News / September 4, 2004

Remarks delivered by Randy David at a meeting of Kapatiran Party

September 4, 2004.


Magandang hapon po sa inyong lahat.  Ako po ay nakatitiyak na ang pagtitipong ito ay isang makasaysayang pagtitipon, kaya’t ako’y nagagalak na maanyayahan ni Nandy Pacheco na magbigay ng tinatawag niyang “inspirational talk” ngayong hapon.

Nang ako’y kanyang lapitan — at kami’y madalas magkasama at mag-usap — bigla akong nag-alangan sa imbitasyong ito sapagka’t bigla kong naalala na 18 taon na ngayon ang nakararaan nang ako rin ay nagbalak magtayo ng isang partido pulitikal. Subali’t hindi ito nagtagumpay.  Marahil ako ay inimbitahan ni Nandy hindi upang magbigay ng inspirational talk, but rather to be inspired by the formation of a new political party.

The political party that I was trying to form in 1986 in the wake of the People Power Revolution was a revival of the Socialist Party of the Philippines.  It was going to be a socialist party that would not derive its strength from the underground armed struggle, but rather a socialist party that was Filipino in character and was nonviolent and non-armed.  But nevertheless, its core group would be the working class.

Kaya ang una kong nilapitan ay ang yumaong si Ignacio Lacsina, who was one of the founders of the Socialist Party of the Philippines.  He explained to me that it was not going to be very easy.  The reason is that, unlike in Western Europe where the socialist parties are very strong, the working class in the Philippines is not very well organized and it is very weak.  Only about 15% of the total labor force is organized into trade unions, he said.  Because of this economic weakness of the working class, it would be very difficult to rely on the members of the trade unions to support a socialist party.

Because I realized that the only way to form an independent political party is to make sure that you are not going to rely for the financing of party activities on big business – and on what is called “gray money” from smugglers, illegal loggers, gambling lords, and so on and so forth — but rather on the members of the party themselves, I thought that the party should be supported by the contributions of the workers themselves.  This seemed impossible because of the poverty of our workers.

So I next turned to the students as the possible core of a socialist party.  I went around speaking at various universities and schools, hoping to entice them to become part of a new reformed socialist party of the Philippines, an alternative to the underground armed communist party, as well as an alternative to the traditional political parties that were being revived in the wake of the EDSA People Power Revolution.

But there was one limitation I overlooked. And this was the fact that students do not stay permanently in school.  After 4 years, they move on, they graduate, and it would be very difficult to track them down — where they work, where they live — so that they may continue sustaining a political party.  This also means that every year you have to appeal to a new generation of students to get your party going.

The experience was very instructional for me.  I realized that before you can form a political party, you have to form a movement first.  Before you can form a movement, you have to develop a constituency, a constituency for reform that can be organized later into a movement, — a movement that is strong enough to sustain a political party, which is but the political expression of a movement.

I decided to shelve my project and instead began to study political party formation in Germany, and there I encountered the example of an alternative political party known as the Green Party, which was consecrated to the objective of environmental conservation and protection.  It was the most successful novel party ever seen in all of Europe.  But the Green Party did not emerge overnight.  Before the Green Party there was the Green Movement, which was Europe-wide in influence and reach.  And later on when they decided to participate in parliamentary exercises, they had to form a Green Party, with its own separate hierarchy and set of officers, because the Green Movement consisted of ordinary people wherever they were.  There was no formal structure that bound them together, whereas a party was hierarchical, very formal, and very institutional in organization.

Subsequently, there was a dispute between the Movement and its party expression, because the only way the Party could participate actively and win positions in Europe was to enter into coalitions with the existing political parties.  Such coalitions were found to be improper by the more purist members of the Green Movement itself.  Kaya ang nangyari is that the Green Movement members felt that the Party was slipping out of their control and was beginning to behave like any other conventional political party.

