VP Robredo would lead a weak LP opposition
By Joe America
Well, to be sure, VP Robredo is and always will be strong, but the idea that LP can form a resistance to the deadly and autocratic ways of the Duterte Administration is an idea that is weak.
The Philippines is stuck in a nightmare of death, disunity and economic drift. Influential people see this but are in the predicament that, if they object, they accomplish nothing . . . yet they risk losing much. So they join a surreal “support for the President” coalition while hoping someone else does something to stop the damage . . . and they walk into church now and then to seek forgiveness.
The Duterte populist government is just that, popular. So it is politically powerful.
LP as an opponent represents the perfect foil, the dog to be kicked, the villain to be whipped, because the popular perception is that the “yellows” have been arrogant, corrupt, and incompetent, and are now being obstructionist, disloyal, or even treasonous. They represent the elite that has failed to take care of the the people’s specific needs, from transportation to food and housing to reduction of crime.
The whole idea is mainly propaganda, but it sells to the needful.
Many want the Liberal Party (LP) to oppose . . . not the President, necessarily . . . but the DEEDS they consider damaging to the nation, like the PNP orchestrating a cleansing of drugs that is killing thousands of innocent Filipinos, burying a grand thief as a hero, aligning with China, and coddling a killer PNP chief.
That opposition is hard to generate. LP is a group of politicians whose own power and fate is determined by popularity, so they go where they personally can be assured of continuing to be effective in office. They stay with the Duterte majority . . . and visit church now and then to salve their conscience.
VP Robredo, in seeking to build a strong opposition on the backs of LP legislators, would likely aggravate divisions within LP by pushing to make a decision that LP legislators don’t yet see as adding to their power. Opposition . . . if it is to be forceful . . . should be a willing, passionate, personal decision, not a reluctant, forced, political decision.
And she would just make the LP a big target, a big, big dog to be kicked by Presidential spokesmen, backers, and trolls.
But let’s think about it. If we look around, we see that there are several major groups other than LP that have major, major concerns. THEY are already outspoken. They are already passionate:
- Leftists who waged war against Marcos and can’t stand to see him buried as a hero, or his son next in line for the presidency.
- Mindanao residents who were victims of several huge slaughters under Marcos and share the leftist distaste for his burial as a hero. There are also Muslims who want a real voice in national policy, not crumbs.
- The Catholic Church whose leaders do not like killings or the proposed death penalty.
- University professors and students who are shamed by the relentless human rights violations they are incapable of stopping.
- Politicians outside LP (Senators Hontiveros, Trillanes, Poe, etc.) who are fundamentally for democracy and earnest, productive governance.
- OFWs, BPO workers, miners, and others whose jobs are put at stake by wild Duterte threats, insults, and policies.
- The oligarchs and businessmen who have already lost millions and see economic collapse as a real possibility.
United as a coalition, the above groups could stop the Duterte juggernaut on a ten-peso coin and deliver 9 pesos change.
Citizens would see such a coalition as “fresh” and not more of the same. Genuine. Forceful. They’d see it as as a diverse group of people who want to give Filipinos their pride back.
Politicians would have a real choice as well, a real political force to join. They’d be released from being enablers of death and economic ruin, and they’d be able to go to church to praise God for a change.
Well, forming a coalition among groups that are not natural partners would for sure be a challenge in the tribal Philippines. The coalition leadership would have to be able to articulate a set of policy priorities that all groups could support. Here’s a quick check-list of policy ideas:
- Remove the remains of President Marcos from the Heroes’ Cemetery and return them to the family.
- Discontinue state-sponsored propaganda and internet trolling activities. Promote a real FOI frame of mind in all state agencies. Welcome the popular press as important players in bridging between Government and the people.
- Reinstate and accelerate passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, adjusted for more inclusiveness (recollect that it was Senator Marcos who blocked passage of the law).
- Free all political prisoners except those charged with murder or heinous crimes. Accelerate peace negotiations between various “peoples’ organizations” and the national government. Adopt a conciliatory policy in dealing with leftist and Muslim separatist groups, but a hard line against Abu Sayaff and ISIS. The latter represent foreign interference.
