THE Liberal Party, which enjoyed a premier status as the ruling party during the six years of the Aquino administration, appeared to be going the way of all defeated ruling parties after the new Duterte administration took over last June 30.
Most of its members promptly joined the “super-majority” led by the PDP-Laban, under which President Duterte campaigned. At one time, after the President accused the “yellows” of wanting to oust him from power, the new acting LP President, Sen. Francisco Pangilinan, said most of the party’s leaders had already left for other parties. The remaining LP leaders, he remarked, are so few “they can fit inside a Volkswagen.”
Last week, Vice President Leni Robredo announced a party move that seems to indicate the LP may not be totally out of involvement with current national developments after all. Party leaders, she said, are meeting this January, including former President Benigno S. Aquino III and the LP presidential candidate in 2016 Mar Roxas. There have been some gatherings of some LP members in the House of Representatives, she said, but this coming meeting will include local government officials and other party leaders.
The party, she said, will discuss a number of issues such as the proposed revival of the death penalty, lowering of the legal age for criminal responsibility, and proposed amendments to the tax law. A key issue is federalism which the Duterte administration is pushing through a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass).
Former Senate President Franklin Drilon, now chairman of the LP, has stressed the need to resolve four issues in connection with Charter change. First, whether it is truly necessary; second, which parts should be amended; third, whether amendment is to be by Con-Ass or by Constitutional Convention (Con-Con); and fourth, if by Con-Ass, whether the Senate and the House will vote jointly or separately.
On all the issues to be taken up in the January meeting, Vice President Robredo said, a “policy body” will be organized. This will spell out the party’s stand and guide the members when they engage with the administration and other parties in Congress, in the Charter amendment discussions, and in other public forums.
The LP move is to be welcomed as a strengthening of the party system which, it was thought, had already become moribund, as has been the case after all previous regime changes in the country since 1986. Other parties of consequence, notably the Nationalist People’s Coalition and the Nacionalista Party, would do well to take similar organizational actions as the LP January meeting and make their presence felt in the ongoing developments in the government and the nation.