Pink Movement at a crossroad

By Artchil B. Fernandez

The demise of the UniTeam has reconfigured the country’s political landscape, affecting not only erstwhile allies but also their opponents from the last elections. This political realignment has placed the pink movement at a crossroads.

The victory of the dilawans in the 2022 election was the greatest nightmare of the Marcoses and the Dutertes. This forced them into a marriage of political convenience, an awkward alliance engineered by the wily Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA). They feared and dreaded the return to power of the dilawans, which would once again usher in an age of accountability.

Three decades after their ouster from power in the 1986 People Power revolt, the Marcoses continue to be hounded by numerous cases of plunder, corruption, and human rights violations. GMA reigned for nearly a decade, and her rule was marked by questions of legitimacy, extrajudicial killings, and scandals of corruption. Du30’s six-year illiberal experiment was characterized by an unrelenting assault on liberal-democratic institutions and the deaths of thousands in a bloody and gory war against illegal drugs.

Subjected to relentless attack by Du30 and allies, particularly on social media, the dilawans were marginalized and driven to the political wilderness. They had to reinvent themselves as the pink movement in the 2022 elections. The pink movement vowed to hold Du30 and his allies accountable for their wrongdoings once in power. This driving force forged the UniTeam.

With its victory in the 2022 elections, UniTeam lost its reason for being. It began to unravel even before it took power, beginning with Bongbong Marcos’ (BBM) refusal to hand the defense portfolio to his partner Sara Duterte. Two weeks ago, the collapse of UniTeam became official with Sara Duterte’s resignation from BBM’s cabinet. Henceforth, the former allies are now bitter enemies, not merely political rivals.

Inday Sara’s departure from BBM’s official family prompted Harry Roque, Du30’s spokesperson, to hail her as the new leader of the opposition. “UniTeam has formally been dissolved, and she has just become the leader of the opposition,” Roque declared. “The line has been drawn,” he added.

Roque’s bold pronouncement did not sit well with the pink movement, which considers itself the real, true, or genuine opposition. “In her resignation, there was neither an acceptance of responsibility, nor was there any change in principles and convictions. How can someone lead the opposition when they are yet to be held accountable and needing to answer to the people?” the Liberal Party said. “In leaving her posts, she failed to own up to her responsibilities or even change her principles and stances. How would she be the opposition leader if, until now, the public still demands accountability from her?” asked Liberal Party spokesperson Leila de Lima.

The Dutertes and their allies pose a serious threat to BBM and his administration, whether as opposition or stiff competition. They are key players in the political field, and whether the pink movement likes it or not, the Dutertes are stealing the thunder from them. In national conversation, it is the Dutertes who are prominent, not the pinklawans.

Since losing the 2022 election, the pink movement has been moribund. Despite the defeat, it successfully mobilized millions in the last election. Its standard-bearer, Leni Robredo, garnered 15,035,773 votes. While the number was not enough to propel Leni Robredo to the presidency, it is not something to dismiss lightly. This is a huge constituency.

Yet after the election, there was no effort by the pink movement to consolidate its gains. Leni Robredo retreated from political life and is now focusing on NGO work. The pink movement failed to harness the force it unleashed in the last election and allowed its energy to dissipate. It did not transform itself into a powerful social movement.

It is surprising that the voice attacking BBM and his administration comes from the Dutertes and not from the pink movement. In the current discourse on many issues affecting the nation and the Filipino people, the pink movement has not been heard or is strangely silent. This is tragic, for in the 2022 election the pink movement offered itself as the exact opposite of the UniTeam. It should offer an alternative to the current regime.

How will the pink movement situate itself in the current political environment? What kind of political player will it be under the present situation where the Marcoses and the Dutertes dominate the national discourse? How will the pink movement confront the situation and respond to the intensifying rivalry of Team Agila and Team Tigre?

One reason the pink movement is unable to react to recent political developments is its inability to find its bearings. It is wracked by division between the “anti-Duterte” camp and the “never-Marcos” faction.

The “anti-Duterte” camp, represented by former senator Antonio Trillanes, considers the Dutertes the biggest threat and is willing to enter into an alliance with the Marcoses to stave off their return to power. The “never-Marcos” faction, with Sen. Risa Hontiveros as its prominent face, finds it unpalatable to work with the Marcoses, who remain unrepentant of their past sins.

The pink movement must resolve its dilemma, solidify its ranks, and become the alternative to Team Agila and Team Tigre. The Filipino people must not be left at the mercy of the Dutertes and the Marcoses, proven pests to the nation given their past records. Another choice must be offered, a third option.

For the pink movement to be the third force, it must retake the initiative from the Dutertes and expose them not as opposition to the Marcoses but as their competition.

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