Mong Palatino

blogging about the philippine left and southeast asian politics since 2004


@mongster is a manila-based activist, former philippine legislator, and blogger/analyst of asia-pacific affairs.

What are the ‘facts’ of the online tussle between Rep. Walden Bello and Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casino? Bello delivered a privilege speech in the Lower House criticizing the expanded Conditional Cash Transfer Program of President Noynoy Aquino. A few days later, he sponsored a resolution praising the CCT as an innovative poverty containment program. Then, he used his Inquirer column to explain why he changed his mind about the CCT. He also attacked Bayan Muna for opposing Aquino’s CCT and even accused the militant left of forming an ‘evil’ alliance with Gloria Arroyo. Casino, for his part, wrote a comprehensive critique of the CCT which exposed the opportunistic stance of Bello and his party.

Bello said he withdrew his opposition to the CCT because the ‘facts’ have changed. He clarified that his initial negative impression of the program was based on a “reflex suspicion of it as still another ill-conceived World Bank-supported scheme.”

With this reasoning, Bello admitted that he is ready to issue statements and speeches based merely on knee-jerk impulses. Bello, the respected leftist intellectual, could be suffering already from a trapo syndrome: Deliver a speech today, but study the facts later.

By claiming that his delayed epiphany was brought about by a careful examination of the CCT facts, he arrogantly accuses the consistent critics of the CCT of dogmatically opposing the program. It may be his habit to rant without investigating but he should not assume that those who reject the CCT are also like him.

But what is most ridiculous with Bello’s excuse is that, in truth, the FACTS have not changed at all. The CCT of the Arroyo era is the same CCT today. The primary objectives and basic features of the CCT of the Arroyo and Aquino administrations are similar. (But Aquino’s CCT could be worse because its financing is to be sourced through foreign loans.) By praising the small wonders of CCT, Bello is also praising Arroyo who introduced it in the country three years ago.

Then and now, the CCT involves the distribution of cash to poor families under certain conditionalities. Through this intervention, the state hopes that the curse of poverty would magically go away. These are the basic facts of the CCT. Nothing has changed. It is Bello’s opinion that changed. He claims he is merely a stickler for facts but we say that his sudden turnaround smacks of political opportunism.

Bello is also guilty of spreading malicious information about the position of the militant left on certain political issues. He accused the left of signing an anti-CCT manifesto prepared by the Arroyo camp. Wrong. It is the progressive block which drafted the manifesto signed by more than 30 legislators.

And Bello reveals his naïve perception of political reality as he continues to insist that Arroyo’s signature in the anti-CCT petition is proof of the supposed alliance between the Arroyo faction of the ruling elite and the militant left. If we follow his logic, then we can say that Bello and company are aligning themselves with Imelda Marcos who supports the CCT as a lifeline to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Imelda is the chairperson of the Special MDG Committee in the Lower House.

Bello’s obsession with the ‘unholy alliance’ thesis led him to condemn once more the left’s rejection of the CARPER or the amended land reform law which Bello interprets as the left’s betrayal of its pro-peasant bias. On the charge that we voted against CARPER, we plead guilty. Why would we support a flawed land reform law? On the charge that we slept with the sugar barons, we deny it. Vehemently, we deny it. It is Bello and his party which should explain why the landlords voted in favor of CARPER last year. (Check the voting records). Even the four Arroyos and other hacienderos in Negros became CARPER supporters after successfully inserting their amendments in the plenary debates.

It is evident that the CCT facts have not changed and the ‘unholy alliance’ Bello was alluding to exists only in his wild imagination. So why did he twist the facts and why spew out more than the usual dosage of anti-left poison in the cyberspace? I think it is more than just a personal commitment to defend Noynoy and the government’s centerpiece poverty reduction program. I think it has more to do with defending his integrity as a leftist intellectual.

Bello committed the nakakahiyang blunder of publicly criticizing the CCT only to retract his words after a few days. This is unprecedented and unbelievable even for the gutter standards of the Lower House. Bello’s sudden turnaround has exposed him to the global community as a sham progressive no different from the unprincipled crooks in Congress. And perhaps to divert attention away from his colossal blunder, he had to invent lies and resort to a tired reactionary tactic of invoking the specter of totalitarianism. It is interesting to note that Bello warned against self-styled ‘professional revolutionaries’ whom the philosopher Sartre, after visiting Cuba in the 1950s, concluded as the true individuals who can’t stand injustice.

It is time to reconsider Bello’s reputation as a committed intellectual of the left. Here is an academic who buttresses his arguments with ad hominem attacks (he called Casino a spoiled middle class intellectual). Here is an anti-globalization activist who voted in favor of the national budget which is sustained by the prescription of globalization in the form of neoliberal policies such as reducing state spending on social services while increasing the allotment for debt. Here is an avowed veteran socialist whose shallow analysis of the CCT makes him an ideal cheerleader of another deceptive World Bank-initiated program. Bello, it seems, is already an aging conservative in the guise of a progressive leftist.

Bello’s unfair remarks against the militant left also remind us of the fundamental difference between his group and ours. Bello does not only eschew the need for radical politics, he is content with being part of the ‘reigning reform coalition’ (whatever that means) headed by a super landlord. In short, the supposedly radical Bello prefers to be an apologist of the new administration.

The left does not hide its initial assessment about the Aquino presidency. There is really nothing unique with our observation that Aquino is essentially no different from his predecessor as other mainstream commentators have already pointed out. Is Aquino a tool of US imperialism? Yes he is! Bello plays blind to the true political color of his patron since he and his party are pitifully clinging to the bureaucratic state machine.

Is the militant left averse to fight for small reforms? The left has been fighting for so long and it has achieved small and big victories in the political battlefield. If the left ridicules token reforms, it is because it needs to remind the people that big, thorough-going reforms in society are needed and already possible to achieve.

And if the left continues to validate the necessity of a revolution, it is merely due to the recognition of the sad state of affairs in the country today. As Terry Eagleton explains, “Revolutions were not made in the name of a utopian future, but because of the deficiencies of the present.”

So if Bayan Muna opposes the CCT and urges the poor to fight for their dignity instead of accepting dole-outs, its aim is not to bring the poor to the ‘proletarian nirvana’ but to make them aware that there are better and more effective ways for the state to eliminate poverty in the community.

Bello is getting old but that is no excuse for him to dilute the radical content of leftist politics. Being a senior citizen does not always mean compromising one’s principles and abandoning the imperative to fight, fight, and fight for our rights. Thankfully, there are other senior citizen activists like those from the FQS generation which continues to inspire the youth about how to best serve the masses and not the puppet masters.

*Based from a quotation attributed to William Allen White: “The facts fairly and honestly presented; truth will take care of itself.”

**Aside from Casino’s article about the CCT, I also recommend Carol Araullo’s critique of the program.

Related articles:

Misunderestimating the Philippine Left
Ugly Leftist
Senior Citizen Activists
Noynoy and impossible reformism

2 Responses to “Truth will take care of itself*”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by mong palatino, politicwhore. politicwhore said: Truth will take care of itself*: What are the ‘facts’ of the online tussle between Rep. Walden Bello a… #politics […]

    Tweets that mention Mong Palatino » Blog Archive » Truth will take care of itself* --

  2. […] nagbabalik si Mong Palatino sa hilig niya sa kasaysayan. Bago nito, may maganda siyang tuligsa kay Walden Bello sa isyu ng programang conditional cash transfer ng rehimeng Aquino. May bago nang blog si Jonna […]

    Malay ng Musmos « Kapirasong Kritika

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