The lesson I learned from this is that the only way you can ensure the integrity of the political party is by making sure you don’t sever the relations between the party and the movement.  What gives the party strength is the movement.  What holds the party to its original founding principles is the movement itself.  The moment you lose your movement, the political party deteriorates into just another conventional political party.

I learned a lot from these studies.  By the time I thought I was ready to revive my idea of a socialist party, my comrades in Bisig, because I am a member of Bisig, as mentioned by Brod Celso Ylagan in his introduction. I was former Chairman of the Bukluran sa Ikauunlad ng Sosyalistang Isip at Gawa, which was a radical alternative to the Communist Party of the Philippines, but also encompassing within it progressive people from the NGO world, from the political movements, former members of the underground Communist Party of the Philippines, and the HMB, even. That is why a large number of our members were the old Huks from Pampanga.  It helped very much that ethnically I am Kapampangan, because whether you like it or not, and I see a number of Pachecos also in the audience, you begin with your family when you start recruiting or you begin with your ethnic group, your ethnic community and your province-mates, because in a large sense we are still a very very tribal society.

But fortunately, I realized that other people had taken up the cause of a new party from within the ranks of my own organization.  Akbayan Party emerged from those initiatives, from the initiatives of my younger colleagues and comrades from Bisig.  Early on we realized that alone, Bisig would not be able to put up a political party.  So we put up Akbayan as a joint project with other progressive groups, taking advantage of the provisions in the Constitution for party list representation.

It would be very interesting to know whether Akbayan can differentiate itself radically from the conventional political parties that we have in the country today.  This is a constant source of discussion within Akbayan itself.  Do the party list representatives of Akbayan, like the party list representatives of Bayan and all the other party list organizations, behave in a radically different way from the representatives of the conventional political parties?

Sometimes I get very sad when I read in the newspapers that some party list representatives are defending the pork barrel.  Ano ito? Ano ang pagkakaiba?  On the one hand you have a Ping Lacson giving up his entire pork barrel and you think of Ping Lacson as a conventional politician.  On the other hand you have Ka Crispin Beltran, a party list representative representing the workers, apparently defending the pork barrel.

So you begin to wonder whether there is any sharp delineation between the so-called alternative political parties and the traditional political parties that the Kapatiran, for instance, wants to replace.

It is these things that I want to take up with you this afternoon.  Maybe because it is not so much an inspirational talk, as I am not a moral philiosopher, but a sociologist.  Let me point out, to begin with, that the word kapatiran is a very fortunate word.  I do not know if Nandy deliberately chose it because the translation in Tagalog of alliance is not kapatiran, but rather bukluran.  Kapatiran’s equivalent in English is brotherhood or fraternity, because our language is very interesting.  It makes no gender distinction.of siblings.   Wala tayong equivalent ng brother or sister  and therefore, it would be a distortion of the meaning of kapatiran to translate it into, let us say, fraternity.  Maybe you can translate kapatiran into solidarity.

But the word kapatiran is a very old word in our political history.  In our history, it referred to the Cofradias.  If you remember Papa Isyo, Apolinario de la Cruz and all the others, the groups they formed were kapatiran.  The Katipunan was a kapatiran.  In other words, the wellsprings of the revolutionary movement against Spanish colonialism and against American colonialism in our country were the kapatiran, which is the reason why the ethical and spiritual dimension of revolution of the anti-Spanish and anti-American revolutions were very strong, which is quite unusual.  The ideology of nationalism and liberalism may be Western but the ethical and spiritual dimension of the struggle was distinctly Filipino.  And we still see this kapatiran everywhere in the country, speaking the old language of all kapatirans. Mount Banahaw is full of kapatirans.  There is a kapatiran around Rizal, for example. The Masonic Lodges were also kapatirans in many, many ways.

