MANILA, Philippines – As Bamboo’s cover of “Tatsulok” played on loop in the background, a mix of both familiar and unfamiliar faces filled Kalayaan Hall at the historic Club Filipino in San Juan City on September 18, Monday, to launch a “coalition of coalitions” calling for Filipinos to stand up against the government's abusive policies.
#TindigPilipinas lambasted many of the policies of President Rodrigo Duterte, but stopped short of calling for his ouster.
“We see a nation being led down a dark path filled with violence, contempt for law, and hate; where honest debate is not only shouted down, but every attempt at sobriety in public discourse is dismissed with threat,” read the coalition's statement.
“If we want this nightmare to end, we must find the courage to wake up and come together,” it concluded.
The “coalition of coalitions,” as Karina Constantino-David calls the alliance, includes at least 50 different groups, opposition politicians from the House of Representatives and the Senate, and other prominent personalities.
The statement denounced deaths linked to President Duterte’s war on drugs: “We call upon him to measure the success of his campaign not on the number of lives killed, but on the number of live redeemed.”
It also called on the administration to “refocus their efforts on the war on drugs from extrajudicial killings to a healing approach where drug dependency is treated as a health issue and not a criminal one.” (READ: Drug addiction is a health problem. Somebody please tell the President)
It asked the Philippine National Police (PNP) to “end the murderous Oplan Double Barrel, to pursue and prosecute the drug lords with the full might of the law, and uphold the rule of law and the constitutional guarantees accorded to each and every citizen of the Republic.”
The coalition slammed Duterte’s use of the “language of misogyny,” and asked him to “level the playing field and stop corruption” as well.
Amid the threat of an impeachment prospering against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, the group urged Duterte to “stop weakening, if not destroying, democractic institutions, to observe the institutional checks and balance, and to respect the independence of the judiciary.”
The House of Representatives, under Duterte ally Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, recently rejected the proposed budgets of a few agencies, including the Commission on Human Rights, alloting P1,000 for each of them.
#TindigPilipinas convenors said they came together to make sure dissenting voices would be given a space to speak.
David explained that the coalition was formed in about a month’s time: “This statement of unity is the beginning. We are also looking for other groups [that] believe in the unity statement so we expand further.”
Although the convenors, guests, and main personalities were dressed in white, there was no denying the political affiliation, or at the very least, association of many groups and individuals belonging to the coalition: the yellow crowd.
Several of the groups are known supporters or allies of former President Benigno Aquino III and the once-ruling Liberal Party. Those who signed the statement were either members or long-time allies of the LP: the Senate minority, the House independent minority, Akbayan, and Magdalo, among others.
Photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler
“Alam naman natin na lahat ng kumokontra sa [palakad] ng Presidente ay tinatawag na dilawan. That should not stop us from coming together,” said Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano, a member of the House opposition bloc. (We all know that anyone who is against the policy of the President is called "dilawan.")
“Dilawan” is a derogatory term many Duterte supporters use to describe persons or groups who are against Duterte or his policies, a term taken from the LP’s party color.
Alejano added: "Kahit ho kami – di naman ako Liberal, tinatawag akong dilawan – ang importante ho dito, hindi ho tayo matakot to come together (I’m not a Liberal. But I am called 'dilawan.' Even if we're a small group, what’s important is that we are not afraid to come together)."
Senator Francis Pangilinan, LP president, said party members who were present at the #TindigPilipinas launch lent their support on their ersonal capacities. The Liberal Party has yet to make a stand on the issues raised by #TindigPilipinas.
“Isa sa ating istratehiya ay makumbinse ang iba nating mga kasamahan sa House na darating na mga araw na suportahan din ang insyatibang ito,” Pangilinan said. (One of our strategies is to convince our members in the House in the coming days to also support this initiative.)
Photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler
Aside from Pangilinan and Alejano, at least 3 other legislators who are either LP members or allies attended the launch: Senator Risa Hontiveros (Akbayan, Senate minority member), Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin (House independent minority), and Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat (Liberal Party, House independent minority). A seat was reserved for Senator Leila de Lima, who is in jail for drug charges she claims were trumped up by the administration.
“Itong grupo na ito, hindi naman ito Liberal Party lahat. In fact, I was asked, ginagawa po ba ito kay Presidente [Aquino] dahil siya ay ikukulong? Sabi ko, hindi, dahil kung si President Aquino ay may kasalanan ay dapat sagutin niya o harapin niya dahil kaya naman idepensa ang kanyang sarili. Hindi po namin ito ginagawa para sa Liberal, ito’y para sa bansa,” added Alejano.
(This group is not all Liberal Party. In fact, I was asked if I am doing this for President Aquino because he might be put in jail? I said, no. Because if President Aquino did something wrong, he must answer for this and face this because I know he can defend himself. We are not doing this for the Liberal Party; we are doing this for the country.)
Coalition members made it clear they were not calling for Duterte’s ouster.
Also present during the launch were several high-ranking officials during the Aquino administration, including former presidential peace process adviser Teresita Quintos Deles, former social welfare secretary Corazon Soliman, former palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda, and former education secretary Armin Luistro. Florin Hilbay, Solicitor General towards the end of Aquino’s term, is one of the convenors.
The full list of member organizations of the coalition is as follows:
The Coordination Group
Business and Professional Groups
Akbayan Citizen’s Action Party
House Independent Minority