VICE President and now UNA Chairman Jejomar Binay would have a more credible case against the allegedly “missing government” of President Benigno BS Aquino 3rd if he’d also offer a truthful accounting of “the missing Opposition” in national politics. And even more so with a truthful confession that in all those five years of President Aquino’s rule, the VP has been a loyal member and supporter of this Administration.
Until he surfaced the other week, claiming to be “the leader of the Opposition,” there has been no visible political Opposition around, in Congress or in the public square, that diligently tried to make President Aquino and his government honest and truthful to the people.
Until the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) surfaced on July 1 as the new Opposition party, there has been no such political party in national politics. There was only the shell of a party, propped up by occasional and self-serving publicity stories.
UNA was originally cobbled together to contest the elections in May 2013, led by the triumvirate of former President Joseph Estrada, Vice President Binay and then Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile. That coalition no longer exists, having split into many parts, with Senator Enrile now languishing in detention, Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada subsisting with his own Partido ng Masang Pilipino. Only Mr. Binay remains of the original triumvirate, holding up the three letters of UNA.
There is some basis for Mr. Binay’s charge that the government has been largely missing during these five years of the Aquino presidency. The Manila Times is witness to the lapses of governance all these years, as it has covered the Aquino presidency from day one up to today. If the Times editorials over the past five years were laid out end to end, it would make for a more complete critique of the Administration than Mr. Binay’s speech last Wednesday.
As he formally accepted the UNA chairmanship, VP Binay claimed that while the Aquino Administration has been occupying the seat of power over the past five years, there has actually been no functioning government to speak of.
He said: “After five years, the rate of unemployment is still high, the number of people who have suffered and are still suffering from hunger is still high. People who are sick still cannot afford medication. Many of our youth remain out of school as their families cannot afford their tuition. The crime rate is fast rising and the illegal drug trade continues to proliferate in communities. Poverty is everywhere. Thus, the people are asking: Where is the government?”
“Because of corruption and extortion in the MRT, we have a deteriorating service in our mass rail transit system. In fact, for the more than 500,000 daily passengers of the MRT who have to suffer the mile-long queues at the stations to and from their offices, it would be a blessing if nothing wrong happens every time they ride those train coffins.
“Again, the people are asking: Where is the government?”
Then he zeroed in on the Mamasapano tragedy. “Forty-four noble commandos of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) sacrificed their lives in the line of duty. Countless investigations have been conducted but up to now, no one has been held responsible. No charges have yet been filed in court. The people are asking: Where is the government?”
In our book, this laundry list of complaints and laments against the Administration does not qualify as a serious opposition critique of the government. There is no documentation of the failings in governance. Instead, we find a scattering of sound bites, bleeding sentiment for the poor.
The mantle of a leader of the opposition is not claimed by a mere assertion or profession of desire. It should be earned through a record of consistent criticism of the Administration and the majority party.
Over the past five years, that work has been more vigorously exercised by the media and the party-list groups in Congress, and some members of the citizenry.
UNA as the Opposition Party
We welcome the decision of UNA to constitute itself as a political party to contest the elections next year, because what Philippine politics has been missing for some time now are authentic and functioning political parties.
We have ambitious people eagerly contesting positions in government. We don’t have parties that aggregate members, political ideas and support groups. Conviction politics is missing in Philippine political culture.
We hope UNA will move forward to develop a real platform of government and a system for membership and inclusion in the party.
We also hope that VP Binay, having served in the Administration and having suffered the sting of being in disfavor, will evolve into a courageous critic of the government and a credible candidate for the Presidency.
But he must flesh out serious policies and programs. This is the work of real political parties and their cadre.
Where is the government? Where is the opposition?
Let’s see who will answer and persuade us first.