The broader view - Harry Roque - The Philippine Star

For the most popular elected official of the land, the die is cast, the battle lines drawn. Vice President Inday Sara Duterte will officially walk away from the Marcos Cabinet on July 19 and can opt to step up as the foremost “fiscalizer” of the nation and leader of a genuine Opposition. I hope she accepts the challenge.

Like the millions of Duterte supporters around the world, I am jubilant that ISD has finally unshackled herself of the toxic alliance with the Marcos administration. VP Sara leaves the Department of Education (DepEd) and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) with her head held high. Her devotion to serving the best interests of learners and teachers is rivaled by her dedication to shielding communities from acts of terrorism and extremism.

It is no wonder that most Filipinos have consistently rated DepEd as a top-performing government agency (Octa Research). Some accomplishments of Inday include the implementation of the Matatag curriculum, which aims to enhance the quality of teaching and learning in the Philippines, and the Catch-Up Friday program, which seeks to improve the reading comprehension of students. Further, she instituted a nutritional supplementation program for students (Pansarap Program) and transformed makeshift classrooms into standard ones in rural areas (Last Mile Schools Program).

VP Sara also unburned teachers of administrative tasks and provided them the following: overtime pay for work beyond regular hours, increased annual teaching allowance to P10,000 and health and personal accident insurance. Under her tenure, the DepEd built 3,637 classrooms in 2023, repaired 4,542 schools nationwide and insured 132,000 public school buildings.

Since her spectacular victory in 2022, the VP has been the most trusted and approved national leader. Reputable survey firms can attest to ISD’s immense popularity, especially in the Visayas and Mindanao. If the 2028 presidential election occurred today, ISD would win by a landslide, according to Oculum Research and Analytics’ 1st Quarter Survey.


I spoke with Inday Sara a day after she resigned and queried about her immediate plans. (We make it a point to have a meeting every month.) First, she assured me that she was doing fine. Second, she will solely focus on ensuring a smooth transition period in DepEd in the next four weeks. Until then, she is non-committal about participating in any political action. Third, she emphatically said her resignation was a clear and loud message to the Filipino people.

My honest-to-goodness interpretation? The VP can no longer stomach the way this dispensation is governing the nation. She must divorce herself from the questionable decisions and policies of President Bongbong Marcos Jr. on the West Philippine Sea crisis, diplomatic relations with China, peace negotiation with communist rebels and the curtailment of constitutional rights of government critics.

She does not want to be associated with the malicious, incompetent and petty individuals around her erstwhile UniTeam partner. Since May 2023, the combined forces of Marcos allies, Liberal Party members and Leftist politicos have relentlessly vilified the VP. The President’s wife has publicly disrespected the VP on several occasions. The presidential cousin has rallied political cohorts to defund the agencies under her turf. Or threaten to unseat her through impeachment.

Who would have thought that political vendetta would one day bring decades-long archenemies together? Unfortunately, the President failed to protect the VP from the persecution of his family members and political allies.

Constrained by her Cabinet appointment, ISD could not publicly articulate her stand on national and international issues in the past. As a qualified political agency or presidential alter-ego, she cannot openly denounce and contradict PBBM.

But while Sara might be a team player, she will never be a sell-out. Her principles will always reign over personal benefits. Collectively, we are relieved that the UniTeam coalition, which the Marcos faction has ruthlessly exploited to bring them back to Malacañang Palace, is formally dissolved.


As former president Rodrigo Duterte observed, the traditional Opposition has become less critical of the Marcos Jr. regime. What has happened to the liberal and progressive groups that pilloried PBBM and his family from the 1986 EDSA Revolution up to the 2022 elections? I heard from a reliable source that the First Lady and Liberal Party Jojo Ochoa, the former executive secretary to the late president Aquino, are close friends again. The former law partners had a falling out in the 2016 elections due to Ochoa’s support of former vice president Leni Robredo. The FL is close to her cousin, LP leader and former interior secretary Mar Roxas, give or take their political differences. Meantime, I have observed that the Makabayan bloc has aligned with the House Speaker in attacking the Duterte family and their allies. Obviously, the old Opposition party has been compromised or coopted by the Marcos Jr. regime.  

Thus, we need a new Opposition leader like Inday Sara to spearhead the fight for genuine transparency and accountability in government and advocate for lasting peace and security for the nation. We need a more vocal and proactive Opposition to challenge every unconstitutional, illegal or insipid act committed by the Marcos administration.

Why do I think Sara should ascend as the new Opposition leader? As VP, she received the highest electoral mandate in the last elections. The experienced executive leader and lawyer is not power-hungry nor a political opportunist. Otherwise, she could have swallowed her grievances by staying as education secretary.

She has fought for the interests of every Mindanaoan and Filipino in Luzon, Visayas and overseas. As NTF-ELCAC official, she has opposed the resumption of peace talks between the government and the CPP-NPA, even calling the arrangement “a pact with the devil.” Recently, she has called out the Philippine National Police for its excessive use of force against the indigenous community members and religious followers of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.

Sara’s stint in the Marcos administration may have scathed and bloodied her. She remains unbowed, nonetheless.

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