Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has dared Filipino voters to save what is left of the country’s democracy and sovereignty by voting in this upcoming May 13 elections for the patriotic and independent-minded candidates who will never kowtow to Mr. Duterte.
De Lima, a human rights and social justice champion, said the public should not allow the Senate to be dominated by Duterte’s lackeys because it would mean “a future mortgaged to a foreign power” and “a ghost of the democracy that we know of.”
“If the President manages to stack the Senate with his loyal followers, the Senate’s power to check the President would be decimated. As a collegial body, the Senate is only as strong and as independent as its members. A weakened opposition would make the Senate a rubberstamp with little value to our country,” she said.
“It is therefore the greatest challenge to our electorate to elect candidates who are patriotic, capable, and independent-minded. In order to protect our Constitution and sovereignty, we need to keep the strength and independence of our Senate; and the Senate is only as strong and independent as its opposition bloc,” she added.
In her commentary entitled “Last Chance” published in social news network Rappler last April 1, De Lima noted that the 2019 mid-term elections might be the “last chance” for Philippine democracy and sovereignty.
A looming authoritarian who has always shown fondness to China, De Lima said Duterte is now using his resources and influence to ensure that his loyal supporters grab the majority of Senate seats to guarantee the necessary votes in Congress that will support his evil and selfish agendas.
“Right now, the Senate is the only institution left standing in the way of this reality,” she said.
Among Duterte’s key agendas, De Lima noted, include, among others, a shift to a federal form of government or Charter Change (Cha-cha) and the “Build, Build, Build” program premised on China’s dominant role in the Philippine economy.
De Lima maintained that any changes to the 1987 Constitution is an obvious attempt by Mr. Duterte at granting additional and unchecked powers to the Office of the President and removing the protectionist provisions that would allow Chinese ownership and control of the country’s key industries and resources.
“A shift in the form of government will weaken our country in the foreseeable future. It will create confusion as to who dictates the policies and as to which institutions will be held accountable for any problem that may arise,” she said.
“If we remove the present Constitution’s protectionist provisions, it would be easy for a country like China to take over local industries and properties just by sheer volume of their investments. [A]nd if China gains control of facets of our economy, they can place themselves in a position to hold our country hostage when we start to claim what is legally ours,” she added.
On Duterte’s ambitious infrastructure projects which will be heavily reliant on multi-billion dollar loans offered by China, De Lima said she believes that some of the projects under the “Build, Build, Build” Program do not really translate to any economic gains.
“Infrastructure and loan agreements with China feature extremely onerous provisions such as waiver of immunity provisions, placing patrimonial assets as collateral, hiring Chinese companies as contractors, and settling the disputes under Chinese laws,” she pointed out.
De Lima earlier filed Senate Resolution No. 377 urging the Senate to look into the possible long-term financial and economic repercussions of the loans and investments package offered by China to the Philippines under its belt and road initiative. With the 2019 midterm elections happening two weeks from now, De Lima reiterated that the public should help protect the independence of the Senate – which holds sufficient influence to affect the policies proposed and implemented by the President – by valuing their right to suffrage and choosing worthy candidates.