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Saturday, February 16, 2013
THE opening rally of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) in Cebu City last Feb. 12 brought back images of Cebu as a center for the political opposition.
The UNA, headed by Vice President Jejomar Binay, is being portrayed as the opposition and its choice of Cebu as venue for the first campaign rally of its senatorial candidates for the May elections was supposed to be full of meaning.
Cebu was opposition country during the time of dictator Ferdinand Marcos and was the center of protest actions for the removal of Marcos from Malacañang, prior to the People Power revolt at Edsa in 1986.
But what is different now is UNA is not exactly opposing President Benigno Aquino III.
It is unavoidable to link the choice of Cebu as campaign venue to the controversial order by the President to suspend Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia. Garcia had said her suspension was a political move aimed at limiting UNA’s influence in Cebu, the country’s most vote-rich province with 2.5 million voters. Garcia is UNA Cebu province head and Binay visited her at the Capitol several times when she refused to accept her suspension.
During the UNA campaign visit, Garcia said Cebu was solid behind the opposition slate. She also recalled how Cebu was the seat of the first opposition when local chieftain Lapu-Lapu killed Spanish invaders in 1521.
But UNA has to clarify its role as the opposition, as the ruling Liberal Party had criticized it for supporting Aquino yet insisting it was the political opposition.
Binay had said UNA supports the President but it opposes government programs it finds questionable. He and the other opposition leaders Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and former president Joseph Estrada have hit back at the administration for not letting economic gains reach the poor and for pushing the passage of the controversial Reproductive Health and six tax laws. They said the poor and unemployed grew under Aquino.
Indeed, there was a time when Cebu was known to be opposition bailiwick during the Marcos time.
The political opposition led by John Osmeña, Inday Nita Daluz, Antonio Cuenco and Fr. Rudy Romano, among others, held protest rallies in Cebu and then presidential candidate Corazon “Cory” Aquino, the President’s mother, sought shelter at the Carmelite Monastery here when People Power broke out in Manila.
The Fuente Osmeña rotunda was venue of many protest rallies to launch civil disobedience and boycott campaigns.
The opposition nowadays is not targeted at President Aquino but at his programs, priorities and perceived failures. Binay, during the UNA trip here, said UNA would be a “constructive opposition.”
What makes the opposition of today different is that the UNA is not calling for Aquino’s removal and party leaders do not face the threat of arrest or incarceration on flimsy charges such as public nuisance.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 17, 2013.