Malilong: The Liberal Party failed

IT SHOULD not surprise anyone that not a single politician of any consequence showed up at the Otso Diretso rally at the Plaza Independencia last Sunday. That’s human nature. When you’re up, you have friends; when you’re down you’re alone.

I remember what former Cebu Ports Authority Commissioner Marino Fernan told me shortly after Noynoy Aquino won the presidency in 2010. Although Mar Roxas lost to Jejomar Binay in the vice presidential race, people still gravitated towards him because they perceived him to be influential in the new administration. Every time Roxas came to Cebu, a crowd would meet him at the airport, offering umbrellas and jostling to carry his bags. The crowd has long gone and I would not be surprised if these days only Fernan and shipowner Alex Tan show up at the airport with each Roxas visit.

Politics and loyalty are mutually exclusive. Vice President Leni Robredo said as much albeit more diplomatically. Asked to comment on the disappearance of erstwhile allies, Robredo said that it is “a political reality that we must accept.” She added that it should not be a “ source of grudge because there are several factors why the political climate is like this.”

One of these factors should be the failure of the Liberal Party to convert itself from being no more than a cabal of politicians with intersecting interests into a real political party that is ideology-based. This was what I told the LP president, Sen. Kiko Pangilinan, when we met at a private dinner hosted by a mutual friend two years ago.

The LP had an opportunity to rid itself of personality politics, I told Sen. Kiko, but you wasted it by accepting into your fold traditional politicians who change affiliations as often and as quickly as they change underwear. And where are they now? They are the new denizens of the Duterte political kingdom.

If it’s any consolation to the LP, they will desert Duterte just as quickly when he’s no longer in power. That’s the nature of the beast.

The Otso Diretso rally was the first I have attended since 2016. It was also the first time that all eight candidates campaigned together, according to Robredo. Even Roxas, who has been doing sorties on his own, was there.

I went mainly to see my favorite senatorial candidate, Dean Chel Diokno, but many of his teamates turned out to be pleasant surprises. Former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay defined the basis for making the choices effectively for Otso Diretso. Vote for us if you don’t approve of women and the church being ridiculed, he said. Otherwise, vote for them.

I’ve had lunch with reelectionist Sen. Bam Aquino earlier this year and left wondering how one so young could have such a solid grasp of issues like the “third telco” in the country. Why limit the number of players in the telecommunications industry to only three, he asked. And shouldn’t Congress be the one to make that decision since it involves the grant of a franchise?

Last Sunday, I learned that Bam was class valedictorian in the elementary and in high school, both at the Ateneo de Manila University, and was summa cum laude in college. It figures. He isn’t just Ninoy Aquino’s lookalike. He’s deep in his own right.

Samira Gutoc is feisty. A lady doctor said Gutoc, the lone Muslim member of the opposition slate, reminded her so much of the late Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago. Gary Alejano, who towered above his teammates – he must be at least six feet tall – was just as spirited, not surprising for a decorated former soldier.

All the candidates, including Erin Tañada and Romulo Macalintal, briefly and direct to the point. Happily, no one sang or performed any comical skit. They didn’t have to. They had no inadequacy to hide.

Malilong: The Liberal Party failed