‘Ugly’ refers to the politics of Risa H. and her media officers who issued a press statement accusing Satur Ocampo, Liza Maza, and the Makabayan political coalition of having ‘sold-out’ their principles by aligning with Manny Villar in the 2010 elections. Risa also described Makabayan leaders and organizations as members of ‘nondemocratic left’ who are condoning the alleged criminal activities of the New People’s Army.
A few days before Risa published this statement, she called for a moratorium on election mudslinging. It is unfunny that she ignored her own plea by vilifying her colleagues in Congress and fellow senatoriables Ocampo and Maza.
Did Ocampo and Maza betray their principles when they joined the senatorial ticket of Villar as adopted candidates? The emphatic answer is no. Maza and Ocampo remain committed activists and street parliamentarians who vow to advance their advocacies inside and outside Congress. Their inclusion in the Nacionalista slate is indicative of 1) Villar’s recognition of the militant left’s organized strength and his openness to adopt progressive politics if he becomes president; and 2) the sincerity of Ocampo, Maza, and the Makabayan political bloc to pursue the people’s agenda through parliamentary work.
The left has a sterling record in remaining steadfast as vanguard of the poor and oppressed while keeping a tactical alliance with bourgeois parties and politicians. The left supported Gloria Arroyo during Edsa Dos but it became critical of the new administration when Arroyo mutated into a monster. Ocampo and the late great Crispin Beltran were jailed because of their position that Arroyo must be removed from power.
The left did not financially benefit from its brief alliance with Arroyo. It was the NGO friends of Risa who received a billion peso racket from Arroyo through the so-called peace bonds. When Beltran died a poor man in 2008 despite his three-term stint as member of Congress, it gave a valuable lesson for progressives of all stripes on how to live modestly and avoid the corrupting lifestyle of many politicians.
Its exemplary attitude towards Arroyo during and immediately after Edsa Dos and its brave defiance against the Arroyo dictatorship in the past decade are the left’s best assurance that it will not “sell-out” once Villar becomes the country’s next president. Ocampo and Maza can boast of their untarnished reputation as public servants for nine years as proof that they will not abuse their links with Villar for selfish reasons. The Makabayan Coalition can easily make Villar accountable by invoking the people’s agenda document which Villar signed in a public event last December.
But for Risa and other “Liberal Talibans”, the decision of the left to support Villar is unacceptable because of their naïve belief that Noynoy is the only candidate blessed with a pure heart and good intentions. The other lie (naïve and hilarious at the same time) being peddled by the Liberal Party is that Noynoy is unlike Villar who is spending billions of pesos to win in the elections. Ano sa tingin nila ang ipinambabayad ni Noynoy at Mar sa TV at radio networks, campaigners, at local candidates ng partido sa buong bansa – autograph ni Kris at Korina?
Actually it is Risa’s support for Noynoy which smacks of opportunism. Risa initially endorsed Mar for president but when Noynoy announced his candidacy, she immediately raised the hands of Noynoy. She and her group did this even if Noynoy has not yet publicly stated his platform. Remember the assertion of Noynoy supporters who arrogantly reminded the public that based on tradition (as if the only correct behavior is to follow tradition), the period of finalizing and publishing a platform is only after parties and candidates have filed their candidacy papers? Despite his failure to advance or articulate a meaningful social policy issue, the very popular Noynoy was instantly endorsed by Risa.
Villar had to rescind the NP-KBL alliance and boldly included two militant leftists in his senate slate before he got the approval of Makabayan. Villar was endorsed by the left despite his lower public ratings because he proved to be a more sincere candidate with better track record and competence. It would have been easier for the left if it endorsed Noynoy last November or December who at that time was rating 50-60 percentage points in surveys. But our endorsement is not just based on popularity alone.
Did Risa question the inclusion of VATmen in Noynoy’s campaign team? Did Risa clarify the role of Kamag-Anak Inc. in Noynoy’s candidacy? Did she consider the plight of Hacienda Luisita workers and those who were killed in 2004 when she joined Noynoy?
Landlords like Noynoy are thankful for the amended land reform law (CARPER) which Risa supported in Congress. This law was initially being opposed by landlords in Congress but after successfully inserting their amendments last June, even the Arroyo family and other sugar barons voted in favor of this measure. Risa’s sponsorship of the pro-landlord CARPER complements Noynoy’s adamant refusal to treat the Hacienda Luisita matter as a social justice issue. To use Risa’s own words, it surprises me how easily she has sold out.
