Speaking as an observer and non-partisan, I don’t know which to regret more: 1) the ineffectiveness and demagoguery of the Duterte administration; or 2) the ineptitude and cluelessness of the opposition.
The trouble is, both are Filipino. Their common haplessness reflects on our country and our people. When they fail, we also fail.
The misfortune of the yellow cult and the Liberal Party is that in the vernacular (all the Philippine languages),
“yelo” is the word for ice. It melts away in the heat and open air.
The bad luck of the plot to oust President Duterte is that it carries in the public mind the stamp of the yellow cult. It bears the stigma of failure and noynoying, the chief legacy of President Benigno Aquino III.
DU30 hit both the reality and the metaphor in his speech before the local government executives of Mindanao in Davao City on Thursday. He declared dismissively that the yellow challenge to his government has evaporated: “natunaw” (it melted).
You could see heads in the audience nodding in agreement.
New Trillanes plot twist
DU30 may have reason to be dismissive and triumphal.
At the Senate, where Senator Antonio Trillanes escorted the testimony of former Davao City police officer Arthur Lascañas, the unanimous verdict of the senators was that the man‘s testimony had no probative value. As expected, Lascañas attested to the existence of the Davao Death Squad (DDS), and he fingered DU30 as having ordered the DDS killings.
When he got off the stand, the senators voted to halt further hearing of Lascañas.
To address the skepticism of his colleagues, Trillanes delivered a privilege speech on Wednesday and sought to back the claims made by Lascañas. His corroborative evidence consisted of affidavits and photos pertaining to the killings supposedly committed by the DDS.
But none of these had evidentiary value to prove that the DDS existed, or that then Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte ordered any killings.
Detained Senator Leila de Lima tried to provide support from her detention cell. She fired off a handwritten statement in Filipino assailing her Senate colleagues for doubting the credibility of Lascañas and Edgar Matobato. This moved no one.
Trillanes is now desperately searching and brainstorming with party colleagues on a new plot twist that will keep him in the news and put pressure on the President. He knows public interest is seeping away.
Trillanes and his Magdalo party hit upon the idea of turning him (Trillanes) into a victim of the Davao Death Squad (DDS). Either Lascañas or Matobato will gun him down.
House party-list representative Gary Alejano was designated to float this story in the media. He told reporters that during the 2016 election campaign, presidential candidate Rody Duterte wanted Lascañas to kill Trillanes.
Skepticism is so high that Trillanes may really have to be assassinated by either Lascañas or Matobato for the plot twist to get noticed.
Trillanes slain in this fashion will make it to the front pages of newspapers. Time magazine and other international publications will take note of it.
This would be the equivalent of Frankenstein killing its own creator.
LP should fight metaphor
In all earnestness, I would counsel the Liberal Party and the yellow cult to resist and fight Duterte’s metaphor for them. Ignored, the imagery will stick in the public mind. The reputation for melting like ice will be hard to shake.
This is a time for soul-searching in Liberal and yellow ranks. I say so for the following reasons:
First, the long–awaited indictment and incarceration of Liberal stalwarts has begun.
Senator Leila de Lima, one-time justice secretary and human rights commission chairman, has been arrested and detained on drug-related charges. If convicted, she could face the death penalty, if Congress succeeds in reversing the constitutional ban. DE5 must hope that the issue is not too complicated for befuddled LP president Francis Pangilinan.
The Ombudsman Conchita Carpi-Morales has ordered the filing of charges against former Aquino budget secretary Florencio Abad for his role in creating and implementing the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). It was Abad’s inventive and corrupt mind that enabled Liberal Party leaders to get rich at public expense. Creativity may now move him to squeal on his Liberal colleagues in order to beat the rap.
When the impeachment of the Ombudsman is filed, and moved in Congress, BS Aquino will himself be indicted.
Other Liberals will join the retinue of detainees.
Second, the removal of Liberal legislators from their committee chairmanships in the Senate and the House represents a sweeping demotion and a decline of power, influence and income.
Liberal legislators will be reduced to spectators in the Congress.
Third, the administration will also move to remove or retire known yellow and Liberal loyalists in the bureaucracy. It’s only the constitutionally protected appointees who will escape the axe.
Mantle of the opposition
Given the unfolding situation, the Liberal Party and the yellow cult have no choice but to regroup as a serious political party, and take on the challenge of becoming the principal political opposition in the country.
Before DU30 unfurled his metaphorical jab, the Liberals already started to play down its entrapment in the yellow brand. When Noynoy Aquino met with Liberal leaders, they mostly wore black shirts. PNoy will doggedly hang on to his yellow pin, but the others will shun it and wear the flag pin instead.
Strategic and wise course
The strategic course is for the Liberals and yellows to constitute themselves as a full-fledged political party, and then to wrest the mantle of the opposition in Congress. It is a prevailing charge against the Liberals that after winning the most number of seats in both houses of Congress in the May 2016 elections, the LP failed not only to become the majority in both houses, they failed even to stand as the minority. This is a reflection of its lack of leadership and courage.
The road forward lies in work as the leading opposition party, not in concealment within the super-majority coalition. This way, the party can be cause-oriented, and not bamboozled by the administration.
Strategic acceptance of its work as an opposition party will enable the Liberals and yellows to regain some of their prestige and influence, and rebuild its ties to the people. They will be able to speak again of causes with which people can identify.
It was a mistake for the Liberals to initiate or identify themselves with a plot to topple President Duterte. That only gave the President a powerful weapon to whip up public support behind him. The agenda of destabilization is a foolhardy enterprise without popular support.
The better alternative is fight on and for issues, principles and values. This way, the party can win little victories that will be strengthening and win allies.
This is the area where DU30 is most vulnerable, because his tunnelvision in the drug war has led him astray and compromised his larger agenda.
The LP should consider embracing the cause of defeating the reimposition of the death penalty, by stopping the measure in the Senate. This is attainable if the Liberals regroup and make common cause with other senators who are opposed to capital punishment.
If this fight is won, it will be an achievement of a revitalized Liberal Party. There will be other battles to fight, which will be just as winnable.