The Left’s failed political bid
For the third consecutive time, the leftist organizations in the Philippines failed in their effort to have one of their own elected to the Senate and be able to claim a national mandate.
In 2010, the Left fielded then Representatives Satur Ocampo and Liza Maza of the party-list groups Bayan Muna and Gabriela, respectively, in the senatorial race, under the ticket of presidential candidate Manuel Villar’s Nacionalista Party. Their candidacies got a lot of flak because they shared the campaign platform with Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son and namesake of the dictator against whom they fought bitterly during the martial law years.
Although Maza and Ocampo had drawn considerable public attention for their active participation in deliberations at the House of Representatives and in street demonstrations, they did not make it. They took the 25th and 26th places, respectively, in the Senate race; Marcos, on the other hand, got the seventh highest number of votes.
Three years later, Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casiño ran for senator under the banner of Makabayang Koalisyon ng Mamamayan, and wound up 22nd in the winning list.
In the May 9 elections, the Left aligned itself with Sen. Grace Poe’s Partido Galing at Puso and put Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares in its senatorial slate.
It was, on its face, a marriage of convenience. There was no way the Left would tie up with the administration’s Liberal Party given its strong opposition to President Aquino’s economic and social policies. Neither was it politically sensible for it to make common cause with the United Nationalist Alliance of Vice President Jejomar Binay, hobbled as he is by accusations of graft and corruption.
Joining the ticket of Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, who had Marcos as vice presidential candidate, was out of the question because, first, her presidential candidacy was a fluke, and, second, it would reprise the 2010 polls and history may repeat itself.
At the time the Left opted to ally with Poe, Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte had not yet made up his mind on running for the presidency.
The alliance with Poe was forged despite questions over her giving up Filipino citizenship in favor of being a citizen of the United States (the Left’s favorite reason for street protests) and then reclaiming Filipino citizenship when she was appointed by President Aquino to a government office.
Too bad, Poe’s popularity did not spill over to Colmenares. In spite of Colmenares’ high visibility, he was only good for the 20th slot of the senatorial list. An also-ran leftist, former Akbayan representative Walden Bello, was in 36th place.
To compound the Left’s woes, Bayan Muna and Gabriela were a shadow of their old selves in the party-list elections. Unlike in past elections when they were perennial topnotchers, Gabriela was in second place and Bayan Muna in the 15th slot.
So what went wrong with the Left’s political strategy?
After their two failed attempts to secure national recognition through the ballot, it would be reasonable to expect the leftist organizations to have learned their lessons and made the proper adjustments in their action plans.
Their social ideology and program of government are attuned to the problems (and aspirations) of the least privileged members of our society who constitute a supermajority of the voting population.
The combined votes of the D and E sectors of our society would have been more than enough to elect one of the Left’s own to the Senate, or ensure that its party-list groups would garner the number of votes needed to entitle them to three representatives each in the House.
Sadly, the Left has been unable to attract the votes of millions of Filipinos whose causes they have vigorously fought for in Congress and for whom they’ve borne the perils of street demonstrations, including the truncheons and water cannons of antiriot policemen.
The apparent disconnect between the Left and the “unwashed” is difficult to explain considering that the media have been generous (sometimes to a fault) in giving leftist organizations public exposure for their activities.
They get into front-page or prime-time news for their comments on the issues of the day even without the benefit of PR agencies. Politicians will gladly give an arm and a leg to get a piece of the attention that the media routinely give them.
Besides, they have the ability and resources to engage in grassroots campaigns to make their constituency aware of their existence and the causes that they espouse.
It’s a puzzler, therefore, that, for all these years, the Left has failed or been unable to gain the national following it craves.
If the Left wants to be a political force to reckon with in our country, it has to make major adjustments in its strategy and program of action. Otherwise, it will be viewed and treated as a mere political gadfly: all bark, no bite.
Raul J. Palabrica ([email protected]) writes a weekly column in the Business section of the Inquirer.
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