VP Duterte as opposition head? Not so fast, says LP | Inquirer News

VP Duterte as opposition head? Not so fast, says LP

VP Duterte as opposition head? Not so fast, says LP

IN BETTER TIMES President Marcos and Vice President Sara Duterte engage in small talk during the graduation rites of the Philippine Military Academy Bagong Sinag Class of 2024 in
Baguio City on May 18. —MARIANNE BERMUDEZ

After Vice President Sara Duterte announced her resignation as education secretary, anti-Marcos and pro-Duterte forces saw her as the new leader of the opposition. Not so fast with that, Liberal Party (LP) spokesperson and former Sen. Leila de Lima said on Thursday.

The LP, which has been the main opposition party in Congress, is “strongly objecting” to any such declaration, De Lima said in a statement.

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The real opposition “has a foundation of accountability, transparency and concern for the people—which cannot be seen in VP Sara’s track record,” and her resignation did not come with any change in principles, she said.

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“The opposition puts the people first, not the expansion and maintenance of power; not defending wanted religious leaders or killing of thousands of Filipinos; especially not turning a blind eye on the oppression of our fishermen and foreigners stealing our territories,” said De Lima.

READ: Sara Duterte resigns as DepEd secretary, says Palace

De Lima added that Duterte’s resignation only confirmed what many people already knew—that the unity of the UniTeam, her political alliance with President Marcos, “was just for show.”

“This is just a maneuver during the elections to gain support of the voters. And now it’s clear that a new maneuvering is happening,” she said.

Duterte herself said as much—that the UniTeam was only for the election campaign.

“The people need true service and care from the leaders. We call on our leaders to prioritize the Filipinos, not your personal interests,” added De Lima.

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Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III said it would be “good for the cause of democracy to have an active, dynamic, and competent opposition segment of society.”

“Titles are not important to me. What is more important is the quality of our democracy. There must be an opposition to check as well as ‘to balance’ whatever is being told to the people,” Pimentel said in response to declarations that Duterte was the new leader of the opposition.

Wake-up call

According to political science professor Jean Encinas-Franco, Duterte’s break from President Marcos’s administration should serve as a wake-up call for the so-called “real opposition,” or they will be eclipsed by the Vice President’s popularity.

The University of the Philippines-Diliman professor said the longtime opposition—which includes LP president and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman and the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives—should “come up with creative ways on how to be more visible and more active rather than reactive.”

“I understand that this has not been easy, especially since (their numbers have been diminished) since (former President Rodrigo) Duterte’s time, and both Duterte and Marcos remain very popular,” Encinas-Franco said.

She doubted the Vice President’s capability to stand as the “real opposition” since she had not deviated much from the Marcos administration’s policies, save for a few issues.

These include Mr. Marcos’ openness to rejoining the International Criminal Court (ICC), which is now investigating the Vice President’s father for committing alleged crimes against humanity during the drug war, and the country’s assertive stance against China for its increasing aggressiveness in the West Philippine Sea.

Losing momentum

More importantly, Encinas-Franco noted, Duterte had not criticized Mr. Marcos for his family’s bloody legacy during the dictatorship. “Otherwise, what’s the soul of being the opposition to Marcos?” she said.

She said also that Duterte “seemed to lack the eloquence needed to be a good opposition leader” and always relied on prepared speeches. Duterte’s departure from the Cabinet could also “cost her momentum” in going around the country in the run-up to the 2028 presidential elections, according to Encinas-Franco.

Duterte would lose a sizable portfolio as education secretary, a plum post that would have kept her visible throughout her term, if she had ambitions for the presidency, the professor said.

“It’s a no-brainer that if you run for the vice presidency, it’s not hard to predict you will run for the presidency also … but I’m sure she must have weighed that before resigning from her post,” she said.

Solid approval rating

Still, Duterte “could be a force to be reckoned with” in next year’s midterm polls, the professor said, citing the Vice President’s “solid approval rating” in surveys.

Lagman asserted that LP remained the “ideological and conscientious opposition to both the current administration and Duterte’s breakaway power bloc.”

“The LP continues to uphold its iconic principles on good governance, participatory democracy, constitutionalism, human rights protection, and anti-authoritarian rule, all of which are not in the track record of the leaders of the now-defunct UniTeam,” he added.

Kabataan Rep. Raoul Manuel of the Makabayan bloc said Duterte’s so-called “oppositionist” stance was self-serving, as “she was opposed to the ICC investigation, opposed to seeking justice for their victims.”

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Manuel said Duterte’s resignation could give lawmakers, during deliberations on the 2025 budget, an opportunity to finally make her explain how her office had spent millions of pesos in confidential funds after she assumed office in 2022.

TAGS: DepEd, opposition, Sara Duterte

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