MANILA — Presumptive president Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. should release detained Sen. Leila de Lima and political prisoners to show he could bring unity to the country, his key campaign promise, a political analyst said Wednesday.
"Release of De Lima and several high-profile political prisoners—for nothing else but humanitarian considerations… that would be the grand gesture the country needs to be able to at least make them at least stop [and think maybe] he means real unity," said Antonio "Tony" La Viña, a lawyer and former dean of the Ateneo School of Government.
"I think he will be a better man in this respect and he will not go against grudges. His people could be different, and that's why I would urge him that make sure his people do not do that," he told ANC's Headstart.
A fierce critic of President Rodrigo Duterte, De Lima has been locked up in Camp Crame since February 2017 over what she calls politically motivated charges of narcotics trafficking. Two witnesses recently recanted their testimony against her.
De Lima belongs to the Liberal Party, whose history is tied with a political clique that helped oust the presumptive president's father and namesake, the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr.
Vowing to unify the country, Marcos Jr. has made sweeping promises to boost jobs and tackle rising prices as part of a pathway out of the pandemic.
"Unity is my cause because of my firm belief that unity is the first step towards getting out of this crisis we are now in," he said, kicking off his campaign in February.
Marcos Jr was at boarding school in Britain in 1972 when his father declared martial law, unleashing large-scale corruption and a crackdown on dissent.
He has defended his father's rule by citing the initial surge of economic growth and government spending under martial law, which he said was necessary to save the country from communist and Muslim insurgencies.
Marcos Jr. must guarantee that rights would be protected under his government, said La Viña.
"(He) doesn't have to admit what the father has done… That’s up to him, but moving forward, assuring people their human rights, toppling the war on drugs... I hope he will really reverse that and stop that," he said.
"Red-tagging should be stopped if he wants to show unity is possible. Peace process with the communists should be resumed if he wants to do unity. He should appoint people from different sectors of society, from the poor, the workers," continued the analyst.
La Viña also urged critics to give Marcos a chance before resisting if they don't find his leadership to their liking.
"We work with what we have. Many young people are worried now, they’re only in their mid-20s... We can resist if you don’t like what you see. There are many ways to resist," he said.
"I will give Mr. Marcos a chance to bring us unity. But if he doesn't do that, then resistance is the mode. Resistance means you have to provide alternatives."
SENATE IN A MARCOS PRESIDENCY
Meanwhile, incoming senators face a question of competence, La Viña said.
The presumptive new set of lawmakers includes action star Robin Padilla, broadcaster Raffy Tulfo, siblings JV Ejercito and Jinggoy Estrada, and several reelectionists and former senators.
"I don’t think it’s more about independence… [it is a] question of competence. Can they legislate the right set of laws, deliberate properly on treaties? We have to see," La Viña said.
"They haven't even sat down, so that’s not really fair to them. The only judgment we can make is that being a celebrity can make you win. I’m willing to look at what Sen. Tulfo and Sen. Padilla will do in the Senate," he continued.
Visit the ABS-CBN News Halalan results page to see the partial, unofficial tally of election returns.
— With reports from Gillan Ropero, ABS-CBN News; Agence France-Presse