While the season to be merry and jolly is over, the season for politics this 2018 has officially begun!
At the beginning of 2018, policy changes have prompted a series of intense dialogues and exchanges among many households, carinderias, workplaces, and even through social media. This is a result of increased action by the Duterte Government on critical policy reforms, as promised during the 2016 Elections.
Before the end of 2017, President Duterte signed the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law. Deliberations on Charter Change and Federalism are also expected to commence upon resumption of Congressional Sessions by middle of January. Conversations on service improvements and regulations in the Telecommunications Industry have also intensified, given the President’s recent go-signal for the entry of a third force to tilt the competitive balance in the market. These types and levels of discussions across many segments of our society bode well in raising the level of intellectual discourse on critical social and political issues among Filipinos.
For years, reform-minded political practitioners have attempted and likewise failed at promoting policy-level and merit-based discussions before, during, and after elections. Despite these laudable efforts, many Filipinos remain fixated with idols. Many of our countrymen/women's decisions are heavily influenced by advertisements, endorsements, and guarantees made by popular figures e.g. politicians, celebrities, sports icons.
By nature, prominent Philippine political personalities shape political movements, discussions, and actions. For example, it took the election of President Duterte to jumpstart serious talks on the adoption of a Federal Form of Government. This proposition has been at the back burner of many policy considerations during previous administrations, particularly during the Aquino regime.
However, while President Duterte may have been the initial face of the federalism and tax reform advocacies, the merits of these proposals should be the main factor in the determination whether these should be approved or rejected. Therefore, today’s conversation should be more in-depth, as we have gone past the entry level of policy debates, given the President’s political capital.
The opportunity presented by today's political circumstances should inspire reform-minded political workers to jumpstart worthwhile policy debates, and engage ordinary citizens in the process through various communication platforms. Doing so would also enable us to effectively combat the prevalence of fake news and false propaganda in social media today.
The time is also ripe to engage discussants in various households, carinderias, and markets by organizing townhall assemblies. This venue serves as a policy feedback sourcing mechanism for politicians, as well as an opportunity for them to indirectly campaign for the 2019 Elections.
The possibilities are endless in terms of the number of available options to deepen intellectual discourse among many Filipinos. The chance to promote sustainable policy debates and conversations on social and political issues are now in front of us for the taking.
There is no better way to start 2018 than to spark and maintain healthy, thought-provoking, and empowering debates that would lead to policy measures beneficial to a vast majority of our countrymen/women.
Aja for a Healthy and Prosperous 2018!