POSTSCRIPT / October 19, 2021 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Senate bets’ party tags can be ignored

SOME people are asking why the political opposition has put together an election campaign ticket that brings together a confusing multi-party mix of senatorial candidates of divergent orientations.

We don’t know the answer to that, but we don’t see the fusion as a problem. In fact, we think it is a feat gathering diverse viewpoints and aiming them in one direction – to phase down the pandemic, break the economic fall and normalize daily life as quickly as possible.

We’ve long stopped putting the political party tag after the names of senators and congressmen as most newspapers do in such places as the United States where the two-party system divides the nation into two major camps fighting for ascendancy.

Our Filipino politicians change parties almost as often as basketball players shed their sweaty jerseys. Sometimes we can’t even be sure that the party appended to a politician’s name would still be the same by the time our story comes out the next day.

For comic relief, the press has referred to these turncoats as political butterflies or as multi-faceted balimbing fruits. The name-calling, however, has not been able to curb the party-switching done mainly to gain political advantage.

That is one of the reasons why I think it is not crucial that all candidates in the senatorial lineup of the opposition or any political group campaigning for the May 2022 national elections come from the same party and think only in one common way.

It makes for a more healthy body politic that despite their varied backgrounds and disparate orientations officials can be bound by a common desire to serve the people under an agreed national agenda.

Unity of purpose and direction must have been emphasized during the discussions among the senatorial nominees and Vice President Leni Robredo, the unanimous choice for standard-bearer, and the 1Sambayan convenors.

If the terms are clear and agreed upon in good faith, the pact should bind them regardless of their mother political parties. Harmony may sound like pure theory, but it means respect for the independence of each senator as an elected representative of his constituents.

Although Robredo is the Liberal Party chair, we understand that she joined the 1Sambayan coalition as an independent entity, and was chosen as the presidential candidate to run with Sen. Kiko Pangilinan, LP president, vying for the vice presidency.

We suppose that all the others who joined the opposition coalition have in mind helping save the nation not only from the pandemic winds whipping us toward the cliff but also from the plunderers taking advantage of the public health and other emergencies.

Pangilinan, pushing for priority action on the pandemic, will collide at the polls with Senate President Tito Sotto, his wife Sharon’s uncle who is also gunning for VP in tandem with Sen. Ping Lacson vying for the presidency.

So far, 1Sambayan has announced 11 of its 12 senatorial bets. In addition to the first five who were former senator Sonny Trillanes, Sen. Risa Hontiveros, Sen. Leila de Lima, human rights lawyer Chel Diokno, and former congressman Teddy Baguilat, it added the other day six more:

Former Vice President Jojo Binay, Sen. Dick Gordon, Senate Majority Leader Migz Zubiri, former senator Francis Escudero, Sen. Joel Villanueva, and writer-poet Alex Lacson.

Robrero has expressed the hope that the coalition’s vetting group will pick for the 12th slot one who best represents the “laylayan” (hemline) or the lower fringes of the social fabric.

It is interesting that the ticket includes personalities (Binay, Gordon, Zubiri, Escudero, and Villanueva) who are not generally cast in the public mind as opposition. Another delicate relationship will be that of Binay and Trillanes, who have not been able to hide their mutual dislike for each other.

 Leni’s test: Leading diverse team

MANAGING such a collection of partisans from varied, in some cases contending, political sectors will test the leadership qualities and management skills of Robredo if they or most of them make it to the Senate and she to Malacañang.

That would probably be the day when there won’t be any need for the president to insult and threaten a coequal branch to refrain from adding to the stress bedeviling the Chief Executive.

We are not privy to commitments made in the exploratory talks among Robredo, the convenors and the senatorial bets. But we assume all of them are committed to subordinate party considerations when these run in conflict with clear national interests.

Of the 11 chosen ones, Robredo said: “Pag tiningnan natin yung 11 na nasa slate ngayon, iba-iba yung pinagdaanan, iba-iba yung kasaysayan. Pero yung pinakamahalaga, nung nakiusap tayo na magkaisa, yung kahandaan na isantabi yung mga dating pinagdaanan at paniniwala nandoon.”

(When we look at the 11 candidates in our slate now, they have different experiences and histories. But what’s most important is when we asked for unity, their readiness to set aside their past was there.)

Those of them who are actually “guest candidates” are still with their mother parties. It would be interesting to watch how they would move or talk if/when apparent conflicts arise on the campaign trail or issues are raised that are critical of President Duterte.

Robredo added in Filipino: I believe no one is perfect among us, including myself. No one is perfect but what’s most important is the commitment and readiness to sit and listen to the different perspectives and craft a plan and agreement to operationalize our aspirations. They were the ones who showed us that readiness.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 19, 2021)

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