Where is the Philippine Political Opposition?

Posted January 13, 2021

In the contemporary Philippine political scene, there is clearly an absence of a political opposition that is actively engaged in nation building. In this context, political opposition is meant to be an active and constructive opposition to the incumbent government composed of the political minority in the current legislature and leaders of political parties who are not part of the government majority.

The essence of an active political opposition is a necessary factor in a properly working democracy. Such active opposition is clear and working well in democratic countries such as the United States, Great Britain, most of the countries in the European Union and, in our part of the world, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, to name some. These countries have a common general characteristic – they are all well developed economies.

Ben Punongbayan, Chairman and Founder of Buklod, a national political party, pointed out the absence of similar active opposition in the Philippine political scene. He said that one would expect that an active and constructive political opposition would be an enduring institution in the Philippines because we borrowed the structure and practices of the US Federal Government where there has always been such a political opposition.

He said that an active and constructive political opposition provides great benefits to the running of a government. For one, an effective political opposition may be able to stop the passing of a bad law or at least to influence it to have it changed to a better one. It may also influence the proper implementation of the laws; prevent or reduce excessive use of power by the incumbent majority; influence to get government business moving faster and efficiently; and generally, keep the incumbent political majority honest and restrained.

Punongbayan cited a few issues in the current political scene that could have been better handled had there been an active and vibrant political opposition: the clear lack of formal policy in the procurement and funding of COVID-19 vaccines; the much delayed procurement of the vaccines; the shift in foreign policy towards China without giving adequate explanations on how that shift will benefit the country; the deplorable consequences of the drug war; the apparent slow rehabilitation of Marawi City; and so on.

According to Punongbayan, “we need to have an active and constructive political opposition, primarily at the national level, but also at the province, city and town levels. We had it in the early years of the Republic. I hope it is not a case of a pervasive feeling of fear that prevents us from bringing this healthy institution back.”

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