In fairness to Risa, she is a consistent critic of the militant left. This is the reason why military officials are supporting her. An anti-communist, military-backed partylist solon in Congress (sorry I can’t mention his name, baka sumikat) always enjoins the group of Risa in advocating the elimination of leftist groups from the political mainstream. Why? Because the military and Risa are mouthing the same demands against members of the legal left – that the latter should also condemn the alleged atrocities committed by the NPA; that by refusing to condemn revolutionary taxation, Ocampo, Maza and other activists are affirming their links with the NPA. Through the press statement mentioned above, Risa legitimized the “murderous lines” echoed by Jovito Palparan.
Risa, who claims to be a leftist, should know better that the group she is attacking is not a terrorist organization. The Communist Party is a revolutionary group which espouses the establishment of a new political order through revolutionary means. If she thinks that the Communist Party is a mere terrorist cell which exists to extort money from businessmen and politicians, then why did she agree to become a member of the GRP-NDF peace panel representing the Arroyo government in 2001?
As a student of politics and history, I am aware that most revolutionary groups employ various means, including use of arms, to overthrow the established order. Let us agree that there are now peaceful means to advocate change. But we can’t blame other segments of the population if they continue to think that the reign of injustice and numbing poverty in the country can only end through revolutionary violence. Even the UN recognizes the right of the people to take up arms if they think the elected government has made it impossible for the people to demand change through peaceful means.
By parroting the Palparan doctrine that NPA members are mere murderers and extortionists, isn’t Risa providing ideological justification for the continued postponement of the stalled peace talks? Isn’t this moral-booster line giving the military another reason to step up the all-out war tactic in the countryside instead of addressing the root causes of armed struggle? As leftists, isn’t it more correct and progressive to advocate peace talks and tackle the reasons why many Filipinos continue to take up arms instead of prodding activists to denounce the CPP-NPA? That the insurgency has lasted for more than four decades (the longest insurgency in Southeast Asia) means it is more than just a band of gun toting crazies who love to sread mayhem in the country.
Risa’s insinuations against Maza, Ocampo, and Makabayan members are dangerous because the military can use them to butrress its red-baiting campaign against activists in the legal arena. At least the NPA can defend themselves during military operations but unarmed activists are helpless against illegal combat and psy-war operations. Politicians like Risa, Palparan, and Arroyo who continue to link the legal left with the underground left is the reason why activists continue to be harassed, abducted, tortured, and killed in this part of the world.
Risa’s press statement is not just a demolition job aimed at Ocampo, Maza and Villar. It is part of a systematic campaign to defeat and isolate the left. From day one of campaigning, the military has been very aggressive in its illegal campaign to sabotage the candidacies of Ocampo, Maza, and Makabayan partylist groups. It sends poison letters and death threats to Makabayan candidates, leaders, supporters, and now politicians who endorse the left. Military officers conduct illegal assemblies in communities and schools to warn residents and students against voting Satur, Maza, and Makabayan candidates. Soldiers and their supporters are actively defacing the campaign posters of the left. Palparan is given substantial media time to spread lies in public. The Liberal Party spokesman questions the inclusion of communists in the Villar senate lineup. It is unfortunate that the communist bogey is being used againto get the support of the US imperialist masters.
The post-election scenario is very scary for activists and leftists.
A few years ago, Akbayan stalwarts denounced their inclusion in the so-called NPA hitlist. It turned out that the hitlist was fictitious and the Akbayan leaders who feared for their lives are still very much alive today. They raised a lot of noise in global NGO summits presenting themselves as victims of a totalitarian ideology. What was tragicomic from that affair was that the groups and activists whom Akbayan accused of having ideological and organizational links with NPA were the ones who got abducted and killed by elements close to the military.
Akbayan didn’t kill my comrades and I’m sure it has many members who sympathize with our cause but by spewing out the same malicious accusations hurled by the military against militant activists, (again to use the words of Risa) it “indirectly helps human rights violators like Palparan to commit further abuses.”
Will there be another crackdown against the ‘nondemocratic left’? The signs are evident that the anti-communist bloc will pressure the next president to intensify the war against “communist terrorists” and their “legal fronts.” Wittingly or unwittingly, Risa and her party are being used to whip up insane anti-red hysteria in the country.
Is Risa a leftist? Palparan claims he is a human rights defender; he is even a member of the House Committee on Human Rights. Is Risa a democratic leftist? Palparan is a protector of democracy. What binds Palparan, the democracy-loving general and Risa, the democratic leftist is their shared hatred against the politics of Maza, Ocampo, and Makabayan.
But is she a leftist? Her statements on land reform, living wage, debt moratorium, human rights have been described in the media as progressive. Often, she is mistaken to be a member of Anakbayan or Gabriela. Maybe her statement against the ‘nondemocratic left’ is an attempt to publicly dissociate herself from the ranks of the militant left. Fine. I’ll return the favor by paraphrasing Fredric Jameson: “We have much in common with Risa and her party, in fact virtually everything – save the essentials.”
Long live the revolutionary tradition of the left!