Steve Salonga, an independent candidate for governor of Rizal in next month’s elections, is pretty much on his own.
He laments that the Liberal Party (LP) has abandoned him.
Steve’s father, former Sen. Jovito Salonga, had been one of the leading lights of the party for over a half century.
But at the age of 92, and suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, the elder Salonga is no longer there as the son takes on Rebecca “Nini” Ynares, the LP candidate in the gubernatorial race in Rizal.
How did this happen?
Salonga, a 64-year-old lawyer, points to what he calls the reality of traditional and patronage politics.
In principle, the LP should be against political dynasties and warlords, but on the ground, there are many compromises and alliances that work against this, according to Salonga.
Rizal is a case in point, he says.
Ynares is part of a family whose members hold five elective positions in the province.
‘Tuwid na daan’
“I am aware and understand why my own party did not endorse my candidacy. Maybe they think I am much of an idealist and the type who do not compromise, and maybe they think, the dynasties which idealists should be fighting are the ones with the more chances of winning. I get that and I understand that but my point is, that is not tuwid na daan (straight path),” he told the Inquirer in a recent interview.
“Tuwid na daan may be true in the elective posts on the national level, but not on the local level,” he said.
Salonga was quick to say that he did not think President Aquino was aware of the compromises on the ground, but insisted that this was a reality he had to contend with in next month’s elections.
The “disturbing and aggressive alliances” with dynasties, warlords and traditional politicians began during the 2010 elections, he said.
Salonga said at that time, his father questioned such deals but got nowhere. He said that his father’s letters and phone calls were ignored. “He was very disappointed,” said the son.
Salonga explained that Aquino’s tuwid na daan principle must be carried out down to the grass roots.
“I have stayed in the background during most of the elections in the country to know that alliances even with enemies and those with opposing views and principles are ingredients of victory. However, this is not the Liberal Party as we know it and this is not tuwid na daan.”
As early as October last year, Salonga said, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas has been telling party members that he is running for president in 2016. That is why in the balloting next month, Roxas expects victory on all fronts of his allies, whether LP or non-LP politicians, he said.
Salonga said that in Rizal, Roxas made that announcement at Ynares Coliseum.
“Don’t get me wrong. Mar Roxas, as my father put it in 2010, was the preferred candidate for president at that time. Not that he disliked Noynoy. No. He just felt that Mar had reached a level of maturity then that made him fit to become president. But when my father saw the clamor for Noynoy, he did not oppose it and simply supported the direction taken by the Liberal Party,” Salonga said.
In the 2010 polling, Salonga ran for vice governor of Rizal and lost. Still, he said he was surprised that he got 400,000 plus votes although he barely received support from his own party.
“I am against a dynasty and the party that my father and I served through the years, the old Liberal Party, if I must say, stands on this principle of idealists against patronage and traditional politics of evil compromises,” Salonga said.
Victory or defeat, the younger Salonga said, he would be happy knowing that he did not make any compromises to the kind of principled leadership his father had taught him by example.