Dissent and democracy
Vberni Regalado (The Philippine Star) - June 12, 2017 - 4:00pm

MANILA, Philippines - What we experience today, including all the freedoms we enjoy, were bequeathed to us by thousands of Filipinos who shared the same dreams but never got to enjoy what they struggled for. It was their greatest, priceless gift to the future generation: independence and democracy.

Lest we forget, our independence was achieved on strong dissent, cemented by courage and conviction at a time when it seemed impossible. Dissent is the lifeblood of democracy, and throughout history, we have shown why it matters.

Filipinos are not wired to simply follow what someone asks them to do. They are not robots that can be manipulated. They are not recorders who only echo what is said. They do not easily believe whatever is handed to them.

They ask questions and demand answers. They think before they follow. They look through the facade and go beyond what is given. They elevate the discussion to get a fair solution. They express their disagreement in ways they can.

These all seem different on social media, however.

Express your opposition and you become a destabilizer. Raise a question and you will be tagged as an enemy of the state. Give factual, concrete information that debunks what was stated and you suddenly become a member of the opposing political party. Check the facts and set the record straight, and people will call you biased.

This has become the new normal. People are afraid to share their thoughts for fear of being called names, or being bashed or bullied. They keep their mouths shut not because they have nothing to say but because they are scared of being crucified online. They stay silent out of fear.

This makes our democracy unhealthy.

When we don’t encourage dissent and discussion, democracy withers. Listening to what others have to say is an integral part of creating solutions that will make the nation a better place.

A bill, for instance, is not perfect, and it is the interpellation – the constant questioning – that makes it refined. When two parties debate and put forward an objective discussion, they create legislation that is not only acceptable but also beneficial to all.

Difference in opinion is inevitable, but what is important is that we know how to respect another person’s viewpoint on things, especially when objective and not mere speculation.

It is so easy to crucify people for being different, but it should be easier to listen and accept that Filipinos, just like all others, share a different view of things. This acceptance is what makes us stronger as a people, and more importantly, as a nation.

Dissent is important, if not necessary, and if we disregard this as a fundamental of democracy, then what our forefathers fought for would never make sense at all.


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