Philippine opposition leader and Vice President Leni Robredo called on her allies in the Liberal Party (LP) to “persist” despite the hostilities they have endured during the Rodrigo Duterte presidency.
This was the message of Robredo, the former dominant party’s chairperson, as LP kicked off on Tuesday, January 19, its celebrations for its 75th anniversary through a series of Facebook posts and videos.
“Tuloy lang, ibig sabihin: Persist. Tuloy lang sa paninindigan, tuloy lang sa pagpapalawak ng saklaw ng malasakit, huwag panghihinaan ng loob,” the Vice President said in her pre-recorded message.
(Continue what you are doing, which means to persist. Continue making a stand, continue expanding the coverage of your compassion, and don't lose heart.)
“The attacks might continue, the threats might become even more formidable, but we must find strength in the fact that our every effort takes us a step closer to our vision: a society where there is freedom and justice, where everyone works together to champion the welfare of all,” added Robredo in Filipino.
The phrase "tuloy lang" – LP's theme for its 75th year anniversary – can be translated into English as a call to persist, as well as, an invitation for others to join their cause.
LP members used to gather together to mark their anniversaries in the past, but the coronavirus pandemic has forced the party leadership to move this year’s celebration online.
The LP is the party of Duterte’s predecessor, former president Benigno Aquino III. For 6 years, LP dominated Philippine politics, with members holding key appointed and elected positions across provinces.
But as is the case every election, party members jumped ship to Duterte’s PDP-Laban after the 2016 elections.
Since then, “dilawan” – referring to the yellow color of LP – has become a derogatory term used by Duterte's supporters to describe critics of the President and his policies.
Duterte himself has repeatedly belittled Robredo’s capability to lead, especially in times the Vice President had criticized him or when she has outperformed him in public service.
In the last midterm elections in 2019, only 18 LP lawmakers were elected in the House while all the senatorial bets of the LP-led Otso Diretso lost.
Still, there are 3 incumbent LP senators: Senators Franklin Drilon, Leila de Lima, and Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, the party president.
De Lima, one of Duterte's fiercest critics, is still in jail over what she has described as trumped-up drug charges against her.
With Pangilinan at the helm, LP has rebranded itself as a “party of the people” and has intensified its push to recruit more non-politicians among their ranks.
Last year, LP launched its listening campaign called Project Makinig. It was an effort to reach out to a wider spectrum of Filipino voters whom several party stalwarts admit they were not able to connect with during the 2016 presidential polls.
From just 33 chapters in 2019, LP now has 106 chapters and organizing committees nationwide.
In his own video message, Pangilinan asked the LP chapters to continue recruiting more members of the party. He said LP is targeting to get 75,000 new members and volunteers for the 2022 presidential elections.
The party, however, has yet to announce its standard-bearer for the polls next year.
“Kahit na may pandemya, nagawa pa rin ng ating mga staff at volunteers na magpatuloy sa ating mga activities na ginawa pangunahin online. Bawat isang chapter ay naging masipag at nagsakripisyo upang mabuo ang kani-kanilang mga chapter, ang kanilang hanay sa ngalan ng ating mga paniniwala. Tuloy lang,” he said.
(Despite the pandemic, our staff and volunteers were able to continue their activities that were primarily done online. Each chapter worked hard and sacrificed a lot to form their groups, all in the name of our beliefs. Keep on persisting.)
Robredo also thanked LP members for their various efforts to assist Filipinos during the pandemic and when calamities hit the country last year.
She then called on her party mates to continue engaging with others who are not part of LP.
“Yung 'tuloy lang' na anyaya natin sa mga kapwa natin Pilipino, imbitasyon para makipag-usap, makipagkuwentuhan, para hanapin 'yung mga commonality ng mga pangarap at pinahahalagahan natin bilang iisang bansa,” Robredo said.
(The invitation for us to welcome our fellow Filipinos is also an invitation to talk and listen, to find the commonalities in our dreams as one country.)
“Sabi ko nga sa basic orientation ninyo: Madaling makipagdebate; mas radikal ang magmahal,” the Vice President said.
(Like what I said in your basic orientation: It's easy to debate; it's even more radical to love.)
Other activities LP has lined up for its 75th anniversary this year include the creation of the Liberal Youth Academy, the conduct of good governance design thinking workshops, crafting a show for its Liberal Youth arm, and posting online explainer videos on liberalism. – Rappler.com
Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @maracepeda.