Yellow Pad

The filing of sedition charges against Vice-President Leni Robredo and 35 other individuals who are identified with the so-called “yellow opposition” is alarming.

One can dismiss it as political harassment. The accuser, after all, lacks credibility. The Philippine National Police itself says that the accuser named Peter Joemel Advincula, aka Bikoy, is a fraudster and a criminal. His affidavit, even upon cursory reading, is foolish and laughable.

What motivates this act of harassment? Is it another tactical ploy used by the Rodrigo Duterte administration to distract the public from sensitive issues like the weak-kneed foreign policy and the political infighting that mars the last half of the administration’s term? Is it the initiative of the Marcos camp to unseat the Vice-President in light of the inevitable quashing of Bongbong Marcos’s poll protest?

Or is it the brutality and hubris of those in power who want to crush criticism and dissent? The use of threat, coercion, and violence to sow fear among the people and to subdue all types of opposition is evident. Pursuing mercilessly the war on drugs, slaying and detaining radical Left activists, condoning — if not encouraging — extra-judicial killing and other human rights violations, and arbitrarily using legal instruments to subdue the political opposition are all part of Duterte’s authoritarian playbook.

The President, through his spokesman, disavows involvement in this latest move to suppress the opposition. But the political reality is that the Philippine National Police (PNP) Criminal Investigation and Detection Group would not dare file sedition charges involving no less than the Vice-President and other prominent personalities without a go-ahead signal from above.

In this political case and other similar conditions, the PNP and, for that matter, the Armed Forces take their cue from Malacañang. A recent statement from Duterte regarding his preference for appointing men with military background is quite revealing (“Duterte to announce changes in Cabinet,” Manila Bulletin, July 19, 2019): “I assume maybe again a military man kasi madali mag-utos, magtrabaho (they are easy to order, to work). And they do it without a question. Kaya sabi ko sa kanya (So I tell them), when I tell you do this and do that, do not question me because I will never give you an order to do something that is illegal.” Whether the President never gives an illegal order is debatable, but the point here is that he likes military people who without question will follow orders.

Despite the prevailing authoritarianism, our people still value democracy. Duterte is indeed lucky that the people are very satisfied with his administration’s performance, thus giving him a lot of political capital to do things.
Vice-President Leni Robredo during the celebration of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines’ 45th anniversary — OVP

The latest objective data on growth, income, inflation, and poverty also show that his administration is delivering the services that the people want most in providing jobs and higher wages, stabilizing prices, and reducing poverty.

Yet, as acknowledged by the administration’s economic managers, much still has to be done to put in place the necessary reforms. In fact, economic performance resulting in better lives for the people could have been better if not for controversies, including the political polarization, which are disturbing to investors.

But the political polarization is unnecessary to advance the Duterte administration’s economic and political agenda. Duterte, after all has gained overwhelming political dominance. In the same vein, having a social consensus and welcoming multi-partisan participation will accelerate the fulfillment of the desired development goals that the administration is committed to.

Cooperation, even among enemies, is preferred to never-ending combat and retaliation that would ultimately harm everyone. The ploy of filing sedition charges against the political opposition runs counter to this approach.

And there is an interest to protect even for those in the administration. Political polarization impairs their reform agenda. Political polarization undermines unity and prevents an inclusive approach that would enable society to achieve prosperity.

The reformers within government should note this and take action to reverse polarization. Drop the ludicrous and baseless charges against Vice-President Robredo et al.


Filomeno S. Sta. Ana III coordinates the Action for Economic Reforms.