No opposition

It's not hard to understand how some can believe that any opposition to something does not help. "Why complain and complain when you say just support this thing and get it done?" Here, not just in politics, the idea that raising a ruckus whenever you disagree with something just gets in the way is widely subscribed to.

But, of course, politics is a much bigger stage, one that plays out every day on the news, sometimes (especially lately) even live. Anybody who's in a position to point out the flaws of the leadership - all in the name, supposedly, of public service - is seen as a nuisance, a roadblock. Just think of how the scrambling opposition during Noynoy Aquino's time was seen: as a roadblock to progress.

This time, however, with Rodrigo Duterte at the helm, this belief has become a bit more explicit. Perhaps it's his authoritarian tendencies. Perhaps it's his most rabid supporters feeling empowered to actually say it out loud, and not in civil terms, either. The opposition - whoever that is - is a roadblock to change, and this time they will be eliminated if necessary.

Thus, the tactic was to not look like the opposition, at least in the theatrical sense. Think of Jejomar Binay throughout most of the Noynoy years: the only time he bared his fangs, so to speak, was when the political lines were being drawn in the lead-up to the elections. For the most part, we knew he would think differently than the president - we knew he stood for something different; we saw him as an aberration - but he wisely kept low, choosing not to further antagonize himself. Not that he was clean - that did the job for him.

And so the Liberal Party - stung not just by Mar Roxas being defeated again, but by a seemingly overwhelming rebuke of everything Noynoy Aquino stood for - had no choice but to lay low. Many, especially their more rabid supporters, were calling for them to be a vocal opposition, but instead they kept their heads low and professed to do it for the love of country. Well, their hazy image of "we stay away from politics, we just work" was also on the line too, but who were they kidding?

While they had their attack dog in Leila de Lima, they stuck to their advocacies, hoping that taking the high road would give them an advantage, especially against a president who's known (and loved, to an extent) for his vulgar mouth. Thus, you have Leni Robredo, now vice president, keeping her head relatively low as Duterte and his men were just, frankly, being dicks when dealing with her.

Eight months later, however, it's clear that the differences cannot be ironed out. While LP cohorts celebrate the "traditional" meaning of EDSA - Noynoy excessively politicizing that yellow ribbon got them in a tight position - Duterte is quietly flipping the narrative around, insisting that he's claiming that bloodless revolution's legacy for the people while shoehorning his more populist ethos into it. The lightning rod that is the administration's campaign against drugs has moved from mere disagreement to outright antagonizing, culminating in the jailing of de Lima, who's supposedly involved in the drug trade herself. And just last night - well, tonight, as I'm writing this moving towards midnight - six senators from the Liberal Party were removed from their committee chairmanships, in a relatively bloodless coup that made clear who's the boss. Suddenly, an Upper House that seemed to be a more nuanced voice in contrast to the kowtowers of the Lower House is no more.

It's not hard to understand how some can believe that any opposition to something does not help. "Why complain and complain when you say just support this thing and get it done?" Here, in the past couple of days, the so-called traitors - they who claim to work for the country, but are subverting the people's will, at least in the heads of the desperate and impatient - have been removed. Now, we can move on towards progress.

The Liberal Party, the party whose proximity to history has put them in the hot seat at this moment, suddenly have to be the vocal opposition some want them to be.

Is it a good thing? If you want that vocal opposition, then yes, it is. For a while de Lima, and to an extent Antonio Trillanes IV, looked like lone wolves, consistently attacking Duterte with whatever they've got (or not). But they aren't the best of messengers, and in a country where you have to be pure (whatever that means) to be believed, that would not cut it. Now, it seems, with the battle lines clearly drawn, we can expect more noise in the coming days.

But at the same time, it could be a bad thing. A vocal opposition puts targets on their backs, the easier for the Duterte administration - now just being blatant about their intentions, or so some think - to eliminate them. We've gone past the social media bullying. We now have crowds cheering when justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II vows to go after Trillanes next, like Pontius Pilate to a crowd of indignant Romans. We now have solicitor general Jose Calida spouting Duterte sound bytes in an even cruder manner, shrouding himself in respectability while recognizing the so-called "Duterte Youth" for, I guess, loving the country more than the rest of us. The armies are massing, and the guns are aimed. A louder opposition means an easier shot - and we can only shudder at what may happen next.

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