Political scientists should be objective and pragmatic. If you dump both and pick a side, then you’re not a scientist anymore because your analysis is not based on evidence. A breath of fresh air is Cleve V Arguelles’s East Asia Forum piece “Can a new Philippine ‘popular front’ defeat Dutertismo?” where he ponders the question of whether or not Opposition bloc 1Sambayan is up to the challenge of building a “popular front” that could take on the formidable popularity of the incumbent camp.
Arquelles, Assistant Professorial Lecturer in the Department of Political Science at De La Salle University, provides an assesment of the prospects of the Opposition in light of that question citing the impact to ordinary Filipinos the crisis caused by the pandemic has had as an opportunity the Opposition could exploit. Arguelles, however, notes that 1Sambayan is problematic on many fronts…
The movement is primarily made up of the old guard in the respective groups — well-regarded but possibly out of touch with the Duterte public. To some the coalition’s messaging is overly moralistic and elitist. Its slogan ‘Tapat Na Pamumuno’ (Honest Leadership) resembles the lacklustre Liberal Party’s ‘Disenteng Pilipino’ (Decent Filipino) in 2016 and the previous administration’s slogan of ‘Daang Matuwid’ (Straight Path).
In the end, Arguelles reserves his prognosis writing that “the opposition can only hope that Filipinos see Dutertismo as a more costly choice in 2022.”
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Why is it that the Opposition today can’t even come close to the opposition in the time of Presidents Fidel Ramos through to Noynoy Aquino? The simple answer is they do not have the narrative to attract the public to their cause. It was Ramos who ended the battle between leftists and rightists which was an offshoot of how Cory Aquino came to power in 1986. It wasn’t a “revolution” as they would like to believe. It was a coup d’etat. After 1992, both brought their causes before the voters. Both won elective offices in local government units and Congress.
The sorry state of the Opposition now is firstly due to the fact that its leaders abandoned them. Aquino and 2016 presidential candidate Mar Roxas are both under the radar. Why? They couldn’t handle the ignominious public repudiation they suffered in 2016. To describe President Rodrigo Duterte as a populist is incorrect because, in the Philippine context, what politician is not a populist? This is why there is the term popular vote.
The second reason is in how the Opposition comports themselves. It is not a fiscalizer role they’re playing but more of destablization one. This was the formula they employed against former Presidents Ferdinand Marcos, Joseph “Erap” Estrada, and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA). They failed with GMA though. Arroyo made sure the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) wouldn’t abandon her. EDSA 3, a small uprising that shortly followed the EDSA 2 coup that ousted Erap and catapulted GMA to power in 2001, didn’t take off but after this the then opposition settled down and took their case to the people again.
When Noynoy won in 2010 there were no claims of electoral fraud. There was no impeachment. No coup attempt even if the public was discontent with Aquino’s incompetence. The opposition defeat in the 2019 midterm was a wake-up call which they didn’t heed again. They have core adherents but no real voter base to count on. Imagine how the Vice-President, Leni Robredo, managed an inanity of an opinion that the reason for their 2019 loss was due to the youth either not registering to vote or did not vote. This is stupidity of the highest order.
It’s only a week before 1Sambayan’s candidates’ coming out event on June 12. At this point, even a glimmer of hope is not on the horizon for the Opposition. Robredo should be taking the lead as titular head but she is bereft of leadership. Senator Franklin Drilon is the only top official of the Liberal Party with the experience but he is also on the sidelines. The convenors of 1Sambayan have never run for elective office. What can the public expect on June 12? Nothing.
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