Photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler
On Monday, September 18, opposition legislators – including ranking members of the Liberal Party (LP) – showed up at the Kalayaan Hall in Club Filipino, clad in white, to denounce alleged killings in President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs, flaws in the administration’s drug policy, apparent “weakening” of institutions, and a supposed culture hostile towards dissenting voices.
Despite the optics during the #TindigPilipinas launch, however, LP president Senator Francis Pangilinan said theirs was a stand “limited to [their] personal capacities.”
“Isa sa ating istratehiya ay makumbinse ang iba nating mga kasamahan sa House sa darating na mga araw na suportahan rin ang inisyatibang ito (One of our strategies is to convince our members in the House in the coming days to also support this initiative),” he said on September 18, when asked where LP members who are still part of the House majority stand in denouncing policies and acts of the incumbent administration.
#TindigPilipinas – a “coalition of coalitions” composed primarily of groups and individuals affiliated with or linked to the previous administration – released on Monday a statement calling on Duterte to end EJKs in the war on drugs, shift to a “healing approach” in dealing with the drug menace, stop the “murderous” operation of the national police against drugs, stop “resorting to the language of misogyny,” be fair in ending corruption, and “stop weakening democratic institutions,” among others.
Aside from Pangilinan, LP vice president for internal affairs and Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat, and LP vice president for external affairs and former Quezon Representative Erin Tañada attended the launch.
Akbayan members Senator Risa Hontiveros and Representative Tom Villarin and Magdalo members Senator Antonio Trillanes IV and Representative Gary Alejano were also among the convenors of the coalition. Akbayan and Magdalo are allied with the Liberal Party in Congress.
“The LP is going through a phase right now, like what [Senator Pangilinan] mentioned. We are slowly trying to rebrand ourselves. At the same time, we are also trying to get away from a traditional mode of what an opposition means. You can’t always oppose everything... it’s hard to generalize [and think that] just cause you’re opposition, everything is wrong,” Tañada told Rappler on the sidelines of the launch.
“You have to choose which are the ones that are going against the core interests of the party. Human rights.. obviously malakas ang position ng party tungkol dito (the party’s stand is strong). EJK is part of human rights so it’s hard to generalize just cause you’re opposition, everything is wrong. Kailangan mas critical ngayon. Ano ba yung mga polisiya (You have to be more critical. And figure out the policies) that would be a cause for concern because this would be threatening to our democracy,” he added.
The Liberal Party once lorded over the executive and legislative branches during the term of former president Benigno Aquino III. But as is the usual in Philippine politics, the party’s numbers dwindled shortly after Duterte, who ran under PDP-Laban, won the May 2016 elections.
The Kalayaan Hall is a significant venue for the party, in fact.
It was where Manuel Roxas II announced his decision to slide down and allow Benigno Aquino III to run for president during the 2010 elections instead. It was also in Kalayaan Hall where Roxas announced his bid for the presidency.
With less than a month left before the May 2016 elections, Kalayaan Hall played host to a “show of force,” during which politicians reiterated their support for Roxas and the party. A handful of politicians who attended that gathering are now allies of Duterte and PDP Laban.
Both Houses of Congress are dominated by a “supermajority” composed of PDP-Laban members and allies.
The LP bloc in the Senate was initially part of the majority until they were ousted from key posts as committee chairs. Senator Leila de Lima, among Duterte’s most vocal critics, is in jail for drug charges she denies. The LP bloc, which includes Hontiveros and Trillanes, compose the Senate minority.
In the House, LP members are part of both the majority and independent minority blocs. Since it is an official member of the majority, one of its members, Marikina 2nd District Representative Romero Quimbo, is deputy speaker of the House.
While it has consistently denounced killings in the drug war, the party and its members have been split in several key issues including the reimposition of death penalty and the extension of martial law over the whole of Mindanao.
Tañada says more “debate” within the party is needed before it comes with a united stand.
“We have our party constitution and processes so our appearance here [at the launch] shows that individual members of the party are concerned with certain issues that the party stands for. Now, to bring the party towards that, we are going to have to debate within the party,” he said.
A National Executive Council (NECO) is needed for the party to come up with an official, ratified stand on an issue. The party recently held a NECO on August 10, during which it affirmed the election of officials to key positions. – Rappler.com