MANILA – Lemon-hued banners and yellow confetti often used in opposition rallies years ago are no longer plentiful in campaign outings of the Liberal Party (LP)-led Otso Diretso senatorial slate.
Yellow, “dilaw” in Filipino, plus black were the colors of protest after anti-Marcos opposition leader Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. was assassinated in 1983, paving the way for the rise to power of his widow Cory Aquino via the 1986 “people power” uprising. Yellow ribbons, yellow and black t-shirts and caps were in fashion during those years.
Shortly after Mrs. Aquino’s death in 2009, her son Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, again used yellow and black for his “Daang Matuwid” (Straight Path) campaign, which swept him to victory in the 2010 presidential elections on the back of public clamor for a clean government.
But three years after the liberals lost the presidency to Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and with the “dilawans” under siege in the Philippines, yellow is no longer the dominant color of the LP-led opposition coalition for the May 13, 2019 midterm elections.
With the LP’s ranks decimated by turncoats, the party had a hard time recruiting LP members to fill up a 12-man senatorial slate. Only 3 of the 8 Otso Diretso bets are original LP members, the rest are like-minded individuals from other political parties and constituencies.
‘NOT DEFINED BY COLOR’
Mar Roxas, the LP’s standard-bearer in 2016, prefers to gloss over political colors in this year’s midterm elections, seen as a referendum on his main presidential opponent 3 years ago.
“I don’t want to be defined by color. I’m Mar Roxas, this is who I am, this is what my record is. Whether I wear whatever color, I’m still Mar,” Roxas earlier told ANC’s Headstart.
Roxas highlights blue in his comeback bid, his original campaign color before becoming Aquino’s running mate in 2010, his campaign chief Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice told ABS-CBN News in a separate interview.
“Talaga namang blue si Mar, Mr. Palengke pa lang,” Erice said, referring to Roxas’ successful 2004 campaign where he topped the senatorial elections.
“When he intended to run for president in 2010, blue rin ‘yung color niya. Nag-shift lang nung si Presidente Aquino na, sinundan niya lang,” he said.
Former House Deputy Speaker Erin Tañada, another LP stalwart running under the Otso Diretso banner, is using his original campaign color, green.
“Green has been my color since 2004 so even if you go through the history of LP meetings from 2004 up to 2010, talagang naka-green ako,” Tañada said in a separate interview.
“Since I come from Quezon, agriculture, life, [green] is an appropriate choice even if I come from Ateneo. Pinag-aralan ko rin ‘yung shades kung ano ‘yung attractive, ‘yung unang matitingnan ng tao,” he said.
Aquino’s cousin, reelectionist Senator Bam Aquino, is the only Otso Diretso candidate using LP’s traditional colors, although black is more dominant in his campaign. He often wears black shirts with minimal yellow accents.
“Being part of the opposition, siyempre ang mga color ng protesta, color ng paglaban usually sa kasaysayan natin ay black and yellow,” Aquino said.
“It’s also a sign na iba ‘yung panahon ngayon, iba noon,” he said.
Other candidates under the Otso Diretso banner pointed out that they are not obligated to use the LP’s signature color since they are not “organic” members of the decades-old political party.
Human rights lawyer Jose Manuel “Chel” Diokno opted for a teal-themed campaign, a shade chosen by his son, award-winning film director Jose “Pepe” Diokno.
“Yellow has never been identified with me. I’m a nominee of LP but I’m not organic,” Chel said.
“Sabi daw kasi kakaiba ‘yan [teal]. It’s fresh and that’s what the Senate needs,” said the senatorial hopeful, founding dean of the the De La Salle University College of Law.
Moro civic leader Samira Gutoc chose purple, a color traditionally used in women’s rights movements.
“Violet is symbolic to me. It is my fighting color. I feel that I have a niche right now to fight ‘yung machismo ng karamihan ng kandidato,” she said.
Former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay picked blue, the party color of Aksyon Demokratiko, a political party founded by the late Senator Raul Roco, which has coalesced with the LP.
Election lawyer Romulo Macalintal has black and white campaign blazers worn over random-colored shirts, while Magdalo Party-list Rep. Gary Alejano retained his party’s red and white hues.
“Right from the start, hindi naman ito Liberal. Endorsed kami ng LP pero endorsed din naman ng Magdalo ang Otso Diretso so they (LP) should not dominate the colors,” Alejano said.
The coalition has also dropped the LP’s famed “L” hand sign and replaced it with a new gesture: a folded middle finger that meets an outstretched thumb in front of the palm.
Diokno also flashes the the “C” (for Chel) hand sign, while other bets opted for finger hearts or peace signs when taking photos with supporters and ordinary citizens.
