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A bold electoral initiative

In an Inquirer opinion piece on Aug. 7, 2015, I urged the Philippine Left to field a presidential candidate in the 2016 elections. Generations of nonstop rule by self-serving oligarchic politicians and rapacious corporate concerns adhering to neoliberal recipes have only intensified the people’s misery. Every election year, voters are patronizingly permitted to choose who among the crop of traditional elite politicians would continue to prolong their agony and torment.

As to who could meaningfully address this desolate state, I pointed to the Philippine Left as “the only political group with a sharp and solid analysis of the country’s ills,… a thoroughgoing vision for a new and alternative society” and “an unshakable bias for the poor, the marginalized and oppressed.”

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The Left’s electoral participation, however, had until then been restricted to local and mid-national politics and, at times, tactical alliances with oligarchic parties. In the process, Left groups dilute their core principles and “sanitize” their message to accommodate local issues or their bourgeois allies. Filipino voters are thus deprived of a Left alternative to what liberals tediously offer.

This low-intensity electoral practice had to cease, and it was long overdue for the Left to challenge Philippine politics at the highest possible levels. The 2016 elections would have been the timely opportunity for a maiden Left presidential run.

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Left movements, however, persisted with their traditional tactic of simply going for minimalist electoral posts. The people’s disenchantment with the failure of the liberal development model to provide them with a decent way of life was thus channeled to the only presidential candidate in 2016 that ostensibly rejected the past while dangling a juvenile gutter-level formula for change.

The Philippine Left’s demure approach in elections may finally come to a welcome close in 2022. In a bold initiative, the socialist coalition Laban ng Masa (People’s Fight, LnM) announced on June 21 a signature campaign for its chair, Dr. Walden Bello, in a bid for the presidency in next year’s elections. Earlier, on March 31, LnM released a comprehensive 25-point platform for the 2022 elections. This elicited favorable Inquirer opinion pieces from Rasti Delizo on May 12 and Segundo Romero on June 18.

The LnM electoral proposals include free and universal health care and education, a wealth tax on the richest Filipinos, cancellation of debt repayments to fund COVID-19 responses, the disbandment of conglomerates, workers’ control via worker/employee majority seats in corporate boards, a P1,500 daily minimum wage, ending fossil fuel use, prosecution of current and past officials for crimes against humanity and corruption, repeal of the Anti-Terrorism Act, and an independent and internationalist foreign policy built on a commons-based management of disputed natural resources.

To detractors of LnM’s audacious move, presumptive presidential candidate Walden Bello retorts: “The problem goes beyond Duterte and his gang of clowns and killers. That COVID-19’s main victims are the poor is not surprising, for the Philippines is a ruthless society that creates wealth for a very few at the expense of the many. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that the 21st century has no room for this cruel system.”

A serious and earnest opposition fights for systemic and radical change, not just

inchmeal reforms. The struggle requires confronting the challenges of a country and a planet reeling under recurring health crises, a climate Armageddon, pestilent inequalities from a broken capitalist system, and the rise of farcical despots.

Inspired by LnM’s drive, Sri Lankan scholar Sumanasiri Liyanage called on his countrymates to “Learn from the Philippines! Name a Left candidate representing the working people in Sri Lanka for the next presidential election.”

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The 2022 presidential electoral contest has finally been rendered meaningful and transformative with the entry of a Left alternative. Will other Left formations close ranks behind this initiative or continue to loiter helplessly among the margins of Philippine electoral politics?

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Eduardo C. Tadem, Ph.D., is a retired professor of Asian Studies, University of the Philippines Diliman, former president of the Freedom from Debt Coalition, and a member of Laban ng Masa.

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TAGS: candidate, Elections, electorial, Left
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