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Missing ingredient: Negotiations

It looks as if history will repeat itself. What prevents the opposition (persons out of power) and the administration (persons in power) from consolidating their forces for the election is the aversion to alternative dispute resolution (ADR), i.e., conciliation, mediation, arbitration. In this country, it seems there are only three preferred ways of resolving disputes—elections in the case of elective positions, litigation in the case of interpersonal disputes, and when all else fails to provide satisfaction, extrajudicial coercion or violence.

Take the case of the battle underway between President Rodrigo Duterte and Sen. Manny Pacquiao. They have been close allies over the past five years, chair and acting president respectively of the PDP-Laban, the administration party. Pacquiao has openly criticized Mr. Duterte on his daft, pro-China policy on the West Philippine Sea. Mr. Duterte condescendingly and publicly advised Pacquiao to “study harder first.”

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Undaunted, Pacquiao then said corruption under the Duterte administration has increased threefold from previous administrations. Piqued, Mr. Duterte again went on television to challenge Pacquiao to name names, otherwise, he said, Pacquiao would be a liar and he would campaign and “tell all” against Pacquiao.

Pacquiao quickly took up the President’s challenge, immediately pointing to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and the COVID-19 procurement actions of the Department of Health for anticorruption scrutiny. Confidently, Pacquiao declared that his evidence of corruption under the Duterte administration will “overwhelm” the President.

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But Pacquiao has remained “respectfully” defiant of Mr. Duterte, claiming he is helping Mr. Duterte resolve corruption. He has asked for an audience to resolve their differences, but the President has so far not acceded.

What is Mr. Duterte’s BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement) with Pacquiao? No need to negotiate; knock out Pacquiao as acting party president of the PDP-Laban, thus making the party available to Mr. Duterte as a vice presidential candidate who can choose his own presidential candidate. Or Mr. Duterte could offer PDP-Laban as a “gift” platform to an outsider, presumably Sara Duterte since Bong Go is already a member of the party.

Former PDP-Laban President Koko Pimentel balks at this idea of Mr. Duterte and the Alfonso Cusi-led bloc offering the PDP-Laban to outsiders. Pimentel forgets that that is what he and his father, Nene Pimentel, did in 2016, lending the PDP-Laban to be the campaign “jet ski” of Rodrigo Duterte to the presidency.

One obstacle to reaching negotiated agreements is the inability of the parties to project the outcomes of their alternatives. The data on PDP-Laban membership is fuzzy. According to Pimentel, the database of PDP-Laban members contains 100,000 names, of which only 5,000 are active politicians. He says many members who came on board when Mr. Duterte won in 2016 have not “perfected” their PDP-Laban membership. These are the members actively trying to hijack the party. Pacquiao claims he has 10,000 signatures of party members expressing their support for him in opposing the machinations of the Cusi bloc. On the other hand, Cusi claims that at least 90 percent of PDP-Laban members support a Bong Go-Rodrigo Duterte tandem.

Mr. Duterte can get away with naming the PDP-Laban presidential candidate in May 2022, but it will split the PDP-Laban. It will also strengthen Pacquiao’s resolve to run as president, which is his best alternative to a negotiated agreement with Rodrigo Duterte.

So, in May 2022, the shoe may be on the other foot—the administration coalition fielding contending presidentiables. That is if the 1Sambayan coalition itself manages to do proper med-arb (mediation-arbitration) to arrive at a single opposition candidate. It needs to do better. The 1Sambayan announcement of presidentiables and vice presidentiables last June 12 was weakened by the withdrawal of Grace Poe, Nancy Binay, Isko Moreno, and Panfilo Lacson from the process.

There are a lot of simplifying negotiations possible before the electoral battle lines become final. Both the administration and the opposition should actively pursue intramural negotiations and mediations to enable the electorate to give a clear majority mandate in the May 2022 elections.

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TAGS: Duterte, Pacquiao
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