That is the reason I think that the word kapatiran is very fortunate, because our people in the provinces can immediately connect to such a concept as the wellspring of social change.  It is probably therefore not an accident that one of the most outstanding features of the Constitution and Bylaws of the Kapatiran or the Alliance for the Common Good are the 9 ethical principles that were mentioned to us by Nandy:  belief in God, respect for life and human dignity, strengthening of the family, community and participation, basic rights and responsibilities, preferential option for the poor and the vulnerable, dignity of work and rights of workers, solidarity and commitment to the common good, care for nature as God’s creation, peace and active nonviolence. They are all extremely crucial.

No other political party I know begins with ethical principles.  They may begin with a statement of ideological beliefs and analysis of Philippine society, but not with ethical principles.  By coincidence, just a few days ago, we had a guest in UP, Dr. Steven Rockefeller, the son of the former Vice President Nelson Rockefeller and the great-great grandson of John D. Rockefeller, after whom Rockefeller Foundation and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund were named.  He was our guest recently because the Rockefeller Brothers Fund has been the main funding source of the Ramon Magsaysay  Award Foundation since 1957.

I did not realize that Dr. Steven Rockefeller, who is the chairman of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, is a moral philosopher and a holder of a doctorate in the philosophy of religion.  You would hardly expect it from a scion of a business family.  But what an impressive and interesting man.  The lecture he gave was on Interdependence and Global Ethics.  And his thesis was very simple.  He said that the way in which various parts of the world are being interconnected with one another through the new technologies – the Internet — advances in communication and travel, the world has really shrunk and therefore it has become increasingly possible from an evolutionary perspective, he says, to begin speaking of global ethics.

By sheer coincidence, I would say, 7 or 8 of Kapatiran’s ethical principles were exactly the same principles that he thought constituted the core of what he regards as global ethics.  He says that these are ethical principles that are to be found in every major religion in the world.  These are ethical principles that are to be found in every Constitution of every country in the world.   These are also the basic ethical principles that are enshrined in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

So maybe ito nga talaga ang panahon para sa Kapatiran.  I said earlier that I am not a moral philosopher but a sociologist.  Therefore, I am in no position to tell you whether these 9 principles can be woven into a coherent moral philosophy or whether you should not have an ideology rather than a set of moral principles.  I had initially told Nandy when we were talking 2 or 3 years ago about the Kapatiran that I am myself a bit squeamish about invoking God in the area of politics, being a secular sociologist.

But now I have realized that religion is at the center of political developments everywhere in the world.  I lend a sympathetic ear, for example, instead of being revolted immediately, to so-called Islamic fundamentalism because I believe that to a large extent, Islamic revivalism is motivated by a disenchantment with the modern world.  The same disenchantment is probably present in initiatives like Kapatiran in many, many ways.  And I see nothing wrong in that.  But maybe to form a political party around a religious affiliation might be no-no.  I had told Nandy that I would not feel very good about forming a Catholic political party, for instance, because then we would have no reason to object to the formation of an Islamic political party. And if you have an Islamic or a Catholic political party, how can we possibly object to the formation of a state religion? It follows as a logical consequence.

But Nandy assured me that this is not a Catholic political party.  This is a political party of people who believe in the common good and are unified by the thought that underlying such a quest for the common good is a certain level of moral and spiritual conviction that is founded on the belief in one God.

But these principles can be actualized or practiced in other human endeavors.  I am certain that many of you practice the same principles within your own family and your places of work, in the organizations in which you operate.  The question might be, why try to actualize these principles in the arena of politics?  Why politics?  Why a political party, when you can actualize the same principles at the level of the community, within your own families and provinces, within your own schools, universities and within your own movements?  But why a political party?

Maybe I can tell you some reasons why.  There is a need for an alternative political party.  Firstly because I believe that any talk of social change is futile unless you can somehow translate such thoughts of social and political change into concrete legislation.  Walang mangyayari kung puro advocacy.  Walang mangyayari kung puro protesta.  Walang mangyayari kung puro complaint na lamang at criticism at pagpuna. All these things will come to a head only if you can translate such advocacies, such protests, such complaints into actual legislation, which means entering the field of electoral politics, either as public officials or as support groups or as lobbyists approaching appointed or elected public officials in the name of certain causes.

