BUT nope, our democracy is in trouble not because President Rodrigo Duterte has proven to be a skillful authoritarian preparing to launch his dynasty. Our democracy is threatened by the fact that what we have now is the most feeble, most stupid opposition ever in our history, which democracy wasn’t supposed to create.
I can list a dozen things Duterte should have done by now if he were really an authoritarian.
He could have had the Indonesian magnate turn over to him on a silver platter his Philippine Star and the biggest media conglomerate it is a member of with a simple threat. He could have told that Indonesian tycoon that he’ll be ordering the Securities and Exchange Commission to issue a simple memorandum, declaring that “voting preferred shares” is a legal abomination and can’t be used to conceal foreign ownership in media and public utilities.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer continues its pathetic nitpicking against Duterte with all its fatuous columnists, open or secret members of the anti-Duterte Yellow Cult. Burdened by huge debts and the high salaries of its top people, Rappler should have died with a thousand cuts, if you believe its CEO’s claims, yet it’s still there with its inane anti-Duterte articles by unthinking, never-heard “thought leaders.”
Nope, our democracy is not threatened by an authoritarian even if his political DNA is likely to be passed on to the next administration.
Although criticized as “unwieldy” by such a real authoritarian as Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew, the hallmark of Philippine democracy has been the strength of the opposition against an incumbent. This is the legacy of our US colonial masters who thought that the two-party system they had in America should be replicated here.
If Marcos had not declared martial law, his Nacionalista Party, even after ruling for eight years, would have been wiped out by the Liberal Party in the scheduled but canceled 1974 elections with possible opposition candidates as Benigno Aquino Jr. and Jovito Salonga.
In the first post-EDSA elections in 1992, political titans Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Eduardo Cojuangco, Ramon Mitra, Imelda Marcos, Salonga and Salvador Laurel run against Cory Aquino’s anointed, Fidel Ramos, who by some miracle won by 4 percentage points over the fire-breathing Santiago, nearly the prototype of a Duterte, who had captured the youth’s imagination.
In 1998, the very popular Joseph Estrada, Raul Roco, Emilio Osmeña, Alfredo Lim and three other well-known figures ran against Ramos’ anointed Jose de Venecia. If Estrada had not been yanked out of his post in 2001, the popular Gloria Macapagal Arroyo would have won in the 2004 elections. Arroyo in the 2004 elections narrowly (by 4 parentage points) won over Estrada’s surrogate Fernando Poe Jr.
The challenge posed by strong opposition candidates continued to be the hallmark of the succeeding elections: In 2010, the comeback kid Erap, the billionaire Manuel Villar, Gilbert Teodoro and Benigno Aquino 3rd, and in the last 2016 elections, Grace Poe and Jejomar Binay, and of course, the dark-horse Rodrigo Duterte against the Yellows and oligarchs’ Mar Roxas.
Now, 10 months to the 2022 elections, what does the opposition look like? I don’t think one should honor them with the term “opposition.”
There’s this ridiculous, full-of-themselves group called “1Sambayan,” clearly the tool and creation of two personalities who want the Philippines to be the sole country in the world to be openly hostile (and unabashedly an American stooge) to the emerging superpower, China.
I really can’t believe why members of this bunch would want to be associated with Aquino’s foreign secretary Albert del Rosario who lost – because he believed the Americans who had fooled him – Bajo de Masinloc to China. Or with retired justice Antonio Carpio who brags that it is he who was the brains behind the arbitration suit that cost us P1 billion, which, if not for Duterte’s putting the award aside, would have resulted in an economic disaster for the country.
I can only surmise two reasons why this group even has members: they were assigned by the party there to keep tabs on it (or wangle funds from the rich guys there for the New People’s Army or for themselves) as probably the case with Neri Colmenares and Rene Magtubo or they receive huge allowances from del Rosario who after call can afford the small change as he makes probably P300 million a year (P200 million from PLDT alone).
Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo? Only her spokesperson Ibarra Gutierrez still believes in her, her province mate Edsel Lagman, Philippine Daily Inquirer columnists whose audiences are solely their families and their closest of friends, and I’d bet congressman Bolet Banal.
Franciso Moreno Domagoso aka Isko Moreno? No doubt he’s intelligent and gives us hope for a better future generation of politicians. But he seems to be inflicted with the Icarus disease as many of his generation (age: 46) are: so giddy in the few feet of their flight, the Icaruses of this country try to fly too high, only to realize with horror that their wings are made of wax, which quickly melt in the heat of the sun that they drop fast into the sea.
He should realize that before they run for the presidency, Erap was mayor for 16 years while Duterte for 22. Isko’s been mayor for just three short years, and there’s even a rumor that one of his top advisers is already leaving him. He should also remember that Erap was an action superstar, almost always the leading man, the bida in his movies and many still remember his stirring, nationalist character Tonyo in the classic “Sa Kuko ng Agila.” I don’t think too many Filipinos would remember Isko’s role in “Exploitation, Mga Babae sa Isla Azul.”
Panfilo Lacson? His moment in the sun was in the 2004 elections when he got a decent 10 percent of the votes for the presidential post. Either this guy is a masochist or knows something about the finances of elections that we don’t know. The main thing I know that he has accomplished in the past five years is that he has managed to push through a law that would build an extravagant new building for the Senate, which is even ongoing despite the country’s hemorrhaging finances because of the pandemic. He claims it would cost just P5 billion. Contractors I consulted say it would be easily P15 billion, given its state-of-the-art features, including its environmental-friendly and hi-tech “borloloys.”
Lacson is becoming ridiculous: His internet political ads show him in his police uniform as Philippine National Police chief, which he last wore 20 years ago when Erap fled Malacañang on Feb. 16, 2001 with his successor appointed the next day. Isn’t that some form of usurpation of authority?
I won’t say a word about Manny Pacquiao in deference to his August 21 fight.
With this kind of opposition, the talk of the town – I’m not sure if it’s a joke – is that competing in May 2022 will be a Sarah Duterte-Bongbong Marcos tandem against a Bong Go-Rodrigo Duterte team.
I hope my readers give me insights as to why on earth this bastion of democracy has produced such a pathetic group of puny politicians or would-be politicians for an opposition.
Or maybe democracy really isn’t such a big deal. When citizens needed their governments the most, as in the time of the pandemic, the most democratic states like the United States, India and Brazil had the highest number of Covid deaths, in the 500,000 range, while authoritarians like China and Vietnam had just 5,000 deaths each.
*If you don’t understand this point, read my book Colossal Deception: Colossal Deception: How Foreigners Control Our Telecoms Sector: A Case Study of Corruption, Cronyism and Regulatory Capture in the Philippines, right now available only at amazon.com ebook or paperback.
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