THE YELLOW BURDEN
Otso Diretso’s “conscious effort” to distance themselves from being labeled as “dilawan” may be due to the color’s unpopularity online, analysts told ABS-CBN News.
Among the influential figures who have used the term “dilawan” to scorn critics of the ruling administration include President Duterte, the late dictator’s daughter and senatorial candidate Imee Marcos, Cabinet secretaries, and former Communications Assistant Secretary Margaux “Mocha” Uson, who had over a million followers on her social media pages.
“If you’re tagged today as ‘dilawan’, it’s not exactly a badge of honor. It may drag you down,” campaign strategist Gerardo Eusebio told ABS-CBN News.
“It’s a turnaround because before, it was a badge of honor to be associated with the yellow submarine of President Benigno Aquino, as they say. After some political follies, some pundits wittingly or unwittingly transformed the political landscape between ‘dilawan’ and those who support Duterte,” he said.
“People have come to understand dilawan as parang corrupt, inept, inefficient,” he said.
Otso Diretso’s Alejano also points to the spread of fake news about the “dilawans” and moves to make the Marcoses look good as they attempt another national political comeback.
“The ‘dilawans’ have been demonized for the longest time,” he said.
“For me, it was designed to rehabilitate the Marcoses so they have to destroy the ‘dilawan.’ Dahil hindi din nag-contribute sa forming of public opinion ang mga dilawan, nabuo siya. Ang hirap na ngayon tibagin,” he said.
“Ang lahat ng nagkakaroon ng kritisismo at ibang pananaw sa kasalukuyang administrasyon ay nila-lump na dilawan. So, that’s part of propaganda,” he said.
PEOPLE POWER’S ‘FAILURE TO EMPOWER’
The first Aquino government is partly to blame for public dissatisfaction with democracy after EDSA, said City University of Hong Kong political science professor Mark Thompson said, when asked on television last February 25 about the poor turnout at the EDSA Shrine for the 33rd anniversary of People Power.
“It is fair to say that People Power succeeded in peacefully removing a very unpopular dictator. It succeeded in major political reforms beginning with a progressive constitution. It succeeded in restoring an economy that was a meltdown, restored economic growth, but failed in creating strong institutions, pull issues that really get the political system working in an efficient way that seems to be serving the people,” Thompson told ANC’s Early Edition.
“It failed to reduce poverty as fast as it did increase growth, and it failed to empower the people,” he said.
People’s discontent with the 2 “yellow” administrations was clear in the 2016 elections when majority of voters cast a “protest vote” and elected the first Mindanaoan president into power, political analyst Ramon Casiple said.
“I think the 2016 election was a protest vote. It was a realization na wala naman palang kuwenta ‘yung mga pinagsasabi ni PNoy,” he said.
“The record of PNoy, the record of Cory Aquino in the last 30 years, mabigat na burden na dalahin ‘yun,” Casiple said, when asked why candidates were no longer fond of the usually eye-catching color yellow.
Candidates are “better off” disassociating with the color yellow, political analyst Edna Co said.
“Otso Diretso is stripping the label ‘dilaw.’ The [slate’s] shade is colorless. It’s back to the basics, back to the essentials,” Co said, referring to the roster’s black and white advertisements.
“They are better off without President Aquino. That signal was already set in the previous election,” she said, referring to the 2016 presidential elections where Roxas, who was endorsed by Aquino as his successor, lost to Duterte by 6.62 million votes.
‘NOT A BAGGAGE’
But LP president Sen. Francis ‘Kiko’ Pangilinan disagrees that voters have totally rejected the LP, pointing out that a number of their party leaders won in the 2016 general elections.
“It [yellow] is not a baggage in the sense that the people did not reject us in 2016,” Pangilinan said.
“In 2016, our vice president [Leni Robredo] won, 7 of our 12 senators na dilawans won, 115 of our congressmen won. So, if there was a real rejection of our administration, dapat walang naipanalo, dapat yung aming mga senador hindi binoto,” he said.
“Admittedly, there were gaps. Admittedly, we fell short in a number of areas, but in the end you cannot solve all these problems in 6 years,” Otso Diretso’s campaign manager said.
Aquino, he said, would be campaigning for the opposition in “selected areas,” Pangilinan said,without mentioning specific locations, except to say they would focus on “persuadable” cities and provinces.
Aquino publicly endorsed the Otso Diretso candidates during the 33rd anniversary of the EDSA People Power and at a Mass in Caloocan.
“We believe na marami pa ring naniniwala sa ating dating pangulo at makakakumbinsi pa rin siya ng significant segment of the population,” Pangilinan said.
“I don’t see it as a baggage kasi we cannot convince everybody and we cannot make everybody happy,” he said.