‘Among Us’ politics: Who is really the opposition?

June 19, 2021 - 11:18 AM
Who is the real opposition?
(Artwork by James Patrick Cruz)

“Among Us” is a game where a group of players must accomplish tasks while unaware that there is an impostor among them. The Philippine political arena is no different.

Last week, opposition coalition 1Sambayan released its nominees for the president and vice president in the 2022 Philippine elections.

However, among the nominees with diverse political colors and different backgrounds, who is really the opposition?

“The election is not just the incumbent and the opposition.” Edna Co, former dean of UP National College of Public Administration and Governance said in an interview with ANC early this week.

“The opposition, as a large group, has many shades [and] characteristics,” she added.

Among the coalition’s pool of nominees are Vice President Leni Robredo, human rights lawyer Chel Diokno, former senator Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes IV, Sen. Grace Poe, Rep. Vilma Santos-Recto (Batangas), and Rep. Eddie Villanueva (CIBAC Party-list).

Fierce critics

In the list, Robredo, Diokno, and Trillanes are vocal when it comes to dissenting some of the policies of the Duterte administration.

Leni Robredo

Undated photo of Vice President Leni Robredo. (Office of the Vice President/Facebook)

Robredo has been against many policies of the administration—from the bloody drug war to Duterte’s “pro-China” stance, the Anti-Terror Law, and now the government’s COVID-19 response.

Since she took office in 2016, tirades between Robredo and the president have been part of the Philippines ’ news cycle.

Asked about her plans for 2022, the vice president said that she has no final decision yet, but she mentioned being open run for the presidency.

Chel Diokno

This 2019 photo shows human rights lawyer and former senatorial candidate Chel Diokno. (The STAR/Edd Gumban, File)

Unlike Robredo, Diokno is certain that he will run in 2022 but he didn’t mention which position he is running for.

Diokno, a neophyte in politics, is a known critic of the administration. He called out the state for targeting critics instead of focusing on the country’s COVID-19 efforts.

The human rights lawyer also took on one of the cases of individuals, who were summoned by the National Bureau of Investigation, after releasing a social media post over the alleged misuse of government funds. Because of this, the president lambasted Diokno during one of his late-night nation addresses.

Diokno also condemned the illegal activities of China in the West Philippine Sea and how Duterte handles the territorial row.

 Antonio Trillanes IV

This file photo shows former Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV. (The STAR/ Geremy Pintolo, File)

The same issue is what Trillanes, a former navy officer and another fierce Duterte critic, feels strongly about.

Aside from this, he also accused Duterte and his family of having ill-gotten wealth.

Trillanes also stood against the bloody drug war of the administration.

In 2017, he filed a complaint before the International Criminal Court for the thousands of people who died because of the anti-drug campaign.

Diokno and Robredo’s plan seems to be unclear yet, but for Trillanes, he explicitly expressed his plan to run for president in early May this year.

Not so fierce ‘critics’

The other not-so-fierce “critics” of the administrations who were nominated by 1Sambayan as potential candidates are Poe, Santos-Recto, and Villanueva.

Grace Poe

This file photo shows Sen. Grace Poe. (Sen. Grace Poe staff/Released)

Unlike Diokno, Robredo, and Trillanes, Poe has not been vocal in expressing her stance on the policies of the government. It is also noticeable that she has been silent on Duterte’s controversial anti-drug campaign.

Although, in 2018, Poe denounced the statement of presidential spokesperson Harry Roque who then said that the Philippines would someday thank China for its artificial islands in the West Philippine Sea.

In the 2016 presidential elections, Poe also ran against the then-candidate Duterte.

Based on her recent statement, however, Poe doesn’t have a plan to run for higher office.

Vilma Santos-Recto

This file photo shows Rep. Vilma Santos-Recto (Batangas). (Vilma Santos-Recto/Facebook)

Another candidate on the coalition’s list is Santos-Recto, who has recognized the extrajudicial killings in the country. She denounced the decision of the House to cut the budget of the Commission on Human Rights in 2017.

The actress turned politician also stood against the rejection of the franchise of ABS-CBN in 2020.

In 2017, she voted against the death penalty, which is one of the policies being pursued by the administration.

Despite her previous dissenting votes in controversial proposed laws, she faced criticisms after she voted for the anti-terror law “with reservations.” The anti-terror law is one the most challenged laws in the Supreme Court’s recent history.

In 2019, Santos-Recto ran under Nacionalista Party. 

This paved the way for Santos-Recto’s deputy speakership as her political party had come together with other political parties to join Duterte’s PDP-Laban and become the dominant political force in the Congress.

Like Poe, Santos-Recto expressed her disinterest to run for the presidency.

Eddie Villanueva

This file photo shows Rep. Eddie Villanueva (CIBAC Party-list). (PSN/File)

Last on the list is Villanueva, who like Santos-Recto, was also elected as deputy speaker. Villanueva condemned the extrajudicial killings and blamed these on “scalawag police.”

The lawmaker said Duterte was not to blame.

The religious leader is not adamant against the administration nor supportive.

Villanueva is not a newbie in running for higher office as he also tried his luck during the 2004 and 2010 presidential elections.

His son, Sen. Joel Villanueva, however, said his father is not interested in running for the presidency next year.

Who represents the opposition?

Given the varying stance of nominated personalities, it makes it difficult to identify who the opposition really is.

This is no different with the social deduction game “Among Us” where players seek and vote out the impostor.

Although, Co recognized the existence of pragmatic politics in the country.

She said that “opposition has several dynamics, several shades, and several views. This is where it is very difficult to get unity immediately to be identified as a neat and clean opposition.”

“It is not clean even in the onset,” Co stressed saying that opposition is plural and fluid.

“They can say yes today and say no tomorrow. That’s how fluid it is so we cannot get stuck with the term opposition,” she said.

“There are groups and individuals who cannot make a decision like what we are seeing among some of the potential candidates,” the professor added.

Co noted that building a coalition is a “tricky approach.”

To build a united opposition, she noted that different personalities in the opposition must identify what is binding them together.

“At the end of the day, we have to enlighten people on the issue and make them decide on which are the names and the candidates before us can be associated with the kinds of issues we want to deal with ahead,” Co stressed.

Both in the game and politics, the key element in winning is a productive discussion, which can be applied in choosing the right candidate.

Co noted that convincing the voters about the power they have to select future leaders is what democracy is all about.

Views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author, James Partick Cruz.  He is a 21-year-old journalism student at the University of Santo Tomas. He advocates for freedom of speech and citizen empowerment.