Convening an opposition political convention to try to agree on a common set of presidential and vice-presidential candidates, and even a common senatorial slate, is a capital idea. There’s no one else that the public will recognize to convene such an event except for the most well-regarded opposition leader. And no one but President Joseph Estrada has stood out as the undisputed opposition symbol and impresario throughout the past eight years of the corrupt, malevolent, and oppressive rule of force of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her foreign patrons. From his strict adherence to the rule of law to his patriotic economics, Estrada is the antithesis to the Arroyo regime.
In our latest Talk News TV episode with the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) Secretary-General Mr. Milo Tanchuling, one crucial difference between the Arroyo and Estrada regimes was highlighted by a graph in the FDC’s 36-page report entitled, “FDC on the 2009 National Government Budget.” As it correlated “debt per capita” and expenditure on “social service per capita,” it found that only in the years between 1998 and 2000 (Estrada’s presidency) did social spending exceed debt payment. Compared to available data on the rest and especially on Gloria’s years from 2001 to 2007, where debt payment tripled against social service expenditure, it was shown that Gloria, aside from accumulating more debt than her three predecessor-administrations combined, even reduced social service spending drastically!
There are, of course, many opposition pretenders today for there is tremendous benefit in being identified with the opposition. Gloria Arroyo is Public Enemy No. 1 to 80 percent of Filipino voters, so to be against her is to be with that 80 percent. And yet no one else has sacrificed as much to stand against every transgression of law and morality that Gloria Arroyo and her allies have committed as President Estrada has by choosing to suffer detention for six years and six months, and the humiliation from eight years of lies and calumnies against his self and family. No one else but Estrada has herded the opposition slates through the 2001, 2004 (with FPJ), and 2007 elections by mustering disparate anti-Gloria elements, and has raised the necessary funds and provided winning strategies.
No one but Estrada has also helped inspire decent officers in the military to live up to their principles to take action before corruption overtook them, like the young Bagong Katipuneros a.k.a. Magdalos who staged “Oakwood,” as well as, the February 2006 dissenters whose leaders, Gen. Danilo Lim and Col. Ariel Querubin, were closest to him.
Major exposés against Arroyo’s corruption were likewise initiated by whistleblowers who took inspiration from Estrada’s resistance--from Atty. Samuel Ong in “Hello Garci” to Sandra Cam in the Arroyo Juetengate. Protest movements throughout the past eight years were largely coordinated under Estrada as well. Many political bigwigs, as a result, had to re-examine their consciences and take back their support for Edsa II and what it spawned--all because of Estrada’s sway.
A lot of our young and budding politicians today were nurtured under Estrada’s guidance too. While some have shown their debt of gratitude by staying true to their ideals, others have either turned their backs on him completely or have chosen to work with Mrs. Arroyo, albeit clandestinely, perhaps thinking that the public won’t see through it. Some of the latter would even deign talk about Gloria, claiming she’s no longer a candidate, as if her errors and transgressions are irrelevant to the future conduct of this country, and as if there aren’t any issues of justice and rectification involved.
Beyond all these, though, the most important quality that separates Estrada from these self-proclaimed opposition leaders is policy advocacy. One pretender, for instance, claims to champion the poor and shows himself on TV ads shaking hands with a farmer and wiping his dirtied hand on his clean shirt, just as another poses in his jeans and flashes his matinee idol smile, while another champions environmental issues. But what’s the real issue? Is it not the poverty (and hunger) spawned by neo-colonial policies of perpetual debt, of granting sovereign guarantees to private Big Business backed by foreign partners, of dependence on foreign “investors” who are nothing more than swindlers, of servitude to the oligarchy, ad nausea? Just look at the pretenders today. They are either openly courting US sponsorship or are being open and willing tools of Big Business and corporate scam artists--all of whom Estrada fought head on, which is why a conspiracy was hatched against him.
Don’t get me wrong: Opposition unity remains to be ideal. The public should demand it even if only to ensure polarization between what Gloria represents and the change that we want. But in all, it’s not about Left vs. Right ideology, but about genuine integrity vs. corruption, sovereignty vs. subservience, debt control vs. profligacy, democracy vs. cabalism, and the rule of law vs. the rule of force.
Let the candidates face the public’s questions and let the people have their say. If any candidate is found worthy, then President Estrada will be compelled to support him or her. Otherwise, Estrada should continue on with his candidacy. Candidates who are unwilling to participate in such exercise should rightly be exposed as Arroyo Trojan Horses, with giant stamp pads stating so marking all their campaign materials when the time comes.