Analysts: LP still stands a chance in Duterte’s milieu

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Dr. Perlita M. Frago-Marasigan — HTTP://POLISCI.UPD.EDU.PH/

ANALYSTS were sought for comment to assess the opposition Liberal Party’s (LP) standing, amid the political milieu currently dominated by President Rodrigo R. Duterte, and ahead of the crossroads that is next year’s midterm elections.

Dr. Perlita M. Frago-Marasigan, UP political science assistant professor, said she no longer sees the party as the “strong contender” it used to be.

“Aside from the fact that most mainstream political parties in the Philippines are generally weak and are said to be mere alliances of convenience, the LP also has to come up with a better slogan and more concrete and better policy actions and decisions vis-a-vis the PDP-Laban,” Ms. Marasigan told BusinessWorld in a phone message, Wednesday.

She, however, noted the LP still stands a chance if it brings more focus on ongoing issues rather than personalities.

“More pragmatically, if the LP will offer alternative programs within this administration’s governance framework. But of course, a lot can happen between now and the 2019 mid-term elections,” Ms. Marasigan said.

Also sought for comment, University of the Philippines (UP) law professor Antonio G. La Viña told BusinessWorld in a phone interview Saturday: “They’ll have to wait for a change of government before lumipat na naman sa kanila (before [their former allies] transfer back to them). Hopefully, they use their time and power to strengthen the party.”

He added: “LP is an old party, but even if they’re few…they’ll have influence. But no party has influence unless it’s the party of the president.”

Also sought for comment, Rep. Romero S. Quimbo said the LP’s strength is not determined by the numbers, but by its ideology.

“LP’s strength has never been about numbers. LP is constantly rebuilding and re-tweaking its methods; But it can never compromise on its principles and platform,” Mr. Quimbo told BusinessWorld in a phone message Wednesday.

He said even during the administration of President Benigno S.C. Aquino III, the LP “remained conscious not to increase membership merely for the sake of numbers.”

The party was formed in the immediate postwar era and was catapulted to power by the election of its leader, Manuel A. Roxas. The party has been in and out of the public favor in the course of its history, but also became associated with such causes as the struggle against the Marcos dictatorship.

In the current milieu, the party has been overshadowed in recent senatorial polls by Mr. Duterte’s allies, and also by his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio. Analysts see her as a “kingmaker” in the light of last month’s power struggle in the House of Representatives, which led to the political revival of its new Speaker, former Philippine president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

“Mayor Duterte’s alleged political maneuvers behind the ‘return to power’ of former president GMA demonstrates how (Mayor) Duterte can be a cunning political force to contend with,” Ms. Marasigan said.

“First daughters, after all, can be strong political forces provided that they have the skills. And we have seen such skills in Mayor Sara Duterte,” she added.

On the other hand, Vice-President and LP’s chairperson Maria Leonor G. Robredo’s “gentle manners and soft features belie the social activist inside,” which Ms. Marasigan notes “when used skillfully, can prove (to be) fatal to any powerful man.”

Ms. Robredo has maintained a considerable position in recent surveys, particularly among what is called the Class E. The political outsider, going by updates her office has been sending the media, has been going around the country for outreach activities under her Angat Buhay program.

“While VP Robredo’s Angat Buhay vows to make a difference in the lives of people at the margins through doleouts, this strategy appears mainstream,” Ms. Marasigan said. “As expected, Mayor Duterte’s Tapang at Malasakit Alliance is trying to reignite the flame that propelled the president into power.”

“The said alliance promises to stay the course by continuing the campaign core values of her father’s campaign. This, she said, can only happen if the communities will accentuate the positive (“volunteerism”) and let go of the negative (“politicking”),” she added. — Charmaine A. Tadalan