The LP’s low regard for UP and the country
Last August 9, the moribund and discredited Liberal Party held an “unannounced” meeting of its few remaining active politicians. Ifugao Representative Teodoro Baguilat Jr. called the gathering a “low key” meeting of the party’s top names. It was held at the University Hotel at the Diliman, Quezon City campus of the University of the Philippines.
Leni Robredo, the purported vice president of the Philippines, was installed as LP chairman. Present at the event was defeated LP presidential candidate Manuel “Mar” Roxas. Conspicuously absent was ex-President Benigno Aquino III, who was nonetheless named chairman emeritus of the party.
During the regime of President Aquino (2010-2016), the LP was the party in power. Because it was oozing with funds, its leaders pushed their weight around, and were intolerant of criticism. Soon enough, the party’s abuses were exposed, particularly the way LP politicians handled their so-called “pork barrel” allocations.
In the May 2016 presidential and vice presidential elections, Roxas was soundly defeated by Rodrigo Duterte, while Robredo was proclaimed the vice president. Her claim to the office is currently contested before the Supreme Court sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal.
As expected, Roxas’ electoral loss triggered a mass exodus of the opportunistic politicians in the LP to the new party in power, the PDP-Laban of President Duterte. That exodus reduced the LP to near oblivion. Fortunately for the LP, it still has enough traditional politicians to give it enough noisemakers to disturb the nation’s affairs.
In his statement to the media, Baguilat expressed a longing for the glory days of the LP when the party used to have its meetings (which were paid for by taxpayers’ money), at five-star hotels in the country. He lamented that, “It’s quite telling that from a big hotel, we’re now having a meeting at the University Hotel.” From Baguilat’s perspective, therefore, a political party with a huge expense account should hold its events at plush hotels, while a political party with limited funds should settle for cheaper and smaller facilities like the University Hotel in UP Diliman.
Who is Baguilat anyway to insinuate that the UP is a second-rate venue for events? His press statement is an insult to UP and is uncalled for, especially from somebody who is listed in the online media as an alumnus of UP in Diliman.
If there is anyone who probably fits the description of second-rate, Baguilat is it. News archives indicate that this legislator from northern Luzon has not produced anything significant or groundbreaking during his incumbency in the House. The only thing that seems to distinguish him from his colleagues in Congress is his penchant for wearing native attire whenever he addresses his voters, especially when the television cameras are around.
For Baguilat’s information, the UP may not have the amenities of a world-class resort or tourist destination, but to its grateful alumni who put more importance to substance over form, the university and its facilities are always first class.
Evidently, the less the LP participates in the decision-making processes of the government, the better it is for the public interest.
History reveals that when the LP seized political power in the Philippines for the first time in 1946, the party, then headed by President Manuel Roxas (grandfather of Mar Roxas), quickly mortgaged the political and economic future of the Philippines by allowing parity rights in favor of Americans. Under that onerous arrangement, Americans in the Philippines enjoyed the same economic rights and privileges Filipinos had. Thus, even if the Philippines had become officially independent of the United States, the Philippine economy was still dominated by American interests. That sad chapter in Philippine history was made possible by the LP.
The exodus of LP politicians to the PDP-Laban camp, which took place almost right after President Duterte won the 2016 polls, should not be a surprise to LP leaders. In 1962, then President Diosdado Macapagal of the LP wanted Tarlac Governor Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. of the rival Nacionalista Party (NP) to join the LP. Because Macapagal refused to allocate enough funds for Tarlac unless Ninoy cooperated, the latter was compelled to join the LP camp. Despite this historical fact, LP publicists love to refer to Ninoy as one the LP’s original stalwarts.
Even the presidency of Macapagal, which lasted from December 1961 to December 1965, was marred by the Harry Stonehill scandal. That scandal broke out when Stonehill, an American businessman with connections to Malacañang, was discovered to have kept top government officials on his payroll in exchange for commercial concessions and special treatment. To put a hush to the scandal, Macapagal ordered the immediate deportation of Stonehill in 1962.
The LP is also known for many turncoats and opportunists in its ranks. Prior to the proclamation of martial law in the Philippines in September 1972, the LP proudly presented itself to the people as the opposition political party against then President Ferdinand Marcos. Weeks after the proclamation of martial law, many LP politicians renounced their ties with the LP. When parliamentary elections were called in 1978, many ex-LP stalwarts identified themselves with and ran for seats under the pro-Marcos political party, the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan.
The presidency of Benigno Aquino III was also marred by charges of corruption and incompetence. Revelations that pork-barrel funds were grossly misused by congressmen, especially those with direct connections to the Budget Secretary, himself an LP ringleader, triggered a national outrage. Billions of pesos from the Malampaya natural gas fund remained unaccounted for by finance officials of the Aquino administration.
In the end, what hit hard against the LP leadership was the infamous Mamasapano massacre in Maguindanao, a tragedy which could have been avoided if the president focused his time on his duties as the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.