So why politics?

First, because it is the domain of legitimate power or authority.  Wala tayong magagawa kundi tanggapin iyan.  Even if we shout our voices forcefully, so long as we do not have political power, all our protestations will amount to little.  As far as the powerful are concerned, our protests will enter one ear and out the other. This is what I have learned as a political sociologist.  Unless you can translate all talk of reforms into actual legislation, you have not said anything.  That is the reason why there is a need for social movements to enter the domain of electoral politics as political parties.

Number 2.  For reform to be enduring, it has got to be institutionalized and encrusted in state policy, whether we like it or not.  Our national community is organized into a state.  Of course we in civil society can undertake our own initiatives.  For example, collecting piso-piso for the bayanihan fund.  I myself would be very unwilling to offer even a single centavo to pay the national debt of a state, without any corresponding resolve on the part of the state to check the sources of the fiscal and budgetary deficit.  Because if you look closely at the origins of this fiscal and budgetary deficit, you would be scandalized.  More than 40% of the national debt was incurred by the government through the absorption of liabilities and obligations incurred by government-owned and –controlled corporations and state financial institutions that offered sovereign guarantees.

I am a little bit shocked and amused that Joe de Venecia has offered 5 million pesos, 5 million ba o 2 million of his own money?  Because if he is really sincere in helping the State, what he should do is pay back to the Government all the money that the Government paid on his behalf when Landoil went bankrupt.  Wala namang nakolekta, nagbayad ang Gobyerno sapagka’t ang pagkakautang ng Landoil ay inabsorb ng National Government. Bakit hindi siya magbayad ngayon? Nakalimutan na lamang iyon.

Hanggang ngayon iniimbestagahan ng PCGG iyon subali’t napakiusapan yata na huwag na munang pag-usapan iyon.

Or Lucio Tan.  Magbibigay daw ng 2 million, although he is denying it.  Why does not Lucio Tan pay at least even half of what he is supposed to owe the Government in back taxes?  He owes about 25 billion, so what is 2 million pesos?  It is a drop in the bucket.

Ang ibig kong sabihin, tayo, in our individual capacity as citizens, may feel so scandalized by the extent of poverty and hopelessness of our people that we cannot help but take the initiative in clearing slums for them, helping them build their homes, improve public school buildings and so on and so forth. There is nothing wrong with that.

But I also believe that the proper role of an organized public is not to patch up the inadequacy of the State, but rather to confront the State and to reform the State, so that the State may become responsive as an instrument of public welfare.  It is not our duty to plug the holes of the state.  Instead of saving a dysfunctional State, we should allow it to sink, so that we can pave the way for its reconstitution into a State that is truly responsive to the needs of our people.  And that is why we need a political party, because if it is only charity that we want to do, we don’t need a political party.  We can organize fund-raising campaigns instead.

I am not denigrating acts of generosity on the part of our people.  I am simply saying that if we are talking of an enduring social and political reform, we must go beyond charity.  And that involves wading into the dangerous waters of political contestation.

Now the world of politics is a very different kind of world.  I saw it with my own eyes when my younger brother, a lawyer, decided to run for Congressman in the second district of Pampanga against the candidate of a gambling lord. I campaigned for him, but believe me, there was no way he could have won.  We pooled all our resources.  I come from a large family of 13 children.  Each one of us contributing 100,000 pesos of our own money from our own pockets to his campaign, amounted only to 1.3 million pesos.  It was a drop in the bucket.  Ayaw naming lumapit sa malalaking negosyante.

So as a sociologist I may be able to tell you on this occasion what are some of the realities and imperatives of Philippine political life that Kapatiran is about to enter as a political party.  Not that you don’t know this already, but it is probably worth reviewing some of them.

