Nokia, the Liberal Party and why Leni Robredo is destined to lose

Not too long ago, Nokia was the giant in the telecommunications industry. Almost everyone owned a Nokia, although there were other brands in the market (Alcatel, Sony Ericsson and Motorola among others). Before that, Motorola was the king in the market. But where are these brands now? Almost gone to oblivion.

The market is now dominated by Apple, Samsung and Huawei. With rapid advances in technology, these companies introduce upgraded models to give consumers more choices and better capabilites. The first smart phones were packed by more computing power than the massive main-frame computers packed into buildings for the Apollo missions that ultimately took man to the moon. In a span of one decade, that power tripled and quadrupled and more.

Twenty-five years ago, nobody could have foreseen that the Nokia 3300 hand-held phone was a dinosaur of a gadget for a brand that almost vanished entirely from the face of the earth. Nokia is still around, but its efforts to regain its foothold in the market have accomplished so little. The Finnish company became so comfortable in its position as market leader it ignored warning signals that the telecommunications industry was about to experience tectonic shifts.

In politics, the fate of Nokia is the same thing that has befallen to the Liberal Party, the once great political party that produced Presidents, Senators and Congressmen over 75 years ago. It reached its peak when the late Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III was propelled to the highest post of the land in the 2010 elections, with much help from the emotional outpouring of Filipinos upon the death of his mother, the late Corazon C. Aquino.

As the party in power in 2010, the Liberal Party had everything a political power could possibly desire. The yellow ribbon became a national icon which became popular as windshield and bumper stickers. Dilawan was a label worn with pride. It looked like the victory of Aquino was the start of a long era of rule for the LP, with Mar Roxas getting ready to succeed his political and personal friend by 2016.

But the arrogance of power corrupted the Liberal Party. It became consumed by desire to perpetuate itself in power. How else to better accomplish that than corrupting the democratic institutions to remove any and all obstacles to feed that hunger. Thus was born the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), a thinly disguised scheme to destroy the enemies of the Liberal Party and reward its allies with pieces of silver, so to speak. Stealing from the public treasury was given legitimacy, albeit for a short period of time only.

As this was happening, Mr. Aquino’s weaknesses as a leader unravelled one after another. It started with the Luneta hostage incident that resulted in the death of eight tourists as well as the disgrunted policeman who had hijacked their chartered bus. Poor judgment and inability to put the right people for a tough job began to emerge as the trademark of the Aquino administration. The problems started to pile up: the MRT and LRT frequently broke down because of mismanagement and corruption, the illegal drugs situation worsened, Yolanda relief and rehabilitation was bungled, the infamous Mamasapano massacre that took the lives of 44 SAF troopers, and Dengvaxia, just to name a few.

Against this backdrop of corruption and incompetence, the nation saw an ambitious Mar Roxas showing insensitivity to what was happening and just keep his eyes on the Presidency in 2016.

Essentially, like Nokia, the Liberal Party forgot to look at the rapidly changing environment and adapt to the people’s needs and wants. The people were disillusioned, and yet, LP ignored the writing on the wall. LP believed nothing could stop its goal of becoming the party in power for decades to come because of the overflowing campaign warchest it had amassed from Janet Lim Napoles and the DAP. It believed its own propaganda that yellow symbolized clean and honest government, when the exact opposite was being exposed.

Illegal drugs and criminality made the Philippines a dangerous place in the minds and hearts of most Filipinos. The people saw through the propaganda and understood drug lords were becoming the power elite that funded politicians like Leila de Lima. If the Aquino government didn’t want to take action, then the people took matters into their own hands. Their weapon: the ballot.

Somehow, that lesson didn’t sink into the minds of the Liberal Party. Its leaders still held on to the notion that the color yellow was an effective marketing tool for their brand of governance. In 2019, the party managed to field only eight candidates. Towards the end of the campaign, Roxas detached himself from the LP line-up and declared he was an independent candidate. He realized, too late, that the “dilawan” label was a ticket to defeat. Roxas suffered the worst fate a politician can experience — losing as Vice President, President and Senator.

Roxas predicted correctly that the Otso Deretso was headed for disaster; he failed to bail out before their plane plummeted to the sea of political doom.

The Liberal Party became the Nokia of politics. Once dominant, now a symbol for dinosaur politics. Not even the death of their leader, Noynoy Aquino, breathed new life into the party as what many of them had hoped.

The handlers of Vice President Leni Robredo refused to heed the lessons of the last two elections. Political scientist Dr. Julio Teehankee had warning the other month that the “dilawans” needed to change their narrative in order to regain bouyancy in the turbulent seas of politics. Teehankee pointedly told the dilawans their usual “Duterte is bad” messaging wasn’t working. The dilawans needed to demonstrate what they could do differently and persuade Filipinos voters to give them a second chance. His advice fell on deaf ears.

With less than 10 months to go before election day, the challenge confronting the Liberal Party and their allies is like raising Lazarus from the dead. The poll surveys have been consistent: Robredo struggled to keep her head above water in rough seas. Her last poll showed a slight slip from 8 to 6 percent. It was funny how her spokesman, Atty. Barry Gutierrez could even describe that as “respectable”.

Robredo should get out of the game while there is time. To run and lose is to validate what most Filipinos have long believed — she had won the vice presidency through cheating.