Finding rhyme and reason in the political opposition

Published November 29, 2019, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

THINKING PINOY

By RJ NIETO

nieto
RJ Nieto

President Rodrigo Duterte remains immensely popular among the electorate in spite of everything LP has thrown at him. The May 2019 National Elections is a resounding defeat for the opposition Liberal Party (LP), as none of its senatoriables and just 26 of its congressional candidates won.

LP leadership should’ve already taken a hint. Regardless of why Duterte remains popular, it’s clear that whatever the opposition has been doing for the past three years is not working. And if the opposition’s objective is to woo the voting public to its side, then it should do something else.

But regaining lost popularity need not imply unity with the Duterte Administration.

Take Senate President Tito Sotto, for example. He has, on several occasions, vocally opposed administration measures (e.g. SOGIE Bill). Sotto remains popular despite this, as his trust and approval ratings remain at stellar levels.

Sotto’s numbers are proof that opposing the Duterte Government can still be politically viable, as long as the public sees that the official opposes not just for the sake of opposing.

But LP never attempted to do a Sotto, as it remains hardline anti-Duterte. Despite empirical proof that such a political strategy does little to boost public support, LP’s strategy has largely remained the same.

Just look at what LP did during the weeks leading to the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, where LP officials attacked the SEA Games left and right. Serious public backlash ensued, yet LP seems to care little about it.

Do you remember the saying, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”?

If LP’s leaders are insane, then this article is over, so let’s assume the opposite.

Suppose there’s a rational explanation behind LP’s insistence on doing what it does. Thus, if LP’s attacks against Duterte don’t impress Filipino voters, then who exactly is LP trying to impress? Moreover, would impressing that entity improve LP’s chances in 2022?

If I were in Robredo and Pangilinan’s shoes, the answer would be pretty simple: The United States.

The single most important ingredient in any presidential campaign is funding. Lots of it.

Historically, presidentiables source funding from Big Business and the administration easily gets campaign donations because its existing hold on power inherently incentivizes businessmen not only to donate but to also think twice about providing the opposition financial support.

If I were LP, I want to get back to Malacañang, and I believe my best shot at getting 2022 campaign funding will be foreign donations rather than local ones.

Foreign funding is illegal, I agree, but we all know that there are many ways to get around it.  A Filipino citizen can, for example, “white label” donations. That is, one can declare illegal donations from foreigners as her own donations to a given candidate.

This setup not very different from the one detailed in CamSur politician Nelly Villafuerte’s 2013 electoral protest case against then CamSur Rep. Robredo, where Villafuerte accused Robredo of illegally receiving campaign donations from American nationals, with Filipino-American Loida Nicolas-Lewis as the go-between.

But presidential campaigns cost a lot more than just a congressional run: donations from private individuals won’t be enough.

In the absence of funding from Big Business and under the assumption that a candidate is not engaged in illicit trades, the only other funding source remaining would be a foreign government.

LP has been very congenial to the United States since time immemorial, and it may be hoping to get some US help.

The US, after all, has a history of funding movements to topple unfriendly regimes, as evidenced by the 1986 case Nicaragua v United States, where it was proven that the US funded Nicaraguan rebels to overthrow Nicaragua’s sitting Sandinista Government.

Surely, funding foreign candidates is a lot easier than funding foreign armed rebels, right?

Since 2016, LP has clearly and repeatedly attempted to reinforce not only the idea that Duterte’s warmer ties with China threatens US core interests, but also that China is a threat to what LP views as Philippine Interests. That is, LP and the US share a common interest: opposition to China.

But Foreign Policy, while an easy sell to Washington bureaucrats, may not be enough to convince the American Public to support LP’s comeback, and that’s where Duterte’s War on Drugs comes in.

By painting Duterte as a threat to the very American Values of Freedom and Right to Life, LP provides Washington a tool to convince the domestic audience that funneling tax dollars to “restore Democracy in the Philippines” is a good idea.

Sure, killing is evil, but morality doesn’t pay bills. Will LP spend valuable resources for the sake of Truth, Justice, and Love, and without any political Return on Investment?

Of course not.

I agree that no one can read people’s minds. But in the absence of any theory that gives rhyme and reason to LP’s seemingly irrational political strategy, then this theory must hold, at least for now.

Think about it.

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