2022 Philippine Elections

[OPINION] Last call for unity to restore freedom and democracy

Louella Lim Lofranco
[OPINION] Last call for unity to restore freedom and democracy
'Does Rizalito David’s call for a coalition of political parties make sense?'

It was an unprecedented move. Rizalito David, running mate of doctor and lawyer Jose Montemayor Jr. under the Democratic Party of the Philippines, devoted his precious minutes on stage proposing the unity of all presidential and vice-presidential candidates against the Marcos-Duterte ticket during the vice-presidential Comelec debate held at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila on March 20, 2022. 

He caught many by surprise, but David reasoned out that to coalesce around a single candidate was necessary to defeat a common enemy.

He spoke about the stark reality of vain efforts of candidates presenting their qualifications and platforms and debating against one another when “at the end of the day we all know that nobody among us will win.” Only a miracle could change the outcome, David said. 

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Who then will win? The political dynasties that are notorious for their alleged corruption and violence will regain power and authority. Calm and respectful, David did not mince his words when he referred to the Marcoses and Dutertes.

As expected, David’s call for the united stand received flak, fury, and fluster within his own party and from other candidates. The cost of giving up one’s personal bid for the highest position of the land is high – it demands extreme sacrifice. 

But does David’s call for a coalition of political parties make sense? Would it be wise to pursue the move towards unity? What would be the cost for the nation if the other candidates will not unite to avert a possible Marcos-Duterte victory? 

First, David’s analysis is grounded in political realities. Marcos-Duterte are leading in many surveys. Although surveys do not determine the final winners and many have qualms about their reliability, it is a fact that surveys influence how people vote. Filipino voters tend to choose candidates based on their winnability. If someone is leading in surveys then he or she is perceived as having the greater chance of winning. Sadly, many voters use survey results this way instead of looking into candidates’ qualifications, experience, and platform. Thus, David is being politically strategic, that is, to defeat a common enemy, the opposition must UNITE.

Second, David’s analysis is based on mathematical certainties. The strongest tandems are Bongbong-Sara on the administration side and Leni-Kiko leading the opposition side. If the political race were a pie, one-half of the pie will go to Marcos-Duterte, which is 50%, and the other half to opposition candidates, another 50%. This other half will be divided by nine other tickets; so statistically speaking, each political party will get 1/9 each, or about 5.6% each. Though Robredo-Pangilinan have more than their equal share and are moving up in the race as shown in the massive crowds they attract to their nationwide rallies, they still need the collective strength of the rest of the political parties, meaning every percentage point counts no matter how small. It’s a foregone conclusion that to reverse the outcome of this political race, the opposition has to UNITE. 

[OPINION] Last call for unity to restore freedom and democracy

Third, David’s analysis is rooted in historical experiences. The People Power EDSA Revolution was a phenomenal event and a product of unity. The long, dark, political nightmare of many Filipinos who struggled under the despotic regime of the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos and allies was quickly resolved through a strategic coalition of political parties in the presidential snap election of February 7, 1986. Political leaders abandoned their personal ambitions to support the candidacy of Mrs. Cory Aquino. When Marcos insisted that he had won despite the massive fraud in the Comelec counting, millions of citizens marched to the streets of EDSA in protest against the abusive and tyrannical rule of the Marcoses, who fled Malacañang in disgrace. With much prayer, Filipinos gained their freedom and democracy under the banner of UNITY.

The inverse is true. The lack of unity has severe repercussions There is a failed experience in the election of 2016. President Noynoy Aquino asked Senator Grace Poe of the Nationalist People’s Coalition to be the running mate of Mar Roxas, the appointed nominee of the Liberal Party, to form a united opposition against the candidacy of Rodrigo R. Duterte, but Poe did not accede. The result? The votes were divided, and Duterte won as a minority president. 

It is worthy to note that David also figured in events before the 2016 election when he filed a case before the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) to remove Poe from the Senate due to questions on her residency and citizenship. The SET dismissed the petition and David filed a motion for reconsideration. He appealed to the Supreme Court, which sustained the ruling. He also filed a petition for Comelec to cancel the presidential bid of Duterte for mocking election rules because of questionable substitution procedures and invalid season of filing. But his petition was junked.

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From hindsight, these two political and legal actions are “prophetic acts” that have cascading impact on the state of the nation even today. Had the SET and the Supreme Court ruled in his favor, Poe would not have been allowed to run for the presidency, and votes would not have split. Duterte would not be in power. Had the Comelec dropped his bid for the presidency, Duterte’s power would have been contained in Davao City only. Truly, political decisions have consequences.

Today, under Duterte’s watch, the Philippines is reeling from the impact of a bloody drug war that has killed thousands, a broken criminal justice system, a flailing economy, unbridled corruption and drug trafficking, intense political infighting, repressed press, and a weak foreign policy. In addition, President Duterte buried the late dictator at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani amidst cries of indignation on the streets. Moreover, the Marcoses would not have been able to return to power. It was Duterte who paved the way for the Marcoses to return to power.  

David’s call for unity is not a rash proposal but a reasonable one and should not be ignored. It is also a courageous call, a last-ditch attempt to save the nation from further oppression and a dismal future. Like a blasting siren from a sinking ship, it is an emergency call. Likewise, if those two political actions that had prophetic significance could be compared to two strikes in a bowling game, then it pays to heed this third political action that carries grave consequences. A third strike means “the game is over.”

Truly, great effort is needed from all political candidates and parties to explore this call for unity. David has opened a pathway for strategic talks to begin. It is a difficult task but not an impossible one. Could this be the miracle in the making or the divine intervention many are praying and hoping to happen? 

If this road is not taken, where lies the destiny of the nation? Somewhere down the road, we might ask the what ifs and whatnots. The stakes are higher not to even try to unite and collaborate for a common cause or stand that will lead to freedom and restore democracy. The catchphrase is clear; let all hear – “UNITED WE STAND, DIVIDED WE FALL.” – Rappler.com

Louella Lim Lofranco holds a doctorate degree in Communication and Public Discourse from the University of North Dakota (UND) in Grand Forks, North Dakota, US, in which she taught Communication and Journalism courses. In 2012, she came home to Bacolod City, Philippines. In 2014, she pioneered Kingdom Watch, a prayer and praise group that promotes repentance across the nation and prays for a just and righteous government. On the side, Louella composes and records original Gospel music and writes about religion, politics, and the media.