[EDITORIAL] #AnimatED: Kris vs Mocha: Lessons for the catatonic opposition

In the middle of Kris Aquino’s righteous indignation at the memory of her father Ninoy being disrespected by Duterte die-hard defender Mocha Uson, we were struck by one thought: finally, someone stood up to Mocha. Someone with gravitas and resonance – and it’s not even the opposition itself.

It was refreshing because it was heartfelt, it came from a non-politician and ​more importantly, ​it filled the vacuum,​ at least for now.

That Kris – once the Aquino clan's loose cannon – could outgun, outtalk and outmessage the "Yellows" indicates something wrong with the opposition.

For that matter, one might ​ask​, WHAT opposition? After the mass defections​, the stripped committees, and Mar Roxas’ blissfully apathetic Instagram posts, there hardly feels like an opposition, much less a resistance. Maybe more of a whimper, yes. 


VP Leni: Not on fleek

While it can be said that Mocha Uson’s eyebrows and Kris’ retorts are “on fleek”, that cannot be said of Vice President Leni Robredo’s messaging.

Leni used to be the most viable poster girl of the opposition, for it was, after all, her departed husband who defined the ideal public servant. “Hindi rin sapat na tayo ay mahusay lamang. Hindi lahat ng matino ay mahusay, at lalo namang hindi lahat ng mahusay ay matino. Ang dapat ay matino at mahusay upang karapat-dapat tayong pagkatiwalaan ng pera ng bayan,” Jesse Robredo once said. (It is not enough to be competent. Not all who are good are competent, and more so, not all who are competent are good. What is needed are good and competent people so they can be entrusted with public funds.)

In the wake of Senator Leila de Lima’s incarceration, PNoy’s one-year-no-comment vow, and Roxas’ kitchen escapades, Robredo was the one who captured the public's imagination, the David who fought the Marcos Goliath and won. She was the one who channeled Cory Aquino, the widow, but with more wit and eloquence, with her memorable “the last man standing is a woman” line and her imagery of “laylayan”, referring to the people at the fringes of society. (Watch: Becoming Leni Robredo)

​But now, the myth has all but dissipated. ​T​he most telling indicator of Robredo's muddled public persona was how her ratings ebbed and flowed with President Rodrigo Duterte's. It only meant one thing: she was being perceived as part of government. When the President’s ratings fell, they never translated to support for her. 

Right now, the VP is tied up with her electoral battle, and that’s how the media is covering her: the beleaguered vice president ​in real danger of being stripped of her hard-fought victory. Vanguard of the opposit​i​on, she is not.

Before the Supreme Court decided to oust ex-chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Robredo came out with these brave words: “I will do everything in my power to right this wrong.” The move to support Sereno was belated, if not futile. ​​It didn't ruffle any feathers nor create any ripples.

A year before the mid-term elections, who is the aggressive voice of the opposition?

By all accounts, it should ​still ​be Robredo. ​It can't be the anemic opposition senators and congressmen whose biggest battle is to stay in the supermajority. ​It can't be the uncharismatic De Lima, who has been reduced to handwritten letters from jail. Neither is it Antonio Trillanes, whose performance ratings have sunk to all-time lows. It's not yet Risa Hontiveros whose left-of-center politics had never caught the public's fancy. 

Time for ​Robredo to overcome her sensitivity to surveys. Time for her to take a second look at her advisers, who are sorely lacking in the wisdom and imagination required during these tumultuous times. ​Time for her to show she is a woman of substance and courage.​ 

What now, LP?

In the face of opportunistic allies who abandoned the sinking Liberal Party ship, has it developed an alternative mass base? 

Where are those who powered the true spirit of People Power? These former students and yuppies in the 1980s are the entrepreneurs and executives of today​. They have the connections and pockets to kickstart a campaign anchored on the middle- and upper-classes, the intelligentsia. 

Instead, they remain in the silent majority, traumatized on social media and disillusioned with the Yellow leadership. But the Kris-Mocha face-off reveals their presence,​ lurking in the shadows,​ judging by the eyeballs on the word war that ironically featured two daughters orphaned by assassins. They ​were just ​waiting to cheer the one who plucks the right chords.

We are reeling from skyrocketing inflation. We are forever scandalized by the callousness and vulgarity of the ​Commander-in-​Chief. We are endlessly outraged by the revolving door of incompetent, and often corrupt, appointees. Our hearts are heavy for the victims of extrajudicial killings.

The opposition does not lack issues to capitalize on. If at all, it is quite telling that despite the controversies surrounding this administration, the LP has not gained any traction. 

LP can surely take a page from Kris – speak plainly, and speak from the heart. Sharpen ​the messaging, muster the resources, meager though these may be, and focus on the audience with whom ​it has the most affinity: the liberals, the activists, the decent, the principled, God-fearing, humanitarian everyday man and woman. 

And of course the millennials. Don’t talk over their heads or tell them what’s good for them. Engage them. Listen to them.

The public deserves a strong opposition, not spineless have-beens, who duck when the going gets tough and who cherry pick issues. It’s part of their public pledge to serve. It’s part of their rendezvous with history, in or out of public office, in fair or foul weather.

A crucial crossroads is coming up soon: the 2019 midterm elections. It will be the barometer of many things – including the incumbent's appetite for bending the rules and the extent it will go to win. ​It will also be the barometer of the opposition's heart to fight, even if it is a lopsided contest. ​It must come out swinging and not hand over victory on a silver platter to the lapdogs.

A robust democracy with strong institutions needs a strong and firm opposition. Sure, an opposition upset can do wonders for the morale of a handicapped party, but more important is putting up a fight to dethrone the unworthy in an electoral battle that offers serious and real alternatives.

LP leaders have always rationalized their propensity to shy away from open brawls. "We pick our battles." "We live to fight another day."

Every day they don't fight someone dies, ideals are trampled upon, institutions are further weakened. Every battle they ignore brings them closer to oblivion.  – Rappler.com