Are we seeing something of a thaw in the Liberal Party of the Philippines’ coldness towards President Rodrigo Duterte, his administration and his policies? For the past six months, since Duterte was elected, the Liberal Party, largely through its mainstream media proxies and other mouthpieces, have conducted a campaign of vicious allegations, character assassination and doubt-sowing against this new government – and, in particular, against the person of Duterte himself. Innuendo has flowed like a river in spate from the Left elites in media and showbiz and from LP-supporter sites across the Net. But is that starting to have run its course?
To some degree – possibly, maybe; at least as far as the Liberal Party itself is concerned. And here’s why we think that.
Yesterday, Kris Aquino, sister of former president and Liberal Party grandee, Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino, was due to go on stage with Duterte at a the National Micro, Small, and Medium Entrepreneurs’ Summit in Davao City. Duterte who had returned home from a state visit to Malaysia in the early hours of the morning and was incapacitated by a minor illness, had to cancel his appearance at the event. But, evidently, Kris Aquino was a little upset at not meeting the president and said that she hoped they would be able to get together in the future. It was an impassioned plea; “Please give me a chance,” she implored.
As a former talk-show host, Kris Aquino, the “Queen of All Media,” undoubtedly would love to interview Duterte. It would be an intriguing get together – the president taking questions from the sister of the leader of the party that has been after Duterte’s hide since the day he announced his candidacy for the presidency. Ratings would be high. It’s not entirely clear, however that such an interview was the intention – Kris Aquino isn’t working for any TV network right now. But such a meeting could have some other appeal.
Although she’s the sister of the former president, Kris Aquino is not a died-in-the-wool Liberal Party apparatchik. In the election just passed, for example, she didn’t endorse the LP’s presidential candidate, Mar Roxas, she supported Independent challenger, Grace Poe; for the VP slot, she went with Independent Chiz Escudero, not the Liberal’s Leni Robredo. In the senatorial contest, she endorsed Nancy Binay of LP rival, the United Nationalists Alliance (UNA) and daughter of former VP, Jejomar Binay. She campaigned for other UNA candidates elsewhere. The point being that in any meeting with Duterte she is unlikely to be offering him any Liberal Party perspective.
But she would be in a position to extend some form of détente on behalf of the Liberal Party. And that would be useful – not just to bring politics back to a better level of debate and, hopefully, get some cross-party consensus on the more difficult issues facing the country and thus waste less Congress time – but, particularly, for the LP itself. And her brother might well appreciate that.
The fact is it’s getting increasingly more difficult for the Liberals to deny Duterte’s successes. His flurry of foreign trips around the region has been difficult to fault; as is the drop in the crime figures and the ever-expanding drug-rehabilitation programme. The media may choose to downplay all that, and although in time that will only work against the media – by continuing to expose themselves as the totally biased, out-of-touch, arrogant, ‘we-know-better-than-the-idiots-out there’ sham they are – Liberal Party politicians should by now be waking up to the fact that it could further harm them in terms of the electorate going forward.
Sure, the TV networks and the online versions of Philippine dailies will ultimately pay a price as one-time audiences continue to desert them to get their news coverage and analysis from social media, but for the political class, ending up on the wrong side of a protracted political feud, can be a terminal experience. It’s a big graveyard.
The cold hard fact is this: a successful Duterte term could see the Libs exiled to a political Sahara. Just two things: if Duterte gets the drugs pestilence in the Philippines under control, and if he boosts inward investment to the country with all that that implies – a booming infrastructure sector, millions of more new jobs – then the LP is really going to have its work cut out in getting voters to even recognise their party, much less vote for it.
Political parties which fail in their bid for power start preparing for the next election virtually the day after their defeat. And so there’s likely to have been a lot of soul searching within the LP ranks over the past six months. And hopefully the realisation has been reached within the LP that if they want to remain a major force in Philippine politics – whether leading it or in opposition – they need to dispense with the childish self-righteous outrage with tears welling and the low point-scoring sniping with blood rushing and start debating like mature parliamentarians. And, above all, cutting the hissy-fit image and start displaying a little more gravitas.
Similarly, the embittered sneering of Leftist Netizens with their brain-dead online posts of “FU30” and such like are never going to win any political debate; they’re never going to persuade members of the other camp to consider their arguments. Far from it, Internet garbage like that is only going to harden their resolve and reinforce the reasons why they didn’t vote Liberal last time and redouble their resolve not to do so next time. If you insult people for what they believe, don’t be surprised if they harden their stance.
Which brings us to one person in the Liberal establishment who will look at that reasoning as if it was written in Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics – Senator Leila De Lima. She, it seems, is pathologically incapable of understanding that the man who she attacks like a pit bull, is held in the highest esteems. 92% of her fellow countrymen and women love him. For them he is their guardian and their hope. Trying to get these people to her side – someone needs to tell her – is like King Canute sitting on the shore and commanding the waves and the tide to turn back. It’s not going to happen. Not even for this precious princess.
Certainly, there’s been a tangible distancing of the LP’s leadership from De Lima’s vendetta politics. But for ordinary people – that majority of voters who swept Duterte to power and stand by him to a man – her tarnished crusade has the potential to drag the Liberal Party ship to the bottom. And once it starts taking on water and sinking it will be pretty well doomed.