Anyone who has been around a farm or abattoir is aware of the fact that as an animal is being slaughtered, its loudest, most violent and most extreme contortions occur just prior to its inevitable death. The same is true of political parties that are inevitably close to the edge in respect of losing not only their electoral appeal but their fundamental purpose.
At present, the Liberal Party of The Philippines has taken it upon itself to become an all-purpose obstructionist party whose contributions to the wider political debate are now almost entirely comprised of shrieking outbursts against the popular President Rodrigo Duterte and his political colleagues. When one adds elements of fake news for which Liberal Vice President Leni Robredo has become infamous, combined with the fact that the legitimacy of her election is itself at the centre of a challenge led by supporters of her 2016 rival Bongbong Marcos – it becomes clear that not only is the Liberal Party unfit to govern but even in the current presidential system where an opposition party needn’t even have a counter-program to the government, the Liberals are not even fit to oppose.
President Duterte recently called out the Liberals for their obstructionist tendencies which frequently escalate into all out political provocations against the legal political order. Duterte said,
“These are the groups, you know, that were elected during the last administration…ask them what they accomplished while they were in power?”
In spite of having what Duterte described as a poor record when in power, the President claimed the Liberals “want to come back”. He further warned that the party is “noisy and the ambitious”. Turning to the specific issue of the current Vice President (elected separately from the office of President), Duterte stated, that Leni Robredo is too “incompetent to be President”.
A Liberal spokesperson responded by saying,
“We do not desire to grab power, but to ensure that power is not misused or abused”.
This statement however is at odds with the manifest reality of the Liberal party not presenting an alternative vision for Philippine society in the run up to the next election cycle but instead continues to openly agitate for the removal of a President who happens to be one of the most popular elected leaders in the world.
By acting as though it is entitled to power in spite of the opinion polls generally pointing in a different direction, the Liberals are committing one of the gravest mistakes of any opposition in openly lusting for power in the manner of a deposed monarch rather than fighting for power by waging a battle of ideas within a well known legal framework.
By simply going against the grain of popular opinion and by demonising the legitimate President in line with the statements of anti-Filipino authors abroad, the Liberal Party may be consigning itself to the dustbin of Philippine political history.
Of course, they shout loudly and proclaim their own implicit failures as external manifestations of injustice, but unless they are able to fool all of the people all of the time, they are only ultimately fooling themselves. While there is such a thing as electoral fraud and abuse of power, no one has accused President Duterte of winning anything other than a free and fair election. Likewise, those accusing him of abusing his power are further making fools of themselves because Duterte has staked his very political legacy on the fact that he wants to make Constitutional changes that would limit his power and that of his preferred successors. Duterte has said on multiple occasions that he does not wish to serve a single day beyond his current term and has even stated that if a successful federal Constitutional model is adopted prior to 2022, he would step down then. As things stand, the current proposals being considered in the Congress appear to point in the direction of a post-2022 transitional period.
If the Liberals actually seek power in the healthy way that an opposition party tends to do, they ought to rethink their strategy from one of hysterical obstructionism to one of concrete proposals based around ideas rather than open personal vendettas.
In any case, it appears that the Liberals have backed themselves into a corner both in terms of their rhetoric and the company they keep. When one sees President Duterte and his party acting on a local basis to tackle domestic issues while re-imagining a more neutral and outward looking foreign policy and when one then contrasts this with a Liberal party reliant on foreign support, which invokes the words of malicious so-called NGOs, issues profane statements about a popular leader who recently beat their candidate in an historic election and all the while calling for one of the weakest armed forces in Asia to develop a confrontational policy with the Chinese superpower – it becomes clear that the Liberals are less of a political party than a strange lifestyle for those who at no point have any contact with reality.
This is why the Liberals are afraid of the political changes that will come with a new Constitutional settlement. If they are doing so poorly in a political system that is manifestly obsolete, imagine how poorly they would do in a federal-parliamentary system that more accurately reflects the political feelings of the nation.