Unity in diversity, unity amid adversity

Published September 25, 2021, 12:05 AM

by Tonyo Cruz


Tonyo Cruz

After years of putting up and maintaining a juggernaut of a coalition, President Duterte’s political alliance is weakening and disintegrating:

The Marcoses are moving independently of Duterte, surprised as they reportedly were about the daughter and the father eyeing both the presidency and the vice presidency.

Duterte’s erstwhile loyal Senate president, Tito Sotto, has declared that he will run against Duterte for vice president.

The PDP-Laban is torn apart. Who knows how many other factions there are now?

A number of members of Congress who used to routinely back the president have found their voices again: They’re holding hearings to check the Pharmally contracts, to the surprise of the president. Others have asked the anti-money laundering council to check the company’s accounts.

For people fed up with an administration so united about questionable policies, or in institutions refusing to hold others accountable, these divisions in the ruling coalition are very much welcome. The splintering of the Duterte coalition could mean that the administration may no longer be able to easily impose those same policies. Institutions could again begin to work as they should.

This situation also bodes well for the opposition, but only if they heed their better angels.

Vice President Leni Robredo, Mayor Isko Moreno and Senator Pacquiao are said to be continuously talking, conferring and consulting. Exactly what they talk, confer or consult about is anyone’s guess. But almost certainly, the three of them individually wish to build the strongest force to face the divided, tired and weakened Duterte camp. That’s not a bad idea, right? The conventional wisdom is that their differences cannot be bridged or cannot be sharper. But the times are not conventional.

There are many possibilities, equally as possible as seeing the three of them running against one another. The talks could avert that. Exactly how to succeed, we do not know. But surely, they would be more potent, more formidable and more exciting if they stand and fight together in a coalition.

Robredo is cautiously moving forward. She’s aware of the clamor for her to run. But she apparently refuses a coronation, as demanded by her most fervent supporters. Instead of dressing up excitedly for a coronation, she’s working towards a coalition.

It is not too late for unity. For while declarations are important to their respective bases and to public opinion, these declarations may not be final. They still have to file their certificates of candidacy. They can still change their minds. But most importantly, they could still arrive at a modus vivendi, an agreement, to coalesce and to fight alongside together.

What could they talk about or agree on? A lot actually. They could start with the pandemic response, the situation of health workers, and the prospects for small and medium-scale enterprises. The possibilities are endless. Then, they could talk how to best contest the 2022 elections. They’re all smart, strong and nimble. They should also be able to manage differences and prioritize.

There are also other forces at play here that could promote unity in the opposition and hopefully achieve a new start for the country in 2022.

One is the Makabayan bloc, the standard-bearer of progressive politics for 20 years now and electoral avatar of a movement tirelessly fighting for change for nearly 60 years now. They could teach us the history and root causes of the problems we face, and offer to the broad opposition out-of-the-box programs that are both democratic and national.

Another factor is you — us. Now’s the time not for cynicism but for boldness. Rethink and reimagine our politics: Continue to opt to be mere fans of traditional politicians, or engage as citizens. Continue to leave politics to the politicians, or develop movements ready and capable to make politics work for us. Perceive people as the problems or as the pivotal force in changing the system that’s rigged against all of us. Fall into cynicism and despair, or be a light shining on common ground and viable solutions.

Be a force for unity or an agent of disunity.