Government News Analysis

Termite in the Cabinet

“She is the termite (photo, left) of the Government”. That’s how two members of the Volunteers for Good Government described Philippine Vice President Leni Robredo (photo, right) in a cover letter which accompanied their impeachment complaint which they filed against her on Monday. Addressed to House Speaker, Pantaleon D. Alvarez, and seeking his endorsement of the complaint, it went on to state: “Her unfaithfulness has extended to the betrayal of the Public Trust and Culpable Violation of the Constitution”.

Robredo who famously said that she would work as an opposition to the government of which she’s a part, has repeatedly embarrassed the country’s president, Rodrigo Duterte, publically challenging him on a rash of issues calculated to drive divisions through the Filipino population.

Increasingly, the ice she’s been skating on has got thinner and thinner. Now, finally – and inevitably – it’s cracked. Emboldened by the international outrage which she and her anti-Duterte gang has been able to stir up over the past half year, she probably thought at this stage that she was untouchable – perhaps that she could walk on water.

But this is a deep fissure and the water below is dark and deep and deathly cold. If Robredo doesn’t get off the ice, and quickly – assuming that’s still possible – this clumsy political saboteur’s days of maligning the government in her blatant bid for power are numbered. And, having exposed the true colours and nature of the Liberal Party of which she’s chairman, she’s more or less guaranteed that its prospects of winning an election in this country in the foreseeable future have all but evaporated.

This was always going to be a high-stakes game, but Robredo’s play was always naïve. It was hopelessly bungled. The plain and very simple fact is that the United Nations does not have a vote for who should be president of the Philippines. Nor does the European Union. These two names might look good on Robredo’s CV, but they’re worthless as references for the job she covets.

The same goes for the International Criminal Court and rights groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. None of those have a vote in a Philippine election any more than the cabal of anti-Duterte mainstream media that have been sponsoring her bid.

Loida Nicolas-Lewis, the millionaire Fil-Am socialite – Robredo’s main backer for the Philippine presidency – who lives in New York in up-market Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue has a vote; but just one, assuming she’s registered for Overseas Absentee Voting.

And so the point is that while the Liberal elite – Robredo and her cronies – have been swanning around the political playgrounds of America and Europe engaging in an orgy of subterfuge and self-congratulation, back home Duterte has been galvanising his base by delivering on his promises.

In short, the Liberal elite have been playing with themselves in the wrong stadium while the real game was going on thousands of miles away. And we have to say that any political party that can miscalculate that badly and be so inept should never be anywhere near government.

It may come as a shock to Liberal Party Inc., but the Filipino public is far more savvy, far more politically aware, than the party in yellow gives them credit for. Look, let’s start here. Duterte romped home in last May’s elections leaving Liberal Party candidate, Mar Roxas, trailing 6.27 million votes behind in his wake. Since then, the president’s approval ratings have bobbed around the mid-80% mark.

And what that means to anyone with a modicum of political acumen is that the battle for the hearts and minds of the Filipino nation cannot be fought and won in Washington and Brussels; it must be fought and won in Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao.

So what made the ice crack?  Very simple – a six-minute video which Robredo in her arrogance decided to produce for the 60th UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs’ annual meeting held last Thursday in Vienna, Austria. It was played at a side session of the event entitled, ”Human Rights Challenge: Responding to Extrajudicial Killings in the Drug War,” and was broadcasted further by her groupie media.

This event, incidentally, was sponsored by the UN-accredited NGO, DRCNet Foundation – otherwise known as “StoptheDrugWar.org”. Among the other speakers was, Abhisit Vejjajiva who in 2010 as prime minister of Thailand launched a military crackdown against protestors that left 90 people dead. Apart from being the leader of Thailand’s Democrat Party and another member of the Liberal elite, he’s also chairman of one of this event’s sponsors, the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats of which the Philippine Liberal Party is a fully paid-up member.

Chito Gascon, Chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights of the Republic of the Philippines and a major ant-Duterte lobbyist; Alison Smith of the Brussels-based NGO and event co-sponsor No Peace Without Justice, another Liberal Left progressive mob; and Lousewies van der Laan, former leader of the Dutch “D66” liberal parliamentary group, also spoke. Liberal International, which, as it describes itself is “the world federation of liberal and progressive democratic political parties,” was another co-sponsor.

In other words, this event was Of the Liberals, By the Liberals, For the Liberals – a Liberalfest of like-thinking progressive Lefties who know as much about the Philippines as the average Filipino does about the lost Sasanian Empire. Robredo’s video appears on all the Liberal websites for Liberals everywhere to drool over.

In it she ridiculed the Philippines, poured scorn on the majority of the electorate – the Filipino people whose hearts and minds she needs to win – and defamed the president of a sovereign state. Unbecoming of any potential national leader, it was spiteful, self-serving, outrageous even sociopathic. But it was also wildly inaccurate.

She told her audience, for example, that “more than 7,000 people have been killed in summary executions” since Duterte took office. This number was arrived at by lumping the 2,555 killed in the drugs war – the Philippine National Police Directorate of Operations’ figures for July 2016 to January this year – and the 4,525 total murders that have been tabulated in the country.

In 2014, however, under a Liberal Party administration, there were 9,756 murders, 3,349 homicides, 88,755 crimes against persons and 9,887 rapes. The following year with the Liberals still in charge, there were 9,643 murders, 2,835 homicides, 72,621 crimes against persons and 10,298 rapes.

So were all those murders and homicides in 2014 and 2015 the result of extrajudicial killings carried out at the behest of then-president, Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino? Or have the country’s murderers gone on a sabbatical since Duterte came to power – handing over total responsibility for all killings in the country to people with a drug interest? To put it mildly, Robredo’s claim is farcical and has about as much scholarship behind it as you’d find in a pre-teen schoolyard.

Point by point, the claims made by Robredo were manufactured to portray the Philippines as a failed state resembling somewhere like Somalia or Afghanistan under the Taliban when the reality is far from that – hence Duterte’s continued high popularity ratings. The VolatilianTM is not going to dignify the rest of her remarks by responding to them. Frankly, they’re not worthy of a response; they’re too facile to even bother with.

But her depiction of the country with the population living in mortal fear of Duterte’s government, her slanderous remarks against the president, her smearing of the country before the eyes of the world and her total fabrication of facts and her production of unsubstantiated accounts is not a matter for interpretation. It’s there all over the Internet. She said it – we’re not misquoting her; she didn’t “mispeak” (whatever that means) – and now she must pay the price.

Rants like that in a domestic forum, let alone on the international stage, only reinforce people’s loathing of political elites. And having scanned enough social media on the issue, it’s plain that Robredo’s preparedness to drag her country’s name and that of its president through the mud did just that.

It’s hard to rate the odds right now of who’s the most loathed woman in the Philippines, Robredo or fellow Liberal political opportunist, Leila De Lima – the former justice secretary who’s languishing in police custody as she awaits trial on drugs-profiteering charges. It’s a tight contest.

For sure though, Robredo’s arrogance will prevent her from issuing a retraction and an apology for the hate speech she delivered to Vienna – Liberals don’t do humility – and so she needs to vacate the Office of the Vice President, an office with Cabinet rank. For the longer she stays there, the more damage she’ll do to the government and to the country.

This is worth bearing in mind; among the characteristics of termite behaviour is that they’re a destructive force and when left unchecked can bring down large structures.

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