Liberal Party guns for ‘hearts and minds’ in year 2 of Duterte

Bea Cupin
Liberal Party guns for ‘hearts and minds’ in year 2 of Duterte
'I’m not saying we did not commit mistakes. We committed mistakes. That’s why it’s important, and one way to correct that is to get more people involved, including non-politicians'

MANILA, Philippines – As the ruling PDP-Laban begins consolidating its numbers, the party that it ousted as the dominant one in Philippine politics is working on getting “hearts and minds.”

“We’re bringing the party and bringing the issues closer to the people. One of the things we need help to recognize also, is that we can’t let the country only be run by politicians. The stakeholders also need to have a voice,” Liberal Party (LP) vice president for external affairs Erin Tañada told Rappler on the sidelines of its anniversary celebration in Quezon City on Friday, January 19.

Inside a food park along Malingap Street, big wigs of the party, including its chairman emeritus former president Benigno Aquino III, gave speeches, exchanged stories, and offered a toast to a party that’s been the focus of attacks, partly because it’s allegedly out to bring the current administration down. (READ: The fall of the ‘dilawang’ Liberal Party)

CHAIRMAN EMERITUS. Former president Benigno Aquino III is joined by members of the party during its celeberation. Photo from Noynoy Aquino's Facebook page

Tañada, reiterating an earlier point, said that’s simply not the case. (READ: The LP question: How to be ‘non-traditional’ opposition)

“If it so happens that the issues we carry go against the issues that the President is carrying, then we cannot help it. We are not saying no the principles of the party. If it so happens that those principles are aligned with the principles that Duterte carries, of course we will support that,” explained Tañada.

He also noted that thus far, most of the Duterte administration’s policies go against the LP’s values. Duterte has pushed for the return of death penalty as capital punishment for certain crimes, the lowering of the age of criminal responsibility, and has been implementing a popular but bloody war on drugs.

LP IN CEBU. Sen Francis Pangilinan leads celebrations in Cebu City. Photo from Liberal Party Facebook page

In attendance during the celebration were Aquino, party chairman Vice President Leni Robredo, former party chairman and former budget secretary Butch Abad, and several sitting legislators who are still with the party.

Other key officials, including vice president for internal affairs Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat, Jr. and party president Senator Francis Pangilinan, were in Naga City and Cebu City, respectively to lead the oath-taking of new members there.

The party on January 19 launched an online recruitment platform, as it pushes through with its plans to recruit more “non-politicians” into the fold. New members will undergo “political education” from the part to make sure its members are briefed on current issues.

It’s been a difficult time for the Liberal Party under Duterte. After its standard-bearer Mar Roxas lost in the 2016 elections, it saw a rapid decrease in numbers as politicians immediately changed political affiliations.

NAGA GATHERING. The party also celebrates its anniversary in Naga City. Photo from Liberal Party Facebook page

In the Philippines, it’s standard practice for politicians to change their party, depending on which one is in power.

Tañada only shrugged at the mention of thousands formally joining the ranks of PDP-Laban. In Iloilo, for instance, PDP-Laban secretary general House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez led the oathtaking of thousands of new party members.

“I don’t know if PDP-Laban has learned from the lessons of other political parties. If they’re just accepting left and right, without really going through and asking themselves: ‘is this the correct thing to do?’ then… what happens in the next elections? Will these people move parties again?” he said.

“I’m not saying we did not commit mistakes. We committed mistakes. That’s why it’s important, and one way to correct that is to get more people involved, including non-politicians,” added Tañada.

Pangilinan made the same point in Cebu City, where he said that if it were up to him, the party would no longer welcome those who left to be part of the ruling party.

“We in the Liberal Party, we have been through hell and back. And we in the Liberal Party, to borrow and paraphrase the words from the poet Dylan Thomas: ‘We will not go quietly into this dark night,’” he said.

The party is part of the minority bloc in the Senate, although it was once part of the majority. In the House, LP members belong to both the majority and independent blocs. – Rappler.com

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.