- Return the PNP to a “protect and serve” role; remove leaders who ordered and abetted extra-judicial killings. Hold top officials responsible for murder charges.
- Endorse the standing Constitution as the correct law of the land. Mandate that constitutional revisions be handled by a Constitutional Convention rather than Constituent Assembly.
- Stop consideration of the death penalty and reduced age for criminal liability.
- Form a President’s Economic Council comprised of CEO’s from large and middle-sized corporations. Include Senator Bam Aquino on the Council to represent small businesses.
- Re-affirm the nation’s peace charter and partnerships with the US, China, Europe, ASEAN states, and United Nations. Re-affirm Philippine adherence to the UN arbitration court’s legal finding on sea boundaries.
- Re-affirm the nation’s endorsement of human rights laws, climate change initiatives, and free and fair trade.
- Re-orient the drug war to focus efforts on supply channels, dealers, education, and rehabilitation.
- Take swift, purposeful measures to speed the delivery of justice through the nation’s courts, and fund the program appropriately.
The policy agenda would not preclude discussion of federalism, but would take it out of a rushed political timeline and give it thorough consideration looking at economic as well as political impacts. The policy agenda would also be open to new ideas from coalition leaders.
We can imagine how such a coalition might organize. Perhaps a Coalition Steering Committee would be formed under the leadership of a designated Coalition President. Perhaps one representative from each of seven coalition partners mentioned above would sit on the Steering Committee.
They would be responsible for refining the policy statement and implementing programs to fund and build a strong organization.
The selection of a Coalition President would make or break the organization. It would have to be someone who is unquestionably a principled Filipino patriot, someone who by act and idea represents PRINCIPLES over politics.
I would offer Senator Risa Hontiveros as an example of the kind of leader who might be sought. She is unquestionably a woman of principle and patriotism. She belongs to the Akbayan Party, has been clear and forceful in opposing extra-judicial killings, the Marcos burial, the death penalty, and criminal responsibility reduced to age 9. She is pro-people. She does not think “politics first”, but “principles first”. She thinks fast, and she thinks clearly.
She was one of three senators who did NOT vote for Philippine membership in the China-sponsored Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Her vote was held back on the PRINCIPLE that a condition precedent to approval should be an audit of the nation’s debt portfolio and policies. Here’s a link to her statement on the matter.
She makes up her own mind and is indebted to no one.
I’m sure there are other candidates to consider, and you can offer up ideas about that. Do remember that the more independent and less attached they are to this ideology or that, the better. The more “star power” they have, the better.
The Next Step
In my fertile imagination, VP Robredo reads this post, gives Senator Hontiveros a call, and says “Let’s do this. You have point. Who else can we bring aboard, outside of LP?”
Then Waldo Bello dials in, a strong leftist voice for sense and protection of the people. And Mohagher Iqbal, a key architect of the BBL. Ramon R del Rosario, Jr., Chairman of the Makati Business Club. Senator Sonny Trillanes, a principled politician. Senator Poe, too, to prove that she has the courage and commitment to be president some day. Archbishop Socrates Villegas representing the CBCP. Ateneo President Jose Ramon Villarin. Darwin Japheth L. Eusebio, President of the De La Salle Student Council.
And many, many other Filipinos of courage and conviction who want a civil, modern, sovereign, productive Philippines.
And soon, those who belong to the surreal coalition that is enabling President Duterte would start to feel awkward and uncomfortable. They don’t want to be attached to all those murders, to all those other damaging deeds. They are afraid of being outside the new political force that will end the killings and bring integrity back to the Philippines. They break. Voluntarily.
Well, that is all in my imagination, and I can for sure imagine big. And I can imagine that the Philippines actually has a LOT of good people of courage and conviction. And compassion. That’s all I am allowed to do.
Imagine. Think. Write. Dream.
My dream sees my family living in a civil, modern, free, diverse, fair, safe Philippines where my son can thrive on his honest abilities and good mind. And be proud to be Filipino.
My writing contribution to Philippine well-being for this topic ends here, but that dream lives on.