[OPINION] Vote for the opposition, you owe it to yourself
Your life in the next 3 years hinges on how wisely you vote on May 13.
Lots of sweeping, consequential policies are up in the air. These include the continuation of the war on drugs, President Duterte’s pro-China stance, and the push for federalism via charter change.
The last thing we need is a Senate that will pass these and other measures unquestioningly and uncritically. After all, it’s not the Senate’s job to please Duterte and grant all his wishes.
More than ever, we need to elect into the Senate a bold, united, and sizable opposition that could provide much-needed counterweight to the administration’s pernicious schemes.
In this article let’s examine some specific policies at stake and why you owe it to yourself to vote for the opposition on May 13.
War on drugs
First, we cannot have a Senate that will continue to turn a blind eye to Duterte’s senseless and inhumane war on drugs. Nearly 3 years have passed since it started, yet the country’s drug situation is worse than ever.
Even Duterte himself blurted out on April 2 that his drug war has miserably failed: “I cannot control those drugs, son of a bitch. Even if I ordered the deaths of these idiots, drugs remain, still intensifying.”
Now, the former chief implementor of the war on drugs, a senatorial aspirant, trumpets – on the basis of nothing more than perception – that his program has been “successful.”
Bato dela Rosa said, “If many believe that the number of drug addicts has gone down, then somehow we are successful.”
The Senate could, in fact, provide a powerful voice against the war on drugs.
Sure, the Senate blocked in the 2018 budget P900 million for “Oplan Double Barrel” and P500 million for the Department of the Interior and Local Government’s drug surveillance program called “Masa Masid.”
But has this effectively stopped the PNP from implementing the war on drugs?
A majority of senators have disquietingly kept mum about the whole affair, or otherwise contented themselves with paying lip service. In so doing, they have swept thousands of extrajudicial killings under the rug and allowed Duterte and the police to play their macabre sport of killing the innocent poor.
Lest the death toll rise further, we need to stop the war on drugs once and for all. That won’t remotely happen with a predominantly pro-Duterte Senate.
Absent a strong Senate opposition, you can also expect to see more Chinese pouring into the country and Chinese government officials intruding in our domestic affairs.
Foreign policy is another area where the Senate could effectively undo the President’s actions.
For instance, in the wake of the demonstrably onerous loan agreements entered into by the Department of Finance, it is entirely within the Senate’s power to scrutinize such agreements by, say, calling out erring officials and even reversing said agreements if need be.
But just like the war on drugs, most senators have been all too happy to let Duterte be.
The Senate’s acquiescence is most acute when it comes to China’s ever-increasing aggression in our territories (and their exploitation of our natural resources) in the West Philippine Sea.
Experts now agree that the Senate has been largely remiss in its “patriotic duty” to protect our sovereignty. A predominantly pro-Duterte Senate could only make this worse.
If you remember, during the 36th founding anniversary of PDP-Laban (Duterte’s political party), some senators even invited ranking officials of the Communist Party of China as guests of honor.
Imee Marcos also recently said we shouldn’t have challenged China in the first place: “We started it. We picked a fight and then it turns out we’re no match against them. What kind of thing is that? We’re really looking for trouble.”
Thankfully, the opposition slate Otso Diretso – as well as some senatorial aspirants like Neri Colmenares – have impassioned and compelling arguments against Duterte’s excessive kowtowing to China, as seen in the last CNN Philippines senatorial debate.
Federalism via charter change
Last, and perhaps most unsettling, failing to elect enough opposition members in the Senate could pave the way for Duterte’s grand federalist project.
The House of Representatives already passed on 3rd and final reading a draft constitution that transforms our unitary government into a federal one.
But the draft, shepherded by outgoing speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, brazenly removed congressional term limits and the ban on political dynasties – a move experts claim could lead to the deeper entrenchment of dynasties.
Economic managers also concede federalism via charter change could “wreak havoc” on the economy by blowing up the budget deficit and raising interest rates through the roof. It could also compound the costs of doing business across the country.
Most worrying, the draft constitution includes so-called “transitory provisions,” which some legal experts fear, could be used by the Duterte administration to overstay its welcome and declare a revolutionary government.
The record speed with which the House passed this abominable draft constitution is deeply disturbing. We just got lucky: the Arroyo draft came in too late.
But without sufficient opposition in the Senate, this federalist project – along with all its diabolical features – is as good as done.
Reelectionist Koko Pimentel said that after the elections, the Senate “will have a sense of urgency knowing we are already on the second half of [Duterte’s] term.”
Vote for the opposition
The May 13 polls offer us a chance to prevent the Senate from completely morphing into Duterte’s rubber stamp – if it hasn’t already.
Yet survey data suggest Filipinos are overwhelmingly poised to vote for pro-administration bets. Only Bam Aquino of Otso Diretso entered the “magic 12” in the latest Pulse Asia survey.
The last time the opposition secured only one Senate seat was more than half a century ago, in 1967.
An opposition wipeout of this sort could thoroughly subvert our democratic institutions and degrade the lives of millions of Filipinos, difficult as these already are.
If you value life – and want to put an end to the senseless slaughter brought about by Duterte’s war on drugs – vote for the opposition.
If you respect our country’s sovereignty – and want to avoid paying more onerous Chinese loans and to resist China’s exploitation of our resources in the West Philippine Sea – vote for the opposition.
If you want to stop the federalist project of the administration – and prevent a needlessly chaotic disruption of our system of government – vote for the opposition.
Do not let the disappointing pre-election polls freeze you into inaction. Instead, head out confidently to your polling precinct on May 13 and vote for the opposition bets most in accord with your personal views and opinions.
You owe it to yourself. – Rappler.com