Ex-Speaker Alvarez joining opposition? That would be difficult, Robredo says
MANILA, Philippines — Despite former speaker Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez’s recent and surprising criticism of the government’s COVID-19 response, Vice President Leni Robredo has implied that it would almost be impossible for him to join the opposition.
Robredo explained in a radio interview with Vanguard Radio Network on Friday that she prefers to keep the opposition’s numbers low if it means being with people who share the same beliefs.
Alvarez stunned the public when he said that the COVID-19 response mounted by President Rodrigo Duterte — his longtime ally — was really a failure because the government did not properly handle the rising number of infected patients. Questions were raised whether Alvarez was just “bitter,” or airing a legitimate criticism.
“Mahirap in the sense na iyong nangyari kasi sa party namin, talagang na-decimate kami, na-decimate kami after 2016. Pero maraming lessons eh. Halimbawa, maliit naman talaga kaming party before, pero noong naging pangulo si President Aquino, sobrang dami,” the Vice President said.
(It is hard in the sense that what happened with our party, we were decimated after the 2016 elections There were a lot of lessons, for example, our party was really small before, but when President Aquino was elected into office, it grew.)
“Pero noong hindi nasiya presidente, noong iba na iyong presidente, nawala ulit iyong marami. Para sa akin, dapat leksyon iyon, na hindi naman numbers iyong what makes a party great,” she added.
(But when he stepped down from office when a different president came in, the party membership was gone. For me, that should be a lesson, and it’s not the numbers that make a party great.)
Robredo was referring to the switching of parties — from their parties to the Liberal Party (LP) — after former President Benigno Aquino was elected into office in 2010. However, LP’s membership went down drastically after the election of President Rodrigo Duterte, as a lot of LP members jumped ship again, this time to join PDP-Laban.
While she shut down suggestions of Alvarez joining LP or the opposition, Robredo said she was open to working with people with the same beliefs for particular projects, like the COVID-19 pandemic response. But in terms of long-term alliances within a party, she said she would like to keep it among those who share the same ideals.
This strength in numbers mindset — even in small ones — has been evident in Robredo’s various advocacies, including her push for the opposition’s senatorial slate in the 2019 elections. Instead of completing the usual roster of 12 candidates, Robredo chose to fill out eight spots, known as Otso Diretso, instead of just placing people for the mere purpose of filling in gaps.
“Para sa akin, dapat iyong ine-aim namin parati when we invite members to join us, ito bang mga taong ito, nashe-share nila iyong aming mga paniniwala? Kasi kung hindi lang naman, baka hindi siya advisable na makasama. Siguro alliances puwede, pero para maging part of the party, parating iyong kuwestiyon, pareho ba iyong paniniwala,” Robredo explained.
(For me, what we should be aiming when inviting possible party members is to ask whether we share the same beliefs and principles. Because if not, then it might not be advisable to join with them. Maybe alliances would work, but to be part of the party, the questions should always be whether you share the same beliefs.)
“Ayaw ko na mangyari ulit iyong nangyari in 2016, na just because one of our partymates was the president — parang hindi iyong prinsipyo iyong naging […] driving force to come together […] Parang on a by-advocacy basis, puwede iyon. Pero parang para buoin iyong mga sinusulong, baka mas mabuti na pareho iyong paniniwala,” she added.
(I don’t want a repeat of 2016, where just because a party-mate was the president — it seemed that the driving force to come together was not based on principles. If we can align for a by-advocacy basis, that may work. But to join together for a single goal, it might be better if we all share the same beliefs.)
Robredo has been vocal too about the administration’s supposed shortcomings with its COVID-19 response, urging departments to act together towards a common goal. But Alvarez’s criticism came as a surprise to many because even if he was ousted from the speakership in 2018, he remained loyal to Duterte.
Alvarez and Duterte go way back: in a 2016 report from the Philippine Daily Inquirer, it was highlighted that then president-elect Duterte and Alvarez have been buddies ever since the 11th Congress, of which they were both members.[ac]
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