Vice President Leni Robredo said that the regimes of disinformation and the online technologies that enabled them to spread false information about democracy and liberal thinking further polarized societies.
In a message for the 13th Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD) General Assembly, Robredo said it is “untrue” that the failure of liberals to address pressing issues in the society led to the rise of populist and authoritarian leaderships, as well as hardline right-wing leaderships all over the world.
“The past few years, we have seen ideas we hold dear under attack, with populist-authoritarians the world over tapping into long-simmering frustrations, capturing office through the same participative mechanisms that form the bedrock of our beliefs,” she said.
“We see the rise of right-wing parties and characters not only in the Philippines and the Global South, but curiously, even for other, more advanced democracies in the West,” added Robredo before members of CALD who were gathered in a virtual general assembly Friday.
Robredo acknowledged that the view is that liberal and democratic processes gave rise “to new dangers, bred widespread inequality, and allowed the powerful few to hoard vast riches while leaving everyone on the dust.”
She noted that societies have always seen liberals as “educated, technocratic, politically correct, and out of touch.”
Robredo belied these assumptions, and said instead that “liberal democracy has been the key to human progress over the past couple of centuries.”
The Vice President is the chairman of the opposition Liberal Party (LP), which is often labeled as a center-left organization. Many observers noted that the 2016 elections, which saw her running mate former Sen. Manuel “Mar” A. Roxas II lose to President Duterte, was a testament to the public’s frustration over their party’s failure to address social and political issues.
Robredo admitted that debating about whether these assumptions are true or not will “further polarize societies, yielding little in terms of pushback against the ongoing illiberal wave.”
The more important question is, “Why do people believe the lies?” Robredo asked.
The lady official told Asian liberals and democrats the solution to their struggle against populist authoritarians is to reach out to ordinary people by listening to their stories because “the more that the people are looped in – the more they recognize that we are all in this together – then the more galvanized they become.”