There’s the Rub

Left behind

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It was Teddy Casiño’s misfortune that at about the same time he visited the Inquirer where he was the guest senatorial candidate that night, the NPA ambushed Ruth Guingona’s convoy. The NPA has apologized to the Guingonas, but that of course hasn’t made it any better, at least not immediately. The Guingonas did lose the lives of two of their men.

It was a misfortune for Casiño because however he makes the distinction between leftist and communist, activist and NPA, advocate of parliamentary struggle and participant in armed rebellion, he continues to be seen as both. Either the public doesn’t see the distinction or it ignores it, presuming that one can always be both, the one doesn’t preclude the other. Right-wing groups will certainly continue to press the idea that leftists join politics only so that they could use their pork barrel to fund the NPA. It will take a long time before those distinctions take root in these parts. Philippine politics is about as sophisticated as Philippine Catholicism. Pushing ideological differences in our elections is about as easy as pushing divorce in our society.

Which is a misfortune not just for Casiño but for all of us.

I myself want Casiño to win a seat in the Senate and am plugging for him all the way notwithstanding what the surveys say. Then and now I’ve said the vote is the one power we hold in our hands. It is not fate or surveys that make candidates win, it is us. We vote for someone, he wins; we do not, he loses. I will vote for Casiño in the same way that I will vote for Jun Magsaysay and Risa Hontiveros whatever the surveys say. They are principled people, they are decent people.

In Casiño’s case, I like it that there’s a dissenting voice that’s not coming from the usual suspects. I like it that there’s a critical voice that’s not coming from the Arroyo camp. Casiño has been a perfectly reasonable and intelligent congressman, representing Bayan Muna, over the past several years.

If Gloria is gone from our lives today, psychologically and not just physically, ideologically and not just politically, it is no small thanks to him and the camp he represents. They were some of the strongest and steadfast protesters to her despotic rule, which was why she unleashed a murderous pogrom against them in the name of fighting communism. Which led to the deaths of more than 700 people, many of them youth, many of them leftists rather than communists, activists rather than NPA, advocates of change rather than bearers of arms. Like Jonas Burgos. Like Teddy Casiño.

Casiño himself says he’s critical of P-Noy not on personal grounds but on grounds of principle. Not as a rule, but with particular policies. I believe him, I applaud him for it. I share some of his views in that respect. I don’t believe adding two more years of school will solve the problem of education or unemployment (those are two different things) either. I believe the budget department should give back the P16 billion it took from the state colleges (to give to departments like the DSWD), too. I believe it’s time to push divorce, too.

On the other hand, I do not believe with him that we should try to regain Sabah, it is not ours to regain. I do not believe with him that we should discontinue public-private partnership: I do not believe government should try to do everything any more than I believe, with the US Republicans, that the government should try to do nothing.

But that can be talked about, discussed, debated. You have a Casiño in the Senate, it will be.

But more than this, I want Casiño to win a seat in the Senate because of its larger implications for our political growth. With our candidates being as different from one another as Jollibee and McDonald’s, hell, with our political parties clashing with each other only on the basis that the one is in power while the rest are not—only Kapatiran stands for something—I’d like to see a candidate that’s resolutely ideological. That’s really where ideology should reside, in the mainstream parties, not in the party-list ones.

In case you think that leftists and politics—or at least politics in a democracy, full-fledged or pwede na rin—are oil and water, think again. The one country that leaped out of the emergency room, turning from terminal to robust, eradicating poverty by half in less than a decade, is Brazil, the fifth largest country in the world next to the United States. It owes it to a leftist politician. It owes to a leftist president. A leftist and not a communist, an activist and not an insurgent, an advocate of sweeping change and not an undertaker of revolutionary tax. Who, of course, is Luis Ignacio Da Silva, better known as Lula.

Not quite incidentally, government has been trying to copy his very socialistic campaign against poverty with the CCT, without understanding that a conditional cash transfer cannot work without being accompanied by a whole set of programs that surround it, complement it, and augment it. Indeed, without understanding that you cannot eliminate poverty simply by making it just one of the items in your agenda. It has to be at the top of it. It was in Lula’s.

We need people like that, we need voices like that. If not at the top of the political totem pole at once, at least somewhere there, at least in time. Senator is as good a position as they come today. Teddy Casiño is as good a prospect as they come today. We leave out leftists just because they’re leftists, it’s not just the Left that will be left behind.

We all will.

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