Why Teddy

ImageThey say it is Teddy Day, a day to talk about, and generate online interest in, the only Makabayan senatorial candidate this coming election. Here is my modest effort to add to the discussion.

The senatorial contest, I think, provides for us an example of how limited the election (the type that we do in the country) is as an exercise of democratic will. People vote for a senatorial candidate mostly based on his/her track record, promises and personality. Sometimes, though very rarely, people vote for a candidate because we think he/she stands for something, and we adhere to that something. For instance: With all due respect to his supporters, what does Escudero stand for? He has a track record as an oppositionist, he supported and passed some good, progressive bills and laws. He kinda looks good. But does he stand for, say, genuine land reform? Not necessarily. Does he speak in behalf of the youths of marginalized sectors? I don’t know. For all I know, he does stand for something. I don’t know. Same for the others.

What do they usually say they stand for? Most of the candidates would say they stand against corruption. It is the least controversial among “issues”. Noynoy Aquino says he is against corruption. Who would say they are not? Even Gloria Arroyo said it. Even Estrada. Or Marcos. Standing against corruption — however the candidate defines the term – is certainly the “safest” advocacy for candidates, probably next to the “environment”. (But ask those who say they are for the environment if they would campaign for a repeal of the Mining Act; I doubt if they would categorically say yes). Same with “pro-women”, or “pro-poor”. Or even those who say they are for entrepreneurship (*cough* Villar, *cough* Bam Aquino): are they for building of basic industries? Are they for passage of a non-neoliberal mining law that prioritizes our own need for industrialization while protecting indigenous communities from plunder? When they say they want to give jobs to the poor, they don’t say what kinds of jobs, or if those jobs will be there after six months or if the salaries are enough to sustain a family. They don’t say that, because saying that, explicating issues, going for the concrete, would make them less appealing to the least common denominator. Doing so would mean they would really have to stand for something.

Politicians are great talkers. Politicians from the ruling class much more so. They are populists, they speak plainly, dance, sing. But very rarely do they stand for something, and stand consistently for something. We saw that rare moment of standing for something when senators like Salonga, Guingona and Tanada voted, against all odds, to reject the US bases extension in September 1991. It is supposedly an issue that one can easily see where right and wrong are. For one thing, permanent US military presence is something that the Philippine Constitution expressly forbids. Fast forward to 1999, and many of the senators who voted to reject the US bases begin mouthing the “need” to have the US military back. Enrile, for one, voted in favor of the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement. So did Honasan. Even Nikki Coseteng, the star of the anti-US bases film, “Sa Kuko ng Agila”. Her leading man, Joseph Estrada, signed it as president.

So pardon if I have little faith in politicians from the ruling classes (landlords and–Google it–big comprador bourgeoisie). Even Hontiveros—or rather, especially Hontiveros—who often claims of being the nontraditional candidate, but whose actions and whose party’s actions loudly speak traditional, old, reactionary politics.

Pardon, too, if I approve of only one candidate, Teddy Casino. Not because he is a good guy (although he probably is), or because he is articulate or he is an eye candy (sorry, I don’t get this). I go for Teddy because he stands for something, for things noble and important to the majority. I know because he represents, and brings with him, the mass movement that has been fighting for things noble and important for decades now. Genuine land reform (not just the deceptively bad law called CARPER). National industrialization (you don’t need to be NDF to see the need for this). Immediate significant wage hike for workers. Consistent respect for human rights. Mass access to basic social services. Many, many more.

And mass empowerment, not just through elections, but through organizing ourselves, speaking and acting as one voice for our interests and aspirations. Nowadays, and during elections, we always hear the TV networks and civic groups harp about the need to participate in the electoral process in order to have a voice in politics. Well, we don’t see them producing nice TV ads about the need to participate in rallies, in exercising the right to protest, to peaceably assemble. Protesting is a high form of democratic participation; it is, among other things, a direct action to influence policy-making. Protest is as important as—in my view, even more important than—the vote. Activists who study the issues, organize themselves, unite with other sectors, defy their own limitations (physical, financial, etc.) to participate in an exercise of freedom of speech and assembly, of protest, express political maturity that cannot be seen among mere voters. During times when we don’t have the power of the ballot, or when we are effectively marginalized by the ruling classes, people can only count on their power to disrupt and hoist banners and make noise and burn effigies. We can only count on our unity, on ourselves.

This unity, this high level of political maturity of people from hitherto marginalized sectors, is the very foundation of Teddy’s Senate run. The campaign, as it stands now, is already a huge success. Teddy and his (and the movement’s) platform of government have now reached more people than any time in history. A Senate win will surely add a progressive voice to mainstream politics. But it will also expand the reach of Teddy’s and the movement’s platforms, until majority of oppressed people are reached, united and enjoined to act.

The Senate, already reeking in traditional politics and dynasty-building, badly needs someone like Teddy Casino. The movement where Teddy came from and continues to be part of does not necessarily need the Senate to effect the changes it fights for. But it sure as hell helps if Teddy Casino is there.


Because I’d rather quote Neruda

I Explain a Few Things

You are going to ask: and where are the lilacs?
and the poppy-petalled metaphysics?
and the rain repeatedly spattering
its words and drilling them full
of apertures and birds?
I’ll tell you all the news.

I lived in a suburb,
a suburb of Madrid, with bells,
and clocks, and trees.

