'We must lead': Hontiveros, now opposition leader, urges supporters to 'confront authority'

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
'We must lead': Hontiveros, now opposition leader, urges supporters to 'confront authority'
Supporters of presidential candidate Vice President Leni Robredo fill the stretch of Diosdado Macapagal Boulevard in Pasay City for a rally on the occasion of her 57th birthday on April 23, 2022.
VP Leni Media Bureau / Released

MANILA, Philippines — Days before President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.'s first State of the Nation Address, Sen. Risa Hontiveros urged the remnants of the opposition to hold fast in the coming years with the administration seen to strongly oppose efforts to mobilize with "ancient and pretentious modes of thought and doing.”

In her first call to action as de facto leader of the opposition, Sen. Risa Hontiveros at the State of the People Address of the Freedom from Debt Coalition warned that much like the government of former President Rodrigo Duterte, the administration would resist efforts to call attention to the struggles faced by regular Filipinos. 

"The new administration may have their pre-conceived notions. They will be resistant to information; they will implement top-down policies from their golden age; they will say that the situation is not really as bad as we portray it," she said in mixed Filipino and English. 

"They will warn and counsel patience. They will de-mobilize and try to put the situation under their control; they will take extraordinary steps to quell the organic agitation of people in distress."

The lone opposition senator challenged supporters to continue what former Vice President Leni Robredo started during her term and "develop and try out prototype solutions and refine them repeatedly, then solicit help from both the government and the private sector to achieve some meaningful scale."

"We must lead. We must draw our energy from our agitation. We need to confront authority and ancient and pretentious modes of thought and doing," Hontiveros said. 

"There are now millions more of us than the staff and volunteers at the Office of the Vice President during the pandemic; we can therefore implement massively parallel experiments, perhaps with our local governments."


Hontiveros lamented the crises faced by Filipinos on multiple fronts in the dog days of the Marcos administration: rampant hunger, sky-high debt, insufficient transportation, among many other issues faced by the regular Filipino — issues that Hontiveros said are far from the hearts of those in power — all in the midst of a still-surging COVID-19 pandemic that Hontiveros said continues to expose gaps in the government's response. 

"I think we need to call this administration’s attention to the unseen and unmonitored suffering and fragility in the lives and livelihoods of ordinary Filipinos. Can we still endure? Is there anything left in the so-called resiliency of the Filipinos, even though aid is always late and lacking?" she said. 

But even more lamentable, she said, is the administration's demonstrable resistance to criticism over the national situation. 

"Let's not pretend that our so-called experts fully understand the extent and depth of the financial problems left behind by the previous administration…let's not expect them to fully understand how fragile companies, farms and families have become…or that the domestic and foreign investments in the country that will lift us out of this quagmire," she said. 

The lone opposition senator appealed to her base to ensure the door-to-door engagement and participation during the Robredo campaign will not be a thing of the past. 

"We should mobilize once again, door-to-door, farm-to-farm, and shore-to-shore, with survey instruments on hand and academic experts in tow if need be, so that we can acquire and communicate an updated understanding of the challenges on the ground," she said.

Robredo christened Hontiveros as the next leader of the opposition after the lawmaker took her oath before the second-highest elected official in late June.

But Hontiveros faces a tall task as part of a two-member minority in a Senate dominated by a supermajority. 

"We need to learn-by-doing, we need to be bottom-up, we need to be deeply empirical — always testing, always prospecting for new approaches and always challenging each other. Mobilize, crowd-source and crowd-fund, unlearn what we know and adapt quickly, only then we can be part of a better solution."

with reports from Xave Gregorio and Angelica Y. Yang 

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