Commentary: Be a Gina in a nation full of Lenis

THE Opposition, as well as the Filipino intellectuals and naïve millennials sympathetic to them, often reviles Duterte supporters as a nihilistic cult. Hopefully, they won’t be stuck in that thought. May they have the foresight to put this passionate mass into great use.

They should begin by foregoing their criticisms of Duterte that are mere remnants and permutations of their propaganda against him during the 2016 elections. That’s why Duterte supporters surge like a wild wave against them whenever they do that. The incessant fault-finding feels like election season all over again. They are tired of that mudfest. They want to move forward.

Also, perish the thought of grabbing power from Duterte in any way, whether via a coup d’état, an nth version of the EDSA Revolution, or an ICC-enabled regime change. You will not succeed with a victory you can enjoy. You are only wasting Duterte, a rare concinnity of courage, compassion, savvy and iron will.

Be an Opposition with a compelling vision rather than a loudmouth spewing political platitudes. In other words: Be a Gina Lopez in a nation full of Leni Robredos. Though Lopez isn’t part of the Opposition, she’s worthy of emulation by those who want to translate their love of country into action. Her passion comes with a vision and a plan.

 Remember the story of how she got the job as environment secretary? Armed with a thoughtfully crafted presentation, Lopez flew to Davao City, queued up to meet Duterte in the wee hours, and when she finally met him, she persuaded him to stem the tide of ecological destruction wrought by irresponsible mining. Sure, she can be too zealous for her own good and to the detriment of her cause; but it’s also the same verve prompting us to pay serious attention to how we manage our nation’s ecological assets. The same stance which impelled Duterte to give her the power to realize her vision and to back her up even if it would mean losing billions from the mining industry.

Meanwhile, Robredo kept swamping our country with stale political slogans, like the “war on poverty.” Every war requires a strategy to achieve a purpose worthy of great resources mobilized in its service. And of equal importance is an able general that leads his soldiers to victory. Robredo has no riveting strategy, just a litany of emotional appeals punctuated by a smile. She’s definitely not an adept general that could lead her troops to win any war at all.

When she resigned as housing czarina in December 2016, Robredo demonstrated that she’s the kind of general who abandons the battlefield whenever her ego gets slighted by a setback. If the housing needs of Filipinos were a great concern to her, she should have mustered the diva in her, continued working, and proved to Filipinos that she was indispensable in doing the job. While Lopez persists even in the face of great resistance, Robredo gave up and became damsel in distress. She made herself disposable.

Robredo is what has become of the Opposition — unnecessary. And that’s dangerous.

No democracy thrives without an Opposition. Besides being the government’s check-and-balance, the Opposition provides the creative tension necessary to generate innovative policies. In that sense, the Opposition is an indispensable other that stimulates the administration to actualize its highest potential. But the Opposition to the Duterte Administration has become mostly an obstructive and destructive force. Instead of being a source of creative tension, they have become a national nuisance one can live without.

That shouldn’t be the case. The Opposition should cease being a Leni Robredo and start being a Gina Lopez. Time to have a gripping vision with a plan. Present it with ardor. The passionate mass of Duterte supporters might not accept what you say, but gaining acceptance isn’t the goal. The goal is to provide the creative tension this administration needs to keep itself on track in its quest to give every Filipino a more comfortable life.

(Published in The Manila Times on 20 April 2017)

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