I think the paramount reality of our national life is the extreme gap in wealth and opportunity that divides our people.  In our country, political rights came ahead of economic rights, because political rights were conferred upon our people like a gift by the departing colonial power.  They did not have to be fought for as they were in many parts of Europe.  Political rights like the right of suffrage, human rights, civil and political rights were enshrined in our Constitution from the very beginning.  They were not won by a resolute political struggle.

In other countries, in other societies, in contrast, economic rights came first.  Using these economic rights and their economic independence, ordinary people fought for political rights.  Dito baligtad, eh.  Nauna yung political rights, wala pa yung economic rights.  Kaya ang nangyayari, our people sell their political rights in order to gain economic goods.  What is the meaning of all the political and civil rights guaranteed by formal democracy in a country where 80% are economically dependent?  They are meaningless.

Do we wonder why people sell their votes? It is the only opportunity they have to convert something that they have into something they can eat.  You can’t blame them. Civil and political rights are meaningless in a formal democracy where people are not economically autonomous.  So the first reality we have to confront are the extremes in poverty and wealth that divide our people against one another and the paramount practice that takes off from this reality is money and patronage politics or celebrity politics.  If you don’t have money to dole out, and you have no access to public funds, you better have access to the media.  So it comes down to either patronage or celebrity.

These practices were concretely on display in the last election.  That was a contest between money and celebrity.  And we, the middle classes, astonishingly, chose to close our eyes to the most glaring and scandalous examples of patronage politics simply because we believed that Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was the lesser evil in comparison to Fernando Poe Jr. who was running solely on the strength of celebrity.

It is a middle class view.  It is a reality.  In a sense we are trapped.  The State wants us to help pay for its debts and we are not so inclined, but Mrs. Arroyo has every right to say you voted me President in the last elections, so what are you talking about?  That election seems like a vote of confidence in her ability to govern and to run the State on our behalf.

Now, if that is the paramount practice we see in the Filipino world of politics, it is obvious that a reformed party like Kapatiran will immediately confront the fundamental dilemma of all reform-minded political parties. And that dilemma may be phrased in the form of a question:  How do we achieve power or influence in a society characterized by extreme poverty and economic dependence, in a political culture characterized by patronage and celebrity politics, without ourselves being swallowed up by the system?

In short, how do we win political power without getting corrupted in the process?  First let me tell you that there are two basic routes to power and influence, and not just through winning a political position.  The first one is directly through public office.  You run for a political position.  But there is a second route that is not so well recognized in our culture for some reason or another. It is a little secret that I would like to share with you.

Most of our legislators are lazy people.  In the first place, they really have no aptitude for legislation, no training for legislation or any inclination whether psychological or sociological for legislation.  They have no business being in the legislature.  Nevertheless, they are there and we are paying for them.

But instead of thinking of that as a liability, I see it as an opportunity.  How?  I have always believed that it is possible for activists, instead of just confronting the State each time, to establish combat positions within the State through lobbying.  We can take advantage of the natural idleness of our legislators by offering them drafts of legislation, including drafts of sponsorship speeches, for free.  If we do our homework properly, they will be embracing us and thanking us to high heavens, even if they do not understand the first word of the legislation they are signing.

I am sure that many of you may have read or watched movies where very professional lobbyists in the United States go from one office of senators and congressmen to another.  These are very good people, very sharp, very astute, very highly educated people.

That is one route to influence that is not very well understood in our culture.  It is not necessary for the members of Kapatiran to run for public office to have political influence.  The routes and access to political influence are there for us to take, provided we make time.  Kasi mayroon silang funds for research, so you let them pocket those funds.  We do the research for free on the issues that are close to our hearts.  In that manner we advance.

Of course, such a route has its limitations.  The fundamental limitation of that is that you don’t really change the structures.  You may change one piece of legislation and another piece of legislation, but on the whole you don’t change the system.  What I am saying is that we can take two routes, the route of public position and the route of lobbying.

The direct route of public office, there is no sure-fire formula for avoiding corruption, but I think there are some conditions that can strengthen a party and immunize it against corruption.  What are these?

