November 05, 2009

The measure of victory

Not a few opinion writers have speculated and even attempted to pass of as profound and factual analysis some fantastic pieces of fiction writing about what the mainstream Left is thinking or doing in light of the twists and turns of events leading to the 2010 elections. One thing they are agreed on, the forces identified with such progressive party lists as Bayan Muna, Gabriela Women’s Party, Anakpawis, Kabataan and several new ones now coalesced under the Makabayan banner are joining the electoral fray in a big way and, like it or not, are a force to reckon with.

If anything, the emergence of the Left as a distinct and formidable force in the electoral arena since 2001, when they successfully elected three party list representatives to Congress, is bound to challenge the candidates for national office to raise the level of the campaign to a clash of platforms, issues and track records, rather than a contest of personalities, resources, lineages and backers.

The participation of the Left in national elections may force the candidates, including and especially the opposition, to put their mouths where their hearts (or pocketbooks) really lie; i.e. to declare and elaborate what kind of change they truly stand for, explain why they are to be believed and how they can deliver on their promises. The Left will hope to turn the elections from another periodic political circus into a nation-wide educational campaign to raise the people’s political awareness about what needs to change and how.

The traditional, elite-dominated elections has hitherto been all about "sino ang ipapalit" rather than “ano ang ipapalit”. One popular notion that persists is that what matters most in a candidate is his or her “character” because no matter one’s stand on the issues, the character will determine the elected public official’s performance. This flies in the face of the reality that even the most saintly of presidents must come to terms with a political system that runs on patronage, political debt, and powerful vested interests geared to maintaining an iniquitous social system.

Certainly, the depth and breadth of the social, political and economic crisis that has descended on this nation is inescapable. All the presidential contenders, except perhaps for administration candidate Teodoro who is forced to defend the Arroyo regime’s odious nine-year record, must profess to be for change. Yet several weeks after most if not all of them have announced their candidacy and started campaigning, a clear and comprehensive elaboration of what change it is that they stand for is still nowhere to be seen.

So far, it has only been Chiz Escudero who has started to present a categorical stand on such issues as contractualization, oil deregulation, the traditional party system and a candidate’s independence as well as the prosecution of Mrs. Arroyo and cohorts for plunder and other crimes against the people. But his recent break from the National People’s Coalition, his long-standing political party, could seriously hamper his candidacy unless he acquires or can quickly build an alternative machinery to carry out a viable campaign.

On the whole, what the public has been treated to so far is the worn out and nauseating appeal to emotions, personality hype and, inevitably and invariably, attacks on the personalities of opponents rather than an engagement on platforms and issues. Should the political discourse remain on this subterranean level, our people can expect little by way of meaningful change to emerge from this so-called democratic exercise -- no matter who wins.

Of all the Presidential contenders, it is Noynoy and his camp who deliberately rides the wave of popularity and mystique and parries attempts by his rivals to engage him in a more cerebral contest. Noynoy ignored Teodoro's challenge to a debate; his rah-rah boys' reply to Villar's reference to Noynoy's lackluster record is that what matters in this elections is not one's track record of achievements, but one's spotless record of no wrongdoings. It is reminiscent of the long-ago "No-talk-no-mistake" campaign strategy of Genaro "Gene" Magsaysay, who likewise aspired, unsuccessfully, for high office by banking on his famous brother's genes. Noynoy's recently released star-studded television ad ironically gives us a preview of what a Noynoy presidency could be -- glossy and promising on the surface, but utterly lacking in substance.

In contrast, Villar's and Teodoro's ads so far project them as achievers par exellence, with Villar highlighting his plebeian origins and his purportedly pro-poor, pro-people investments. But neither one has confronted, much less proposed, comprehensive solutions to the real issues of systemic and widespread poverty especially in the countryside, foreign domination of a weak and backward economy, and a bureaucracy of crooks and plunderers from the ruling classes that bleed the national coffers and the people's meager earnings dry.

The Left for its part will certainly endeavor to raise the level of the campaign because it will articulate its own vision and program for change -- “tunay na pagbabago”. It is real and substantive, not false or cosmetic, because it is concrete, consistent, extensive and far-reaching. To wit: uphold national independence against the dominance and dictates of the imperialist powers headed by the US; realize democracy through the empowerment of the working people and respect for human rights; develop the economy through national industrialization and land reform; promote a national, scientific and mass culture; protect the environment from imperialist plunder and destruction; and pursue an independent foreign policy for world peace and development.

It is not a farfetched possibility that the Left could deliver the swing vote. In the 2007 elections, the opposition senatorial candidates were able to preserve their lead in no small way through the Left's nationwide machinery manned by dedicated volunteer poll and canvass watchers. Whoever wishes to gain the support or endorsement of the Left now cannot avoid taking a clear stand on, if not making a firm commitment to, the progressive and patriotic principles and measures in the Left's platform.

Any serious student or observer of Philippine politics would see that by bringing to the public’s awareness the urgent and basic issues confronting our people and rejecting the crass, self-serving and personality-oriented electoral campaigns currently being conducted, the Left and the Filipino people as a whole stand to gain no matter who wins or loses.

Only the narrow-minded mental contortionists would stretch and strain to try to explain the Left's conduct and intent with the pre-conceived notion or conclusion that the Left could not possibly do anything right and walk away victorious from this forthcoming electoral exercise.

The Left cannot be faced with any dilemma in dealing with the vicissitudes of any and all of the candidates' fortunes. Its emergence as a significant force that cannot be ignored in the national electoral arena at this time constitutes incontrovertible proof of that.

The Left's final measure of success in these elections is by how much more adherents would have been added to the goal of freedom, genuine democracy and social justice – the change we need and truly deserve. #


At Friday, 06 November, 2009 , Anonymous PJ said...

Chiz is done and over with in his 2010 presidential illusion errr dream. I just don't understand why there is so much "praise" on his resignation from his party as if it was a brilliant political move when it was just a gimmick in vowing out of the race......

At Friday, 06 November, 2009 , Anonymous Few Thoughts said...

" In contrast, Villar's and Teodoro's ads so far project them as achievers par exellence, with Villar highlighting his plebeian origins and his purportedly pro-poor, pro-people investments..."

And they are using all that to deliberately mock and demean the Filipino people.

Context matters. Better an ad that appealed to the good instincts and aspirations of our fellowmen, than those which malign them and are bent on keeping them in this current rut : " Ako ang magaling, ako ang me alam, ako ang galing sa mahirap at nakapag-aral, ako lang ang makakapag-dikta sa inyo..." A.k.a., the equivalent of a nasty middle finger.

Maybe Filipinos just want leaders who are not all about spitting on them, for a change. They need a clean break from all that stuff.

Not that these leaders shouldn't have to say anything substantive; they should. But sometimes the message goes beyond a few select phrases, and should be a lot more encompassing. Same goes with 'platform'. The key word here is intent.

< I mean, if it's all about saying the right words, and picking the correct political language, isn't that traditional politics, too ? Wasn't that the same tact Gloria Arroyo used to stifle the voter's intuitions with during the 2004 Presidential elections ? >

Otherwise, it's true. It is an absolute tragedy that the Left side of the political spectrum have been hard-pressed leaving a dent in the ruling politics for so damn long, in a country so incredibly Rightist. The 2010 elections must definitively change that.


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