teachers, parents associations, priests, nuns, and pastors, artists, entrepreneurs, workers, professionals and who knows, maybe even a few public servants.

Is there hope in a ragtag group like this – hardly-organized, barely-allied?

Most changes begin as such.

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What are your thoughts on the political opposition? What role should the opposition play? Share your with Senator Bam by emailingapoliticsofhope@gmail.com and following him on social media (@BamAquino).

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