Philippine Vice President Leni Robredo has vowed to lead a broad anti-Duterte opposition coalition in an attempt to overtake the popularity of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. There’s only one small problem. In a presidential system such as the one currently in place in The Philippines, there is no such thing as a formal opposition coalition. But while this isn’t the first time that Robredo has gotten basic facts and terminology incorrect, supporters of President Duterte should actually welcome her message because she is indicating (whether she knows it or not) that she is prepared to engage in the kind of formal opposition coalition that is not only possible in a traditional a parliamentary system.
If the current political structure of The Philippines was that of a federal-parliamentary system, Duterte would be leading the government as Prime Minister backed by members of his party PDP–Laban and other members of parliament (MPs) who support PDP-Laban. Meanwhile, opposition parties would sit on the opposite side of the parliamentary chamber either as separate parties or as part of a united coalition.
Thus, in a parliamentary system, Leni Robredo would get her chance to form an opposition coalition comprised of her Liberal Party and other groups who oppose Duterte including the Communists, pro-clerical/theocratic parties, militant feminist parties and the possible addition of would-be independent MP Antonio Trillanes.
It would be in this context where Roberdo would have to prove her competence by standing before parliament and arguing her case all the while a would-be Prime Minister Duterte would have his chance to respond to everything she and her colleagues are saying.
While Duterte’s stamina during his speeches and his ability to quickly retort to his critics through the use of spontaneously delivered rhetorical missiles is well known, for those familiar with Roberdo’s rhetorical style and political record, it would be difficult to imagine her being taken seriously before a parliament that could instantly scrutinise her every statement. There is however plenty of evidence to back up Duterte’s claim that the Vice President is not competent enough for a leadership position.
Of the many foreign policy blunders that have exited Robredo’s mouth, she once claimed that China had conducted military activities on Philippine territory when in fact the event she was referring to was China landing aircraft on Woody Island which is not claimed by The Philippines nor is it located near Philippine territory.
If her poor sense of geography wasn’t bad enough, she then stated that Chinese activity in the South China Sea which has not resulted in anyone being so much as mildly injured, is nevertheless the most serious threat to The Philippines since the brutal Japanese invasion and occupation of the 1940s. It is thought that up to one million Filipinos lost their lives during the Japanese occupation, while the devastating era remains the darkest period in the history of The Philippines. To compare the issues of the South China Sea dispute with the Japanese occupation is insulting to the Filipino patriots who made the ultimate sacrifice while liberating their nation.
But when it comes to insulting people, Robredo doesn’t just stick to Filipinos. During a trip to Germany in her capacity as Vice President, she and her Liberal colleagues posed for a smiling selfie from inside a Holocaust Memorial. Needless to say, many people throughout the world found it shockingly inappropriate to grin and pose for photos at a memorial to victims of genocide.
Then in a clear effort to undermine law enforcement in The Philippines while spreading fake news about her own country, she appeared via video-link in front of a UN Commission and spewed false statistics regarding President Duterte’s war on narcotics related criminality. This too can be classed as a foreign policy blunder as multiple nations and elements within the UN have used Duterte’s successful anti-narcotics campaign to attempt and destabilise the political sovereignty of The Philippines.
Even bearing in mind the oddity of a Vice President deriving from a different party to a nation’s President (something which one cannot blame on Robredo as this is a systematic problem), Leni Robredo is a disgrace to her office and to the country.
n a nation whose economic development and long term security interests are inherently dependent on good bilateral and multilateral relations with foreign powers, Robredo’s foreign policy ignorance is even more dangerous than her equally large factual deficit when it comes to domestic policies.
It would be one thing to be an opponent of Duterte, after all the Philippine electoral system allows for the VP to be such an opponent of the elected President. But what is unacceptable is for the current VP to undermine not only the President but the national interest by making inflammatory and false statements while engaging in offensive actions around the world.
Decades of poor political leadership requires President Duterte to strive towards important confidence building measures with all current and potential foreign partners. Thus far, Duterte has done an outstanding job of changing the geopolitical fortunes of his potentially prosperous nation. In this mission, Duterte needs allies and constructive opposition (which he has incidentally always welcomed). Instead, the Philippine Vice President brings shame upon her nation by undermining the history changing efforts of President Duterte.
Given her background of false statements, I would personally welcome Robredo’s attempts to lead an opposition coalition. Someone therefore must remind her that in order for her to get this opportunity she must support a federal-parliamentary system which would give her the opportunity to be the leader of a national opposition coalition whose competence could be tested on a regular basis before the nation and the world.