News / May 6, 2013

Fighting windmills

By: Conrado de Quiros, Philippine Daily Iquirer, May 06, 2013.


Rizalito who? Marwil who? JC who?

That’s the likely reaction of most Filipino voters to those names. They’re in fact Rizalito David, Marwil Llasos, and Juan Carlos “JC” de los Reyes, Ang Kapatiran candidates for senator. Except for JC de los Reyes, who ran for president three years ago, the two others will resound as loudly as a pin dropping in a rock concert. JC himself probably won’t make a much louder noise either. In his presidential bid in 2010, he finished last in a field of nine, getting 45,000 votes compared to the eventual winner, P-Noy, who got 15.2 million.

It’s rather a pity. In debates at least, within and outside campus, the three have done quite well, giving sensible answers to questions. Which comes from Kapatiran having a definite platform—it’s the only regular political party that does.

Spare them a thought.

The three believe in pushing back the bane of dynasties, JC even going against self or clan in waging it. He rails against the “monsters of dynastic politics,” with their “transactional politics and the politics of greed and hypocrisy,” including in his diatribe his uncle, Dick Gordon. (Gordon is the brother of his mother, Barbara.)

The three believe as well in scrapping the pork barrel. Money is the root of all evil, and the pork barrel is the root of all pigsties. That’s what motivated Llasos to run, he says, the need to do something about it. “It’s the root of graft and corruption. Why don’t we just have a comprehensive system in responding to the development needs of the people? Why don’t we just put the fund [under] the General Appropriations Act instead of ‘discretionary’? We have the barangay development council, for instance. They know better, we don’t need a congressman or senator for that.”

And the three believe in injecting faith into politics. “We are the only party that upholds the social teachings of the Church,” says David, who joined the communist underground at 17 but is now big on religion. “Our intent is really to put back faith in the center of things, put back faith in God, in governance. We want to evangelize politics to bring about change in the people’s lives. I want every piece of legislation, every program and policy that will be made by government to reflect my faith.”

The first two positions I support wholeheartedly, the third I find a little alienating. I’ve always thought Kapatiran’s religious thrust was both its strength and weakness. The strength lies in the fact that its religiosity has a pronounced social edge or dimension. I myself have heard Nandy Pacheco talk at length about the social encyclicals, and how the local Catholic Church itself often goes against its own teachings in that respect. Certainly, I’ve heard him rail loudly against the bishops whom he has perceived to have taken the most immoral positions, such as some of them did during Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s time.

But the same religiosity can also border on the fundamentalist. Kapatiran is against any sport that promotes violence, including boxing, which can be a kiss of death in this boxing-mad country—or at least it was so in Manny Pacquiao’s heyday. Just as well, it is anti-RH despite the fact that most Catholics in this country are for it, and indeed despite the fact that most women find it liberating for them. The three senatorial candidates vow to have it scrapped if they become senators. And their resolve to put faith at the center of things—despite insisting that that faith isn’t exclusively Catholic, they’re perfectly ecumenical—it does raise issues about the separation of Church and State. Or it does raise issues about a theocratic state.

This last notwithstanding, I continue to support Kapatiran and wish its candidates well. Indeed, commend them to a fair hearing from the voters. I support them in the same way that I support Teddy Casiño, party-list representative of Bayan Muna, who is now vying to become a senator of the land. And I beg others to do so as well.

At the very least, that is so because they are serious voices, they are real voices, ones that can help our Congress along toward some kind of pluralism. Or our Senate (and House) toward some real opposition and dissension, debating issues and voting on them on the basis of differences of opinions or beliefs, and not on that the one side is majority and the other minority, the one side is in power and the other is not. Who knows? Maybe they can encourage the “cause-oriented groups,” or the more ideologically oriented ones, to put up their own regular parties and leave the party-list system to those that truly have the poor and marginalized for their immediate constituents. That is where they belong, or where they have a reason to exist—in mainstream politics and not the party-list one.

At the very most, who knows too, maybe they can put pressure on the dominant parties, who are parties only in the social rather than political sense, who are parties only in the country-club rather than in the boardroom sense, to become real parties. The kind where candidates do not flit from one to the other like prostitutes, the kind where the party commands loyalty on the basis of its vision and not on its strongest, or “presidentiable,” member. By showing them up, by giving a face to what a real political party can be.

I don’t know that the Kapatiran candidates, or Casiño, will make it. The head, where realism resides, says no; the heart, where hope resides, says, well, maybe. But whether they do so or not, they will at least have made their mark for trying to blaze new trails, for trying to clear new paths.

Fighting windmills isn’t always senseless, isn’t always futile. The last time somebody did it, he changed the world.