Opposition matters

By Alex P. Vidal

“If the opposition disarms, well and good. If it refuses to disarm, we shall disarm it ourselves.”—Joseph Stalin

BOTH the legislatures of Iloilo Province and Iloilo City appear to have no strong opposition.

“No strong opposition”, however, is better than “the opposition is totally dead.”

The reason is either opposition provincial board members and city councilors are outnumbered by their pro-administration peers (meaning only one or two opposition candidates “survived” in the last election), or no one from the provincial board and city council is willing to become a critical nitpicker and rabble-rouser.

There may be a few, but the fear of isolation, blacklisting and cold shoulder treatment from colleagues and their largely lack of spine to collide head on vis-a-vis Governor Arthur “Toto” Defensor Jr. and Mayor Geronimo “Jerry” Trenas may have virtually dashed to pieces whatever morsel of courage left for them to summon.

The result would be total submission and virtual sycophancy. Whatever Messrs. Defensor and Trenas want, they get.

This explains why under the present dispensation, Defensor and Trenas could respectively govern with relatively ease and walk in the park without fear of being pestered by a sniper from the co-equal branch of government.


For all intents and purposes, opposition always matters. When there is opposition, there is accountability and transparency. Someone has to take responsibility and liability when there are abuses, negligence, incompetence, apathy and dishonesty.

As co-equals, the ability of each branch to respond to the actions of the other branches is the system of checks and balances.

Without any check and balance, both branches can rule unabashedly and with absolute lack of onus.

Each branch of government can change acts of the other branches:

The governor or city mayor can veto legislation created by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan and Sangguniang Panlungsod.

In the case of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos as head of the republic, he nominates heads of national agencies and high court appointees.

The present 19th Congress under Speaker Martin Romualdez in the Lower House and Francis Escudero in the Upper House confirms or rejects the president’s nominees. It can also remove the president from office in exceptional circumstances.

The Justices of the Supreme Court, nominated by President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and confirmed by the Senate, can overturn unconstitutional laws.


WHAT it issues as a threat, China usually implements with an iron fist.

Like the use of water canons to harass Philippine vessels and the bullying of small fishing boats manned by Filipino fishermen.

Thus, based on past incidents, China might soon proceed, as feared, with the threat to detain foreign nationals, especially Filipino fishermen, suspected of trespassing in waters China claims for up to 60 days according to China Coast Guard regulations.

But after detaining the fishermen, China will be careful no one will die or be killed, or it will stoke serious and dangerous tensions in the disputed South and East China seas.

President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., delivering a keynote speech of the Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore two weeks ago, made it clear the death of any Filipino citizen at the hands of another country in the South China Sea would be “very close” to an act of war.

He averred: “If a Filipino citizen is killed by a willful act, that is, I think, very, very close to what we define as an act of war and therefore we will respond accordingly. And our treaty partners, I believe, also hold that same standard.”


Marcos Jr.’s pronouncement in the regional gathering of global security leaders, including US Defense Secretary Llyod Austin and his Chinese counterpart Admiral Dong Jun, came as his nation faces increasingly fraught clashes with Chinese vessels in the South China Sea.

China’s updated regulations, announced last month and expanded on China’s 2021 coast guard law, detail procedural guidelines for cracking down on what it defines as illegal activities within “waters under China’s jurisdiction.”

It stipulates that foreign nationals suspected of violating Chinese immigration regulations or “jeopardizing national security interests or undermining public order” in the country’s claimed waters can be detained for 30 days, or up to 60 days in “complicated cases.”

The 2021 law, which allows the coast guard to use weapons against foreign ships deemed to have illegally entered Chinese-claimed waters, has stirred unease among rival claimants.

Under its so-called nine dash line, Beijing claims some 90 percent of the resource-rich South China Sea—through which trillions of dollars in trade flow every year—despite overlapping claims by Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and the Philippines.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two daily newspapers in Iloilo.—Ed)


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