First, I have already mentioned this.  A reform-minded political party must make sure that the first step it makes is to organize a reform constituency nationwide.  What you are doing here.  I wish the video you have just shown about Kapatiran could be translated into the different languages in the Philippines and shown everywhere in the country.  That is how you develop a reform constituency.  The message is very clear, but it has to be put in a medium that the people can easily understand.

Second, a party is not a movement.  I am glad that the formation of the Alliance for the Common Good as a party followed the formation of the Kapatiran as a movement rather than the other way around.  In other words mas maiging may kilusan ka muna.  Pag hinog na yung kilusan mo at malaki na yung kilusan mo, then the political expression of that kilusan is the political party.  This is how the two are.  But you don’t dismantle the kilusan or the movement the moment you form a political party.  There should be an organizational distinction.  The party does not replace the movement.  The movement strengthens the party, but the two, in a sense, are also autonomous from one another.

Third.  There should be a sustained and visible intervention in all areas of public affairs.  Eto yung advocacy.  Whatever is the burning issue of the day, Kapatiran should have a position.  This is where it stands —  through letters to the editor, appearing in talk shows, in debates, giving speeches in every conceivable campus.  In other words, Kapatiran, as a party, has a position on every important issue that faces our society.

Fourth.  A constantly updated analysis of the state of Philippine society and world conditions.  This is the work of a political institute.  It is separate from the party.  So what you have is a reform constituency, a movement, a party, and a party political institute.  That’s the one that does research, that puts out the papers, the positions, that constantly refines the ideology and the platform of the party.

And lastly, a flexible and evolving strategy to capture state power, because this is war.   It requires strategy and tactics, capturing political power.  Our enemies are ahead of us by millennia.  They have had a lot of practice.  We are babes in the wood of political contestation by comparison.  Mas sanay sila.  You cannot begin to imagine what happens on the day of the election itself and after.  Most elections are won after the votes have been cast.  I think the Americans are fast catching up with us.  The way in which they are cleansing the voters’ list in Florida even now, as we speak, is a takeoff from the practice that has been so well known and perfected in the Philippines.

Now, what is my conclusion?  Politics is a vocation.  It is as important a vocation as being a family person, a parent, a doctor, or a priest.  Politics is as important as family life, the economy, religion.  I feel very sad when people denounce politics for what it is.  There’s nothing wrong with politics.  Politics is a human activity.  It is bad politics that we want to purge from our nation’s life, not politics itself.  There is no way we can avoid politics.  We play politics in our everyday lives, without our realizing it.  So politics is an essential ingredient of collective life.  We should not develop an aversion to politics.

But many of us in the middle class feel squeamish about politics.  Politics is dirty, politics is corrupt, we say.  Ang nangyayari is that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  All the bad people enter politics.  All the good ones stay out of politics.  What happens?  Politics becomes a dirty business, when in fact it should not be.

It was sociologist Max Weber who said that politics is a vocation.  Not all of us can be polilticians, professional politicians.  I think the first requirement of politics is that you have got to love it, not just thrive in it.  You have got to have a passion for it.  In the 15 years I was on television, almost every month I was being approached by political parties to run for public office.  Sayang naman ang celebrity status mo, sabi nila.  Convert it into political power, that’s what it is for.  Sabi ko, “Is that what it is for?”

I have long realized that I do not have a passion for politics.  That’s the first thing you need if you want to enter politics.  You have to love it.  You have got to have a passion for politics, to wade into it with courage.  If you don’t have it, you must make way for others who have a passion for politics.

This afternoon I was listening to Nandy and I knew at once he has a passion for politics.  You need such powerful speakers.  So we are very, very fortunate that the launching of this new political party has Nandy Pacheco for its President.  That is the reason why at the beginning of this talk this afternoon, I said this is going to be a very historical moment, and I am glad to have been a part of it.

Maraming salamat po.