Why ‘ransom’? Anybody who has engaged in a debate on the RH bill issue might have noticed how such debates have turned into name-calling, into exercises of misrepresentations, of mutual exclusions, and of very harmful division among us Filipinos. It seems to me that this scenario of divisiveness is also a matter of concern for all Filipinos of goodwill. Considering the Filipino tradition of hospitality, ‘bayanihan’, and love for the family, in short, of our much valued ‘personalism’, it is a surprise why those engage in the issue should resort to below-the-belt tactics. A brief analysis of such a phenomenon (Filipino ‘personalism’ vis a vis below-the-belt tactics) would seem to tell us that this is due (perhaps not only) to our lack of training in intellectual engagements.
It is always well to recognize that debates, both formal and informal, do require in the participants some considerable degree of intellectual sophistication. This requirement when felt by the issue participants, as evidenced by their effort to search the internet for answers, an effort both laudable and insufficient, could drive a cultural and intellectual ‘golden age’ in the Philippines. It can create in Filipinos a love for study. This felt requirement coupled with a love for study can also spar a radical reformation in our socio-political and socio-economic life. If this RH bill issue would be ransomed, we could be heading towards a true, profound, and integrated development of the Philippines.
But how should we do this ransoming? Intelligent and respectful dialogue. This dialogue is not only an exchange of words but an exchange of selves, an act of friendship, an act that bases itself on the love for truth and the readiness to accept it wherever it is found. Friendly debates is indeed possible if both parties realize that they are searching for the same truth of things and that they are called to live by this truth as the very foundation of their being persons. There is also a need to realize, and this is very important: that error is usually expressed in two mutually opposing positions; and that truth, on the other hand, is the correct integration of the two mutual exclusions; that truth can comprehend error but error cannot comprehend truth; that it is better to distinguish concepts in order to unite them than to separate and confuse them. In short, let us couple and enrich our ‘personalism’ as Filipinos with a ‘moderate intellectualism’ that respects the demands of truth, the truth of things and the truth of persons.
Let us engage the RH bill issue in respectful and intelligent ways so that while engaging in an intellectual and cultural battle all of us may come out as winners.