(*Almost missed this. Walden Bello sent this “response to a good friend’s justification of her support for Roxas in the 2016 elections.” He says “Omega” is a pseudonym of an organization they both belong to. Everything that follows is by Mr. Bello, the former Representative of party-list Akbayan. He resigned in late March of this year “owing to President Aquino’s double standards in good governance and refusal to accept command responsibility for the Mamasapano tragedy, Bello was a member of the House of Representatives.”)
You talk about your disillusionment with “Grand Narratives” or big designs for social change, and it is within that disappointment that you locate your support for Mar Roxas in his candidacy for the presidency. You speak about being satisfied if he were to be responsive to a few reform measures, like agrarian reform.
I also do not subscribe to some Grand Narrative, whatever one may call it. But I do think we need a vision, a just society, a caring society; otherwise, as Proverbs 29:18 says, “the people perish.” And we do need a progressive program to bring reality closer to that vision. I am speaking about a transformative process that may be incremental at certain times, revolutionary during more congenial times. Pragmatic we must be, but not empiricist or relativist.
Good governance is certainly a key part of that program; social justice and gender justice are other parts of it. I certainly agree that under Aquino, we had advances in gender justice, notably the passage of the Reproductive Health Law, but not in social justice, as you yourself acknowledge, owing to the signal failure to complete the agrarian reform program. And when it comes to good governance, which was the central reason we in Omega joined the reform coalition in 2010, Aquino subverted it with his double standards, fraternity style of governance, and defiant refusal to acknowledge command responsibility for the Mamasapano tragedy (in my view, for fear of being hauled to court after his term).
When Omega people say, we must support Roxas to continue the reform program, I ask what reform program? In Spanish, they would say esta agotado, that is, the reformist potential of the administration is exhausted.
On Roxas himself, this is not 2010. He now bears the burden of his record during the last five years–a yes-man on Mamasapano, a failure as DILG chief, an even greater failure as DOTC head, non-supportive on agrarian reform, a neoliberal in economic policy, a man without substance, a klutz when it comes to management, as shown especially by the mess in Yolanda rehabilitation.
We have to have something more than someone who is not personally corrupt, or shall we say one with the class privileges to afford not to be personally corrupt. We had that with Aquino, and look where it got us.
We have to have something more than his being the lesser evil, which I no longer feel is a good basis for choice.
Besides, what good has the Roxas dynasty ever done for the country? His father Gerry was a mediocre leader who compromised with Marcos until very late in the game. His grandfather was a hated collaborator who supervised the draconian rice procurement from peasants for the Japanese army and was only saved from hanging after liberation by the intervention of Douglas MacArthur. Why bring this in, you ask? Well, if we in Omega are espousing the elimination of dynastic politics, they are certainly very relevant considerations.
This man will not break with his class on the key issues, certainly not on the key issue you would premise your support on: agrarian reform. Indeed, he evinces not solidarity for the poor but solidarity with his class. No less than the top representative of the sugar barons, Manuel Lamata, president of United Sugar Producers’ Federation of the Philippines, said the sugar industry was “thankful” to Roxas for successfully lobbying President Aquino to grant the industry’s request to exempt raw sugar from advance value-added tax, a major source of national revenue. That’s classic class cronyism.
Seriously, would you entrust the country and the fortunes of Omega to this fellow for the next six years?
Again, let me say, our current choices–Binay, Poe, Roxas–are all terrible. Rather than go for the proverbial lesser evil, I think our responsibility to the country is to denounce and campaign against the elite politics that foists such terrible choices on our people, educate them on the necessity of an alternative to bankrupt class politics, and mobilize them so that whichever ruling class joker wins in 2016, he or she will not be able to rule in the same old way, as the wise old codger said.