A requiem for the Liberal Party

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The resignation of Senator Francis Pangilinan as president of the ill-fated Liberal Party (LP) was inevitable in view of the total defeat of the LP’s Otso Diretso eight-man senatorial ticket in the recent election. He was in charge of the ticket’s national campaign.

Pangilinan’s task was not enviable.

The LP is an awful political product to sell to the electorate on account of the abusive behavior of LP politicians when their top partymate, President Benigno Aquino III, was in power.

Aquino’s tenure was marred by illegal pork barrel allocations of LP politicians, a defective metropolitan train system, an extensive narcotic trade in the national penitentiary, inaction on the Philippine claim to Sabah, and the Mamasapano incident where mismanagement led to the massacre of 44 elite policemen by Muslim bandits in Maguindanao.

There are three other senators affiliated with the LP — incumbents Franklin Drilon, Risa Hontiveros and Leila de Lima. That number does not constitute a bright political future for the party.

Actually, the anomalies and abuse of authority attributed to the LP are nothing new. The history of the Philippines shows that administrations run by the LP have been discredited.

Immediately after World War II, and with the blessings of General Douglas MacArthur, Manuel Roxas seized political power from his erstwhile ally, President Sergio Osmeña, who headed the Nacionalista Party (NP). Together with Senator Elpidio Quirino, Roxas created a separatist faction in the NP and called it the Liberal Wing of the NP. That “wing” eventually became the LP. In the 1946 election, Roxas ran under the LP banner and defeated Osmeña and became the first president of the Republic of the Philippines.

Since Roxas owed his victory to MacArthur and the United States government, he allowed the Americans to establish military bases in the Philippines. He also granted Americans in the Philippines parity rights — the same economic rights as Filipinos in the Philippines, except the right to hold public office.

Roxas also strengthened the communist movement in Central Luzon by ousting a number of duly-elected “socialist legislators” from the House of Representatives to ensure the smooth passage of parity rights in Congress.

The Roxas administration was short lived, though. In 1948, Roxas died of cardiac arrest while delivering a speech inside Clark Air Base in Pampanga.

Roxas’ successor, President Elpidio Quirino, was criticized for alleged corruption. In addition, communist cadres from Central Luzon almost captured Manila during his watch.

Although Quirino won the presidency in 1949 against Jose P. Laurel of the NP, historians maintain that the election was very dirty. By 1953, the extensive public antipathy toward the LP thwarted Quirino’s reelection.

Diosdado Macapagal was the third Philippine president elected under the LP banner. His administration (1961-1965) was marred by a scandal involving Harry Stonehill, a controversial American businessman who had shady dealings with top government officials in the Philippines.

Ostensibly, Macapagal ordered his Justice Secretary, Jose Diokno, to investigate Stonehill’s businesses. When the investigation threatened to incriminate Macapagal, the latter fired Diokno and ordered the immediate deportation of Stonehill. The scandal contributed to Macapagal’s defeat to the NP’s bet, Ferdinand Marcos, in the presidential election of November 1965.

Included in the infamous list is Benigno Aquino III, the fourth and, hopefully, the last president elected under the LP banner. Considering the litany of scandals attributed to him earlier in this essay, Aquino III is arguably the worst among the four.

His mother, Corazon Cojuangco Aquino, did not win under the LP banner. In fact, she did not win as president. She seized power in the aftermath of the 1986 EDSA revolt.

Fortunately, the end came for the LP in May 2016 when the LP bet for president, Mar Roxas, lost to the very popular President Rodrigo Duterte.

The LP attempted a comeback through Otso Diretso but it failed miserably. With President Duterte continuing to enjoy immense popularity today, the LP will not be a force to reckon with in 2022.

Therefore, the Otso Diretso defeat means a requiem for the LP. If the nation’s good fortune continues, there will be no more LP politicians to mortgage the country’s future after the 2022 election.

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