Challenging Duterte
CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - May 5, 2017 - 12:00am

Emotions are high, Netizens are angry and indignant, environmentalists are in mourning now that Gina Lopez has been taken out of the DENR by the CA. Sadly “this too shall pass” like many other lost causes.

The fact that so much emotion and disappointment are being expressed by the losing camp show that people have not been realistic or analytical and have seriously failed to manage their expectations. Yes, you can be angry with the Senators, Congressmen and Congresswomen who voted against Gina Lopez, but did they ever once say that they were anything else but pro-mining or anti-Lopez? It is like the churchgoer who enters into a relationship with an atheist hoping against hope to convert him or her. From day one all of them, Sonny Dominguez included, shamelessly made it clear that they would call upon hell itself to block Gina Lopez.

If we stepped back with a little suspicion in mind, I cannot help but wonder if Gina Lopez was actually set-up and used as the administration’s “Joan of Arc,” a woman so convinced of her calling and passion that she fought battles that other men and women cowardly retreated from. From what I recall, Gina Lopez never asked for the job of DENR Secretary, it was given to her by Rodrigo Duterte because as DU30 put it: “Gina Lopez is a True Crusader.”

Like Joan of Arc, Gina Lopez served faithfully and with loyalty and rallied the believers that the Duterte administration was truly pro-environment and anti-mining. Was that the game plan all along? Were we so desperate that we to took the bait, hook, line and sinker? Did we blind ourselves into believing that Duterte really had Gina’s back and would clear the field for her? Or was Gina the perfect decoy to get people behind the administration? While Gina Lopez faced her attackers as they burned her with false accusations and secret votes, Duterte and presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella gave lip service in response to the embarrassment and harassment that Gina Lopez was subjected to. To this date not a single person in government or politics has commented or even leaked info that the administration or President Duterte exerted any effort to defend Lopez. Oh, they did, they gave statements to the press.

Ironically, many people failed to appreciate the serious implications that when a Cabinet member such as Sonny Dominguez openly challenges and blocks a presidential appointee, it is equal to challenging and publicly disobeying the President of the Philippines. As a radio listener commented on DZRH “the conduct of Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez and the members of the Commission on Appointments were real life versions of scenes from the movie “Juan Luna” where profit and family interests prevailed over love of country and people!

So what exactly can people do in terms of a strategic response? Gina Lopez herself has made one of the best suggestions and challenges I have heard so far, and unwittingly places a challenge that falls in the lap of no less than the person who declared his contempt for mining firms: President Rodrigo Duterte. Lopez has suggested that President Duterte concurrently take on the position of DENR Secretary while appointing Gina Lopez as Undersecretary, thus avoiding another confrontation with the Commission on Appointments. This forces President Duterte to “man-up” and put himself where his mouth has preceded him in the past. Lopez is ready to take a technical demotion for a strategic position. The question is: Is the President up to the challenge and is he going to walk his talk?

If DU30 takes up Gina Lopez’s “unwitting challenge” he will without a doubt gain the unequivocal support of millions of Filipinos who are sick and tired of Oligarchs, the very same ones that Duterte has time and again referred to as the cause of poverty in the country. The ones whose lands DU30 told the poor to occupy! If Duterte walks in front of the march, he will not be gaining popularity, he will be making history!

If that turns out to be a fantasy and one of the biggest hoaxes in Philippine politics, then the next option as they say: If you can’t beat them, join them. I commented to a friend that the reason Oligarchs and Trapos or traditional politicians remain in power is simply because “We” don’t want to get into politics or government. We simply wait for Messiahs and Joans of Arc like Gina Lopez, Jesse Robredo to rise up. It is time to strategically and tactically build up organizations and representations like Green Party’s and partylist groups. Systematically gather all those who are anti-mining, pro-environment in the private sector, government, church, business and media as well as entertainment and get into Congress, Senate and media.

The leftists and communist rebels, the LGBT and other “odd’ or extreme groups have used this “door” to further their concerns and interests as well as legislative agendas and this is exactly where the environmentalists need to take the fight. Their enemies used Congress and the laws to block and attack Gina Lopez and crusaders in the past. This would be the figurative form of taking the law into our hands to fight environmental rapists. We need laws to stop the shameless participation of lawmakers in Congress where they have conflicts of interest. We need laws to put a real global market price and standard to the practice of mining. We need to replace trapos with real lawmakers, not “users.” Finally we need to get people like Gina Lopez into Congress or better yet in the Senate where she can be the thorn in the flesh for the people who burned her and shamelessly voted in secret.

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