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.

As legislator, Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño authored 110 measures, 7 of which were enacted into national laws. He became the fourth most prolific legislator of the 15th Congress without bombarding the records with filler bills and resolutions. His advocacies include, among others, human rights, environment protection, and promotion of Filipino industries.

As activist legislator, he has consistently championed the cause of the poor inside the Batasang Pambansa and in the Parliament of the Streets. For his steadfastness in unmasking the evil core of the system, he faced rebellion charges during the Arroyo administration. The intense hatred that reactionaries harbor against activist legislators was recently manifested when Noynoy Aquino singled out Casiño as a leftist senatorial candidate who is not doing well in the surveys.

Casiño is among the poorest legislators despite his three terms in the House of Millionaires. This fact alone should convince the cynics that moneymaking is not the motive of activists when they participated in the parliamentary elections. Actually, Casiño’s obscene lack of tangible possessions should no longer surprise us since he was merely continuing the tradition established by leftist legislators Crispin Beltran, Satur Ocampo, and Liza Maza who all remained poor despite completing three terms in Congress.

Before joining Bayan Muna, Teddy was Secretary General of multisectoral alliance Bayan. He once chaired the College Editors Guild, the oldest existing student group in the country. He was a columnist of Business World and briefly hosted the Hoy Gising TV news program. He served as People Power commissioner from 2001 to 2003. At a young age of 34, he was already recognized by the University of the Philippines as an outstanding alumnus for extension.

Unknown to many people, Teddy worked as writer of the Kilusang Mayo Uno labor center in the 1990s. Critics of Casiño often remind him of his middle class upbringing (he studied in La Salle Greenhills) to question his activist orientation yet conveniently ignore the singular importance of Casiño’s apprenticeship in the militant KMU.

After college in 1993, Casino could have chosen a lucrative career in the mainstream but he transcended the conservatism of his class and persevered as a full time activist. He aligned himself with the most radical labor group in the country which was at that time waging a fierce ideological battle against trade union reformism. He rejected the popular new age activism which some of his contemporaries embraced in order to become a propagandist of workers.

Today’s student activists must learn from Teddy’s example and immerse themselves in the daily struggles of the working class.

Casiño is known as a leftist leader who gained national prominence during Edsa Dos and later on became a combative critic of the Arroyo and Aquino administrations. But Casiño is also a remarkable representative of a generation whose formative years were influenced by the repressive martial law regime on one hand, and the anti-dictatorship struggle on the other. Casiño’s political record embodied the revolutionary idealism which People Power unleashed in those years.

But what separated Casiño and the activists of his generation from other self-proclaimed anti-Marcos warriors is their refusal to accept the reactionary argument that political radicalism has ceased to become relevant after 1986. More than that, they struggled hard to keep alive the idea that activism, resistance, and collective mass struggles are needed to build a better world. The dogged determination of activists to fight for the national democratic alternative is proof that they are not nattering negativists but fervent optimists. Besides, isn’t dissent an essential requirement for genuine democracy to function?

Casiño’s consistent bias for the poor as a militant activist must be contrasted against the vacillation of former progressives who now belittle and even ridicule the fighting enthusiasm of the mass movement; and the hypocrisy of Marcos benefactors who have rebranded themselves as champions of the oppressed. To dismiss Casiño as a traditional and even epal politician is an ignorant and unfair appraisal of his progressive platform of governance, his leftist politics, and his clean political record.

Casiño’s radicalism has often placed him in an ambivalent relationship not just with old porkers and born again reactionaries, but also, unfortunately, with self-styled reformists who disdain a radical critique of everything in favor of vulgar reformism, compromise, conformism, and even uncritical collaboration. They want Casiño to dilute his politics and make it more palatable to public opinion forgetting that the creation of new truths and the shaping of public consciousness are basic functions of politics.

Casiño’s political activism should be his natural advantage over other instant patriots in the senate race. His brand of politics should be his precious resource to challenge the dominance of money politics during elections.

What Casiño offers is politics that seeks to dismantle the brutal hegemony of landlords, compradors, and imperialists and replace it with a democracy that represents the interest of the oppressed majority. A dose of radicalism is what the country needs today to reverse the nefarious impact of elite rule in the past century. Casiño’s entry into the senate would give tremendous boost to the popularization of radical politics, and more importantly, inspire the grassroots to aim for bigger and more daring political victories in the future.

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One Response to “Teddy’s Time”

  1. […] who fought in Edsa and continued to struggle for a better and new Philippines. (Read more about Teddy in my previous blog […]

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