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Leni in the dark

I’m trying very hard to understand where Vice President Leni Robredo is coming from when she made one of her usual speeches last weekend— with a real twist, this time. This is what Robredo said, during the 72nd anniversary of the Liberal Party, of which she is titular head:

“Darkness envelops us,” she said, sounding to me like the besieged Princess Leia in the Star Wars movies, lacking only the strange haircut in the earlier installments of that cinematic series. “But we should not lose hope.”

See, I want to know if the darkness that Robredo is talking about refers only to her now-shrunken party or to the nation at large. If the first, then that is pretty much self-evident; if the second, I will have to agree with Malacañang that Robredo is terribly out of touch with reality.

I am certain that even someone as dense as Robredo need not publicly state the obvious political penury of her once-mighty party, whose “stalwarts” have been leaving in droves for the new ruling group. She must be referring, then, to the country at large, under the government of Darth Vader—I mean President Rodrigo Duterte.

But the darkness that Robredo is warning us about simply has no basis. The economy, to cite just one but very important aspect of the lack of darkness, is surging like never before—especially if compared to the time of the Yellow Luke Skywalker, I mean Noynoy Aquino.

The stock market index, which Aquino and his chorus of propagandists used to trumpet as the surefire indicator in investor confidence and economic growth, just breached 8,950 points, compared to a high of 8,000 in Noynoy’s time. Direct foreign investments, the other kind of hard, actual brick-and-mortar vote of confidence in the national economy, hit $8 billion last year—double the annual figure in Aquino’s reign.

The country’s gross domestic product is expected to hit 7 percent in the last quarter of 2017. The fourth quarter and full-year GDP figures, expected to be released today, are higher than any figure under Aquino—and most likely higher than that of any other economy in Asia, including China.

The people’s confidence and trust in Duterte and optimism in the future is concerned, if the various surveys conducted by yearend last year mean anything, are also at all-time highs for a president about to complete his second year in office. Robredo’s “darkness” theory is also thoroughly exposed as fiction by these indicators.

As for the supposed scandals that Robredo’s party have repeatedly tried to link Duterte and his officials to, none of them have really gained traction. The non-stop efforts of the LP to throw shade on (or to envelop in darkness, if you will) this government’s actions have been repeatedly repulsed, from cursing to alleged killing to supposed corruption.

Robredo remains very much in the dark, that much is clear. As far as the people who have rejected her party are concerned, the LP is the dark side—and if Leni is their only hope, then their defeat seems so complete that there will be no need for any sequel.

* * *

I also don’t get why some anti-Duterte groups are raising a fuss about the decision of the University of Santo Tomas alumni association to give an award for public service to Assistant Secretary Margaux “Mocha” Uson. It’s not like Uson was given star treatment as the subject of a fluff piece in the New York Times, like one newspaper’s Filipino of the Year, Jover Laurio.

A sense of proportion would really help here. As the anti-Dutertes themselves have pointed out, it’s not as if UST itself gave Uson, a graduate of the university, the honor.

As the editorial of this newspaper pointed out yesterday: 

“Awards are freely and subjectively given. When somebody is recognized for service, that is because members of a selection committee thought he or she deserves it. For the rest of us non-Thomasians, this is neither universally binding—nor absolutely true.”

My own belief is that some members of the UST community simply cannot accept that Uson is recognized in any way, shape or form, by any group that can be remotely associated with the school. And by their alma mater, no less, “the oldest Philippine university and the only pontifical university in Asia.”

But here’s the thing: If UST’s reputation was really of supreme importance to the school, why don’t they fire or otherwise punish the head of their law school (or as they call it on España, the Faculty of Civil Law), Nilo Divina?

Divina, in my view, has been even more worthy of censure than Uson ever will, having been linked not only to the recent fraternity hazing death of Horacio “Atio” Castillo, but also as the legal counsel (and enabler, by many accounts) of impeached former Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista. Divina has not even been given a slap on the wrist by the school or called out by any UST-associated group, as far as I know, except for one minor law fraternity that condemned Divina for allowing the use of his name as dean to entice students like Castillo to join the Aegis Juris fraternity and for turning a blind eye to his violent hazing death.

It’s fitting, by the way, that the media entity pushing hard against Uson’s recognition by the UST alumni was the same one that picked Laurio over the soldiers who repulsed the terrorists in Marawi last year. I guess they are incensed because the newspaper will now need to give Laurio yet another award, in order to assuage their imagined wounds over the recognition given to Mocha.

Topics: 72nd anniversary of the Liberal Party

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