From there you could look out
over Castille’s dry face:
a leather ocean.
My house was called
the house of flowers, because in every cranny
geraniums burst: it was
a good-looking house
with its dogs and children.
Remember, Raul?
Eh, Rafel? Federico, do you remember
from under the ground
my balconies on which
the light of June drowned flowers in your mouth?
Brother, my brother!
loud with big voices, the salt of merchandises,
pile-ups of palpitating bread,
the stalls of my suburb of Arguelles with its statue
like a drained inkwell in a swirl of hake:
oil flowed into spoons,
a deep baying
of feet and hands swelled in the streets,
metres, litres, the sharp
measure of life,
stacked-up fish,
the texture of roofs with a cold sun in which
the weather vane falters,
the fine, frenzied ivory of potatoes,
wave on wave of tomatoes rolling down the sea.

And one morning all that was burning,
one morning the bonfires
leapt out of the earth
devouring human beings –
and from then on fire,
gunpowder from then on,
and from then on blood.
Bandits with planes and Moors,
bandits with finger-rings and duchesses,
bandits with black friars spattering blessings
came through the sky to kill children
and the blood of children ran through the streets
without fuss, like children’s blood.

Jackals that the jackals would despise,
stones that the dry thistle would bite on and spit out,
vipers that the vipers would abominate!

Face to face with you I have seen the blood
of Spain tower like a tide
to drown you in one wave
of pride and knives!

see my dead house,
look at broken Spain :
from every house burning metal flows
instead of flowers,
from every socket of Spain
Spain emerges
and from every dead child a rifle with eyes,
and from every crime bullets are born
which will one day find
the bull’s eye of your hearts.

And you’ll ask: why doesn’t his poetry
speak of dreams and leaves
and the great volcanoes of his native land?

Come and see the blood in the streets.
Come and see
The blood in the streets.
Come and see the blood
In the streets!

Poem by Pablo Neruda | “Guernica,” painting by Pablo Picasso

Kay Alex

Bawal magbukas ng telepono sa teatro, kaya maaaring napaaga pa sanang nalaman ko ang pagpanaw mo. Pero ilang minuto lang naman ang tumagal bago nabasa ang text. Hindi pa agad makarekober sa napanood na pagsasadula ng buhay ni Rachel Corrie nang mabalitaan ang hinggil sa iyo. Aminin mo, ang husay ng timing. Ang husay ng paralelismo. Higit sa iba, ikaw ang matutuwa sa literary device na ginamit na ito ng tadhana: dalawang buhay na maagang kinitil sa gitna ng pakikisangkot. Manunulat ka, manunulat din si Rachel. Alam mo, hindi tayo nagkausap man lang nang malaliman. Pero palagi naman tayong nagkakasabay sa pagsusubaybay. Minsan naman, nagkakatsikahan, pero labas dito, tila’y sa mga sulatin na lang nagkakilanlan. Okey lang, dahil madali ko namang nakilala ka sa iyong mga sulatin. Hindi ko alam, baka dahil sa kapapanood ko lang ng dula, o dahil biglaan ang pagkawala mo, pero mabigat kong dinala ang balita. Sa loob ng teatro, parang di ako makahinga, nanlambot ang tuhod ko, kinailangang lumabas huminga at lumuha. Kinabukasan, pagdating ng labi mo sa simbahan, muling sinukluban ng kalungkutan. Di ko mapigilan ang luha, nguynguy pa nga. Panghihinayang, marahil. Tama silang nagpupugay sa iyo at dumdakila sa naging ambag mo. Pero bukod dito, pagkalungkot lang sa trahedya ng iyong pagkawala. Ikinaluluksa ko ang pagkawala mo na parang nawala na rin ako.

Larawan ni Jordan Santos

New blog name in the brave new world of Noynoy

The old name was too restrictive, they said. It was too formal, too impersonal, and the theme only reflected that. It did not help that there was that photo of me consigned to the darkness. The truth, though, is that I wanted this blog to be formal, restrictive and impersonal. There was that idea of this blog being a mere repository of my articles, and the one that told me to allow the stories to speak for themselves. But a realization came to me. Nothing original, just the realization that stories are often never enough. So I came back to that old metaphor about singing, and the dark times. Brecht was a playwright, but his characters sang and spoke and chanted. So this is me channeling my inner Brecht…and singing.

The photo came from this site.


‘They were standing tall and they were beautiful’

Cuban poster for Angela Davis, 1971

Cuban poster for Angela Davis, 1971

The hearing on the Morong 43 a few weeks ago made me recall this lengthy quote:

“The presence of this Soledad guard was supposed to instill awe and fear in us. We were supposed to feel impotent before the apparatus he represented. We were supposed to already smell the odor of cyanide.

“But we did not feel afraid, we did not feel impotent. And we vigorously applauded the heroes of our struggle as they strode proudly, courageously, powerfully into the courtroom. The chains draping their bodies did not threaten us; they were there to be broken, destroyed, smashed. The sight of those shackles designed to alarm us, to make the prisoners appear “dangerous,” “mad,” only made us itch to tear the metal from their wrists, their ankles. I knew that my own anger was shared by all. The bile rose in my throat. But more powerful than the taste of courage was the dominating presence of the Brothers, for the Brothers were beautiful. Chained and shackled, they were standing tall and they were beautiful.”

— Angela Davis, on Soledad Brothers, in 1971. From With My Mind on Freedom, An Autobiography

*Speaking of Angela Davis, Happy Women’s Day.