The LP credibility problem

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“A desperate LP wants to regain political power by doing its best to subvert the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Partisan politics in the Philippines since the country’s independence in 1946 has been characterized by the question which party is in power and which party is not. Two political parties dominated the nation’s political scene until mid-1972 — the Nacionalista Party (NP) and the Liberal Party (LP). Although both political parties were engaged in traditional, personality politics, with partisan political considerations often edging out national interest, the Philippines was always better off when the President of the nation did not come from the LP.

Manuel Roxas, the last President of the Philppine Commonwealth and the first President of the Third Republic, provides a perfect example.

Elected under the LP banner with Vice President Elpidio Quirino, Roxas diluted the essence of Philippine independence by allowing the presence of American military bases in the country. Two of those bases, Clark Air Base in Angeles City in Pampanga and Subic Naval Base in Olongapo City in Zambales were the biggest American military facilities outside of the continental United States.

Roxas also allowed the amendment to the 1935 Constitution to allow the infamous “parity rights.” That measure vested in American citizens and corporations full rights to exploit the natural resources of the Philippines like those enjoyed by Filipinos citizens. That arrangement with the US was sealed by an equally infamous American statute, the Bell Trade Act.

As a consequence of parity rights, important Philippine industries were dominated by American interests. The US presence could be easily felt in mining and in agriculture. Even banking and the legal profession were dominated by the Americans.

Sadly, the inequity of parity rights in the Philippines continued even after Roxas died of heart failure while delivering a speech at the Clark Air Base in 1948. President Quirino carried out parity rights during his term (1948-1953).

Under the LP, parity rights were supposed to be in force in perpetuity.

The situation changed in 1955 under President Ramon Magsaysay, who was elected under the NP banner. Magsaysay sent Sen. Jose P. Laurel, an NP stalwart, to the US to renegotiate the onerous provisions of the Bell Trade Act. Laurel succeeded in putting an expiry date on parity rights — 1974.

It was the 1973 Constitution, in force during the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos, that killed parity rights in the Philippines a year before its scheduled demise in 1974. Marcos was elected president in 1965 under the NP banner.

During the term of President Diosdado Macapagal, another LP politician, American commercial domination in the Philippines continued. An American businessman named Harry Stonehill controlled many industries in the country, including tobacco and lumber, as well as real estate. It was an open secret in Manila that Stonehill had many politicians “in very high places” in his payroll.

When the Stonehill controversy broke out and it threatened to embarrass the administration of President Macapagal, the latter ordered Stonehill deported. The Stonehill issue prompted Macapagal’s justice secretary, Jose Diokno, to protest the face-saving solution employed by Macapagal. Diokno eventually bolted the Macapagal administration and made a successful bid for senator in 1963 under the NP banner.

It was also during the administration of President Macapagal when film censorship was imposed on its baldest form. When Macapagal ran for reelection in 1965, his cinema censors prohibited the public exhibition of Iginuhit ng Tadhana, a biographic film about then Sen. Ferdinand Marcos of the NP, his rival for the presidency. After a court order lifted the ban, audiences all over the country trooped to the box office. Marcos won the election.
During the 1971 mid-term election in the Philippines, the LP touted itself as the anti-Marcos political party. LP leaders were very vocal against what they called “the Marcos dictatorship.”

However, in October 1972, weeks after President Marcos placed the Philippines under martial law, many of the LP leaders who were vocal against Marcos suddenly became quiet and docile. Throughout the country, many local government officials elected in 1971 under the LP ticket shifted allegiance and became open supporters of Marcos. Manila Mayor Ramon Bagatsing and Pasig Mayor Emiliano Caruncho Jr. were among them.

Ex-President Macapagal, who was the President of the 1971 Constitutional Convention, and who styled himself as the LP titular head, cobbled up an authoritarian charter and personally delivered the final, approved copy to President Marcos in Malacañang. That charter became the infamous 1973 Constitution which allowed Marcos to stay in office indefinitely.

When Macapagal failed to get the political concessions he expected from Marcos, he quietly faded away from the political scene, snug in the notion that he was the titular head of the LP.

“As a consequence of parity rights, important Philippine industries were dominated by American interests.

The genuine opposition to the Marcos administration during the martial law years came not from the LP, but from the United Nationalist Democratic Organization (UNIDO) headed by then Assemblyman Salvador “Doy” Laurel and then Assemblywoman Eva Estrada Kalaw.

After the UNIDO succeeded in getting Marcos to relinquish power, the old LP faces started appearing and demanding their share of the spoils. Salonga and Osmeña, and even the hitherto unheard of ex-Rep. Raul Daza of Samar, were suddenly back in the political limelight, with very little political expense incurred from their end.

The LP regained absolute political power in 2010 when President Benigno Aquino III was voted to office. For six years under Aquino III and his LP cohorts, scandals and controversies hounded the nation.

During the LP’s Aquino watch, billions of pesos in public funds were wasted on trains that did not match the rails of the Metro Rail Transit system in Metropolitan Manila. A deadly dengue vaccine was distributed nationwide to the unsuspecting public. More than P186 billion from the Malampaya natural gas fund went missing and remains missing today.

Philippine maritime territory in the West Philippine Sea was improvidently abandoned for China to occupy by default. The drug menace and illegal gambling proliferated everywhere.

Pork barrel funds were openly and brazenly misused by corrupt members of Congress identified with the LP. Smartmatic, a foreign corporation with credibility problems abroad, leased defective voting machines to the Commision on Elections at tremendous public expense.

It was the abusive and corrupt image projected by the LP to the electorate that doomed it in the May 2016 elections.

Today, a desperate LP wants to regain political power by doing its best to subvert the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte. Only carpetbaggers who want a return to the abusive and morally bankrupt years of the Aquino III regime are supporting the LP.

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