Erin Tañada asks Liberal Party members: ‘Tayo ba ang nagkamali?’

Lian Buan
Erin Tañada asks Liberal Party members: ‘Tayo ba ang nagkamali?’

Gerard Carreon

'You could see the people hanging around the President right now are the people we fought against, and we start to question: Ano ba pinaglaban natin? Bakit nagkaganito?'

MANILA, Philippines – Opposition senatorial bet Erin Tañada said that, with the mid-term elections just months away, it is important for Liberal Party (LP) members and their allies to reflect on how much things have changed – and what they might have done differently – since the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution.

Tañada, an LP member since 1992, offered the suggestion at the opposition coalition’s gathering on Tuesday night, November 6.

“You could see the people hanging around the President right now are the people we fought against, and we start to question: Ano ba ‘pinaglaban natin? Bakit nagkaganito? Saan tayo nagkamali?” he asked. (What did we fight for? Why did it end up like this? Where did we go wrong)

Tañada was apparently referring to the Marcoses and former president now Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who are allies of Duterte.

He said it is crucial for the opposition coalition to look at President Rodrigo Duterte’s 16 million votes in 2016 as a criticism of the LP’s time as the ruling party, and take the cue from there.

“Tayo ba ang nagkamali? Kasi kung titingnan nga natin, para ngang pinapahiwatig ng mga taong bumoto kay Duterte na wala tayong nagawa for the last so many years in trying to transform society,” Tañada said. (Did we make mistakes? Because if we look at it, it seems that what Duterte’s voters are telling us is that for the last so many years, we were not able to do anything in trying to transform society.) 

Tañada reiterated his main platforms, which are anti-poverty measures for farmers and peasants. He said Congress should pass a budget that would put up agricultural centers in provinces, and make sure that these are sustained. (READ: Erin on the Tañada brand: ‘There’s room for principled politics’)

“Lahat ng administrasyon kasi, mula noon pagkatapos ng EDSA, parating ang sinasabi nila, labanan ang kahirapan. Ang problema pagkatapos ng administrasyon, walang exit interview, nanalo ba tayo o hindi? Eh sa nakikita po natin, halos lahat ng administrasyon na sinasabi ‘yun, mukhang hindi tayo nanalo,” said Tañada.

(All administrations post-EDSA said they would fight poverty. But the problem was there were no exit interviews. Did we succeed or not? From what we’re seeing now, it looks like almost all of the administrations which promised that didn’t succeed.) 

Tañada said addressing poverty should go beyond just hitting target numbers monitored from offices in Manila.

“Ang tanong, binabalikan ba nila ang mga magsasaka at tanungin, ‘Nag-iba ba ang buhay ‘nyo? Umunlad ba ang buhay ‘nyo?’ Kung ginawa po natin ‘yan, malalaman po natin ang sagot na ‘Hindi.’  Bakit? Baon sa utang. In other words, they just hit the numbers but they’re in debt,” he said.

(Did they go back to the farmers to ask them if their lives changed, if they have better lives? If we did we would know that the answer is no. Why? They are deep in debt. In other words they [government] just hit the numbers but they’re [the farmers are] in debt.)

Fight for Freedom of Information

Of the 8 people on the opposition coalition slate, 6 are LP’s official picks, one of them Tañada. Not so long ago, in 2013, the LP under its chairman then, President Benigno Aquino III, decided to leave him out of its senatorial slate even if he was a loyal LP member.

One of the reasons seen then was Tañada’s poor prospects of winning and his unrelenting fight for a Freedom of Information (FOI) law, even at a time when his own administration was doing double talk. The FOI bill was not passed during the Aquino administration, and all we have under Duterte is an Executive Order.

Looking back to his time in the House of Representatives fighting for FOI, the former Quezon congressman said, “Nakakalungkot. Akala mo ito na ‘yung pagkakataon na maging matagumpay na ang adbokasiyang ito, pero pagtingin mo sa likod, nag-iisa lang ako.” (It’s sad because you thought this was the chance to be successful in this advocacy but when I looked behind me, I’m all alone.)

Tañada said he would continue to fight for FOI, even if it would ruffle feathers in his own turf.

“Para sa akin, kung ito ‘yung adbokasiya na talagang pinaniniwalaan ng isang tao, dapat hindi nagbibitiw, hindi katulad ng mga kaibigan sa Senado, minsan sasabihin FOI talaga sila pero after ng isang fail, wala na,” he said.

(For me, if this is the advocacy that one must believe it, you shouldn’t ever let go, unlike some friends in the Senate who would say they’re for FOI but after one fail, they’re gone.) 

Despite some differences with the LP – and potentially from within the opposition coalition – Tañada said he decided to run under the ticket “out of principle.” Tañada shared that in 2013, he was offered to run under the Binays’ United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) but he declined.

“Some friends were saying, if you want a chance to win, why not leave the LP and join another party? But out of principle and out of my advocacy for political party reform, I felt that it would be in the tradition of being a Tañada to stick to one party,” he said in #TheLeaderIWant interview with Rappler on Monday.

He added: “I believe political parties still have a future in our country. And I want that hopefully in our generation we do not look, not necessarily on personalities, but what the party stands for and that’s why I still stay with the LP because of what it stood for during Martial Law and after Martial Law.”

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email or tweet @lianbuan.