Just as quickly as a media circus exploded over the debate between Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and former Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio, this latest fodder for lazy journalism sputtered. What’s left is a Philippine Opposition still bereft of a winning strategy — and a winnable candidate — as the 2022 national elections loom closer in the horizon and the top “thought leaders” of its prominent bloc, the Yellowtards, coming out of it with not much else but a “trending” hashtag — their pride and joy of the week, #DuterteDuwag.
Having convinced themselves that Duterte is a “coward” for allegedly “backing out” from a challenge he himself issued, the Yellowtards (the leading bloc within the Opposition loyal to the Aquino-Cojuangco clan) have settled into a role familiar to many who have wisely swallowed their pride to walk away from a brawl not worth the trouble. The position the Yellowtards now take has all to do with this easy low-brow space to validate their righteousness and nothing to do with the national implications of the South China Sea lies peddled by Carpio over the last several years. More important to note is that other big casualty of all this. Sitting quietly in a dark corner (or at least trying to) is former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario who Carpio had dishonestly hung out to dry. Del Rosario now suffers the indignity of being left to hold the stinky baby that is the Scarborough Shoal debacle of 2012 having been abandoned by both Carpio and his old boss, former President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III.
By the time the Yellowtards get over doing their dance of joy around their quaint hashtag, they will realise they have not gained any real political capital where it matters — on the ground, offline, and in the day-to-day awareness of ordinary Filipinos.
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If Carpio applied a bit more strategic thinking in the midst of this brouhaha, he would have seen the political value of this debate and the media bonanza it would have delivered to his fledgling coalition, 1Sambayan. Whether it was a faceoff with Duterte himself or his appointed delegate to that debate, Malacanang Spokesman Harry Roque, Carpio should have seized whatever opportunity came his way to attract publicity to his “cause”. Indeed, Carpio and 1Sambayan needed this debate more than Duterte did.
Unfortunately for the Opposition, Carpio chickened out as well under the pretext that he “will not engage in a useless exercise that will only detract the public’s interest on the vital outstanding issues on the West Philippines Sea”.
Too bad. Duterte walks away from this only suffering the itch of a #DuterteDuwag Twitter party of dubious value to the broader Opposition. Carpio comes out of it with a squandered opportunity and an alienated former ally in del Rosario. The communists, for their part, have notably not weighed in on this “issue” — a dishonest position to take considering they hate anyone who is pro-America. Most important of all, the Opposition remains as fragmented as it ever was since 2016 and none the wiser with regard to a far more critical objective — seizing power legally on May 2022.
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