3 relevant issues Filipinos should talk about other than drugs

To those who wish to enact change in an organization or institution, it is important to know that you can never only address one issue and expect dramatic solutions. In courses like change management, we are told that in order to effect change, we need to look at the whole system.

Such is the case with government. Time and again, we’ve seen politicians who have promised to bring change. But such a word hardly translates into action, and even more rarely does it translate into actual results. Like “interlocking gears” of a machine, change must be applied simultaneously as each gear affects each other.

The Duterte government has isolated one main issue to be addressed in a little over 6 months and it is the crackdown on illegal drugs. But the issue of illegal drugs is only one part of a wider picture in peace and order. And peace and order is just one pillar that has to be managed by the government. Simply put, if we want change in our country, then we must also look at the other “gears” in government as they affect or are affected by the interventions applied by the President on illegal drugs.

Whether in social media or in the news, it is crucial to keep the light shining on other issues along the periphery. Perhaps, the nation is all clear and well with the President on fighting the growing problem on the illegal drug trade. But other than that, Filipinos are practically divided on other issues. And these are things that we all must bring to the fore if we want real change for our country.

  1. Foreign Relations

President Duterte was elected by more than 16 million Filipinos with a lead that had put all other presidential candidates to shame. However, even if the mandate to lead is clear, his policies on foreign relations aren’t. Even with DFA Chief Perfecto Yasay trying to explain to the world the pronouncements and curses of President Duterte, one cannot help but wince every time he coughs out an FU or PI to a foreign organization or country.

Maybe during the presidential campaign, some Filipinos found his candidness and brash way of talking as a form of honesty and bravado. But when it comes to foreign relations, well, it just doesn’t sound so good. Surely, whenever he makes a pronouncement, the presidential staff members are already preparing a statement to debrief the public. And of course, the media will immediately take the words of the President as they are (which ends up in a bad publicity mess).

His unpredictable and unapologetic way of talking however is somehow affecting foreign investments and is already causing distress amongst members of the United Nations, the European Union, and the United States, all of whom we’ve built strong relations with. Recently he mentioned that he wanted to radically change the relationship between our country and the United States. We’re not sure if this involves his idea of tagging in Russia and China for stronger foreign trade relations but definitely, Filipino-American partnerships will be put on shaky ground.

Perhaps, when it comes to foreign relations, it is best to follow the saying, “If you’ve got nothing good to say, then just don’t say anything.”


women's rights online

  1. Misogyny and the Rights of Women

Another emerging issue in light of the ongoing Senate and Congress investigations on illegal drugs is the proposal of some legislators to publicly show the alleged sex video of Senator Leila de Lima. Like a subplot in the illegal drugs teleserye, the tirades of Duterte and de Lima have terribly entertained us (for lack of a better word) especially in social media. We’re not sure if Senator De Lima is just exaggerating her emotions on television to derail the President or if President Duterte is deliberately pressing on De Lima to the brink of madness.

Either way, beyond the mudslinging between them, is the more disturbing concern on misogyny. For a sex video to be shown in a Congressional hearing, it is quite alarming given that there is a law against it – Republic Act 9995 or the Anti-Photo and Video Voyeurism Act of 2009. And the decision to show it in public seems to be more politically motivated than as a means to “aid in legislation”.

Sen. Hontiveros was fierce in slamming this culture of double standards. In her privilege speech last October 4, 2016 she said:

In the first place, the release of the video would be illegal. It is in violation of Republic Act 9995, or the Anti-Photo or Video Voyeurism Act of 2009, which requires the consent of the person in the video before its release or distribution. The House Speakership and the Committee on Justice will be party to the commission of a crime under RA 9995. It is, for all intents and purposes, a sex crime. Do we allow our colleagues in the House to be party to a sex crime? Do we allow a fellow senator to be the victim of a sex crime?

“But Mr. President, the legality or illegality of it is not the core issue that I want to get to: it is the systemic and structural machismo that pervades our political culture. The double standards that are so ingrained in our life that they become invisible tools of oppression.”

Filipino women have given tremendous contributions to our country. Just look at the late Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago. She was a true icon of Philippine politics and surely, she would flare up if she heard about this issue. Regardless, every Filipino should always be on their toes when it comes to gender empowerment, equality and rights.

  1. Respect and Decency

Perhaps the most important issue that Filipinos need to revisit is the loss of respect and decency amongst each other. From the President’s swearing on live television to the countless trolls who comment on social media, the current situation of our society is a reflection on the breakdown of respect.

In the Senate, Filipinos have witnessed how two Senators tried to outdo one another by trying to switch off the microphone. There’s the heated exchanges between pro-Duterte and anti-Duterte citizens over the Internet (the feud between Carlos Celdran and Franco Mabanta being the latest). Even on the streets, there seems to be an attitude of dissent towards each other whenever politics is talked about.

The most recent incident of President Duterte was invoking Hitler in his campaign against illegal drugs, which sparked a global reaction. Although he issued an apology and stated that he was misrepresented by the media, it was pretty alarming to hear such a comparison. Of course, the German Embassy had nothing to express but dismay over the issue but one would wish that the incident did not happen at all. Perhaps, the media had a role to play by exaggerating what President Duterte says. Israel, on the other hand, accepted the apology. But it is also about being a statesman, where self-censorship plays a role in keeping relations diplomatic and civil.

Again, the war against illegal drugs is crucial in stamping out criminality in our society. However, there are many emerging issues that need to be addressed as well. In order to effect change in our country, we must also observe how our society is being morphed by the current political landscape. And as we attempt to adopt the changes we want as a nation, we also have to see how it is affecting our relationships with other countries.


This post is supported by a writing grant from the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ)