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Reinventing the opposition

The political opposition has to reinvent itself to generate a fighting chance in 2022. That chance could come if the array of democratic forces under its wings learns to regroup, reorganize, and reorient themselves toward defending and strengthening democracy in the country.

The political opposition, typified by groups like the Liberal Party, Magdalo, Akbayan, and other smaller groups, has to cleanse its ranks of pretenders, revise its democratic agenda to reflect a clear liberal democratic ideology, and address key issues like extrajudicial killings, corruption, and China’s hegemony. It has to redefine itself vis-à-vis the alignment of forces in the political spectrum, most of which are inclined toward the anti-democratic at this time. Its political platform, or program of government, should reflect complete devotion to truth and transparency and rejection of the post-truth culture. It should come out with clear messaging and straight talk.

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The 2016 emergence of Rodrigo Duterte clearly crippled the political opposition. It was unprepared to address the rise of populism and Mr. Duterte’s undemocratic ways, as major parties and political families like the Marcoses and Arroyos went on to support the former Davao mayor. The LP-led coalition could not cope with the mass desertion of its base to proverbial greener pastures. It would be wrong to assume these turncoats adhere to Mr. Duterte’s populist agenda. They are pragmatic politicians who would turn their backs at the sight of better political largesse.

The loss of the Otso Diretso senatorial slate to the seven-hour glitch in 2019 could be the opposition’s lowest ebb, but it does not mean they could write it off for 2022 without learning lessons. The opposition had its worst situation during the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, but it recovered to give Marcos a hell of a fight in the February 1986 snap presidential election, the rotten conduct of which led to the fateful 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution.

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The political opposition does not lack formidable people and good material to field in 2022. It has big names it can groom, even as the ruling coalition splinters because of conflicting political ambitions among its stalwarts. With ample preparations, the opposition could regain what it lost in 2016 and, with luck, it could even win.

But it is a tough job. First of all, it has to be decisive. It has to decide whether to slug it out firmly with the anti-democratic forces. Right now it only has a skeleton force of freedom fighters; it has to rally more democratic forces under its flag.

This is easier said than done. Vice President Leni Robredo, although second in succession, has to decide to lead the opposition forces decisively. Although she is the natural choice to lead the movement because she is the second highest political leader in the land, Robredo vacillates. She appears unprepared to run for president and is said to favor running for governor of Camarines Sur instead.

To run for president in 2022 requires, for starters, billions of pesos in campaign funds, which she does not have. Robredo has to give way quickly to an alternative—say, Franklin Drilon, Kiko Pangilinan, or Sonny Trillanes. They have the stature, talent, and exposure to run for president.

From this major decision, the political opposition can proceed to other urgent tasks, such as the mass recruitment of party leaders and key workers, their political education, and the raising of funds for activities and political campaigns.

It has to come out with viable leadership to be able to compete with its political adversaries and equip its ranks and key members with an ideological anchor. The liberal democratic ideology should be the basis of unity among the democratic forces and organizations comprising the new opposition coalition. It should stress everyone’s full adherence to the spirit and letter of the 1987 Constitution, the rule of law and due process, and unequivocal devotion to human rights.

Last but not least, it should not close its doors to any coalition with the legal Left, which is enduring the brunt of state fascism at present. Politics is addition. The democratic opposition and the legal Left are natural allies. A reinvented opposition can successfully compete in the Duterte-controlled political arena.

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Philip M. Lustre Jr. ([email protected]) is a veteran freelance journalist with over four decades of experience in political and economic journalism. He does book projects, too.

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TAGS: democracy, Liberal Party, opposition, Vice President Leni Robredo
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