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The national agenda beyond May 9

There will be life after the May 9 elections. For weeks and months, there will be a continuation of the highly partisan political contestation that the elections represented. If the vote margin between the presidential contenders is small and open to protest, that contestation will continue to be intense and prolonged. We have seen this situation many times before.

This is where many of us need to pause and wear a different hat. There is a need to shift toward moderation and to ensure the normal operations of our democratic political and governmental institutions, keeping in mind that extreme partisan action often creates the excuse for destabilizing the political situation.

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The political contestation needs to be canalized toward a more constructive and programmatic policy discourse. We can certainly attempt to elevate strategic thinking beyond the interdiction of drug users that defined the start of the Duterte regime.

A good way to get everybody on board a constructive platform, even if on opposite sides, is to think long-term, not short-term. We need to force-imagine our country’s possible outlandish futures 20 to 50 years from now.

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Systems thinking for survival and security, growth and development, participation, and governance requires playing the game of the “long term,” not the medium term, the short term, or the immediate term. Reasonable actions that we take in the short term may really be palliative measures when viewed from a long-term perspective.

If systems thinking requires “futures” thinking, then aren’t we doomed to the superficial and palliative because our institutions are keyed to “end of contract” or “job order” cycles? Look at the term limits of the key political actors and decision-makers who decide appointments and appropriations, which in turn determines what significant changes happen in governance, the economy, and society. Term limits are too short—for national as well as private purposes—and politicians as a rule have gravitated toward political dynasties as the convenient solution.

For the people, for so long as the game and its outcomes do not change, they are fine with political dynasties. Their situational awareness during elections is so narrow that the structure of the voter decision-making process is designed for only top-of-mind answers. If we really wanted them to do more introspection, shouldn’t we have designed and operated our educational and civic orientation systems to give them the capabilities for doing so?

The road to the long-term game requires us to shift from the micro governance level (1,600 cities and municipalities) and the macro-level (one nation) to a yet nonexistent urban region level (e.g., North Luzon, Mega Manila, South Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao, BARMM).

Philippine politics have swung from a national governance orientation without sufficient local executive experience to a local governance orientation without a sufficient national executive outlook. What is lacking is the provincial, regional, and “urban region” ladder steps that will smoothen the consciousness and action between the barangay-municipal-city-province to the national and international regional levels.

These missing steps prevent Filipinos from shifting their loyalties from the local to the national. The Philippines is like a motor vehicle that has a first gear but lacks the second and third gears as a transition to the fourth gear. With only these two extreme gears, there is the absence of the opportunity for people to develop the systems thinking and capabilities to deal with problems at the intermediate level. People are forced to think and act micro-local or frustrate themselves by solving urban region problems using macro-institutions and systems.

These are just some of the societal and governmental transformation challenges that face the new administration, whether headed by Leni Robredo or by Marcos Jr. Whichever will be the dominant theme of politics and governance—Robredo or Marcos Jr., the other will be a contending political subtheme.

The May 9 elections are only the start for capturing the hearts and minds, soul and future, of the Filipino nation for the long term, not only for an election season. Filipinos need to keep up a civic flood of political awareness and engagement, warding off civic fatigue that brings on civic drought. We are one another’s keepers. We teach one another. Patriotism is taught as long as the nation exists. Let it go beyond a semester of civic involvement and activism.

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TAGS: #VotePH2022, On The Move, post-election agenda, Segundo Eclar Romero
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