What prompted me to write this article is not the above stated fact but because of two instances. One is a welcome development in the political sphere and the second one is disturbing.
Ako Mismo Campaign
Let me start first with the disturbing one. It was actually a reaction from an infomercial I watched on TV, which I know everyone is like crazy about, the AkoMismo advocacy. Honestly, until now I am having a hard time understanding the cause of this campaign. Why? Because it reduces the problems of the country to a simple case of hopelessness!!! What exactly do these celebrities ask our people to do?
For me, I see it as falling into the trap of these bunches of do-gooders who do not really understand the structural problems of the Philippine society or what’s worse, know about it but refuse to do something because they do not want to disrupt the system that protects their kind (“elitist, petit-bourgeoisie”).
At first, the ad appears to be a harmless infomercial of sort. Its well-crafted, passed my artistic taste. Dapat lang, because they have the money to spare to pay for the airtime and the advertising agency/production people and besides they are in the entertainment business, that’s what they are there for. But when the celebrities started to blurb about AkoMismo this and that and Angel Locsin said something about, “AkoMismo, magsasalita ng po at opo.” Damn, nalintikan na! This is deception, I told myself. How in the world will you change the Philippines by saying “po at opo,” aber! This really motivated me and said that I have to do something to straighten this because a lot in the youth sector felt that they are making a difference by joining this campaign. In fact, they are just making a fool of themselves by believing that these kinds of campaigns are leading to something.
My reaction is so strong because it is the likes of these campaigns, which attract the youth. These people who are putting forward this panacea are actually taking advantage of the youth’s idealism, hunger for change and doing good. Most of the time (just checking the current registrants for the AkoMismo campaign – 203,664 and growing), the youth do not know that they are being misled to false change. Without studying and analyzing the real problems of the country, from the political to the economic to the social, to the cultural, it is unlikely that these people who said that they are for the change of this country will be able to apply the real solutions when they themselves (celebrities) have the wrong answer to what the problem really is, in this country. They do not even classify poverty, corruption and such as some of the worst problems here. According to them, the biggest problem is “kawalan ng pag-asa” and deduced that if people can collectively do (no matter how big or little the ways are) something good for their country, then there will be change. What’s worse, many are supporting it outside the youth sector even if, I believe, they have a grasp already of the real problems.
My only point is this – let us not fall into this trap and believe that this will lead to genuine change because the truth is until the system of inequality is intact, there will never be change. If it’s true that people doing good can bring about change, we should have been experiencing that change long before this time. There are a lot of Filipinos who mean well, who do good things to others, who do charity works, even the Church does that in their campaigns but why is it that we are always confronted with the same problems over and over again and that we are always on the verge of ousting a president?
I remember my highschool Match teacher at Siena once shared in class that her sister was an activist from U.P. and that her dad reprimanded her sister, saying to her that if you want to change the government, infect change from within. Study hard, finished College and then work for the government and make a difference inside. I believed that totally, that’s why when I entered College at CEU, Mendiola, I always questioned rallies and activists back then. I always asked myself, what do they achieve in having rallies? The only thing on my mind back then was the inconvenience of traffic; all I was concerned about was how to get home.
I am pretty sure that there are many model government employees who really do their work honestly and with integrity. But if they can alone infect change within the government system, would the government be much better now? Are the do-gooders working within the government are in fact changing the way of the government? If its happening then, where is it? I hope it is that simple as what these celebrity endorsers are showing in the infomercial because if it is, there will be no more rallies, no more picketlines, no more urban poor, no more political detainees, no more state-sponsored assassinations, no more poverty, and the list goes on. But it is not as simple as that. Our problems cannot be cured by band-aid solutions anymore, which were done in the past…a lot of times.
Mr. Edu Manzano said that this campaign is a “call-to-arms, na huwag na nating laging i-asa ang buhay natin sa iba. Kaya AkoMismo. Ako mismo ang gagawa ng paraan.” Again, it is a simplistic remark. As if its as simple as doing something in your life to effect change and bring quality to your life. How can it be so simple when the very structures of government prevent poor people from living decently, if only a few rich families have a good life and almost 95% of the population is living below poverty lines? In living a holistic life, the society and every aspect of it has to do its share. Educating children is not only the sole responsibility of parents, taking care of the sick is not only the sole responsibility of the family members. Society should have its share; the government has to make education, healthcare, and other social services accessible and affordable. They have the power and the authority to make that happen. It only takes political will. We are all interconnected as citizens of this country and we cannot say, “na huwag nating laging i-asa ang buhay natin sa iba” or even say that “Ako Mismo, hindi ko na aasahan ang gobyerno na pagandahin ang kuwalidad ng buhay ng pamilya ko.” This was a taxi driver’s commitment to the Ako Mismo Campaign told Mr. Manzano in his interview with the Philippine Entertainment Portal. For me, if the government has no responsibility to take care of its people, then we do not need one and we should just do our own thing to ensure our survival.
Actually, underneath the message, it tells us to do nothing but fixed our individual lives. If that’s the only thing they will say to us, then they just wasted thousands of pesos. I would rather have them give the money to poor communities for some civic or charity work than confuse the minds of people and make them think that change is just an easy feat. If you will spend a good amount of money to show your advocacy then be sure that the messages will not create confusion or mislead people into thinking that they can make the change by simply saying, po and opo, or by showing how proud they are as Filipinos. Good grief!!!!
All they said are motherhood statements, which give good feeling to the person who is saying it. It’s giving him/her the feeling that he/she is doing something good but not innately believes that it is his/her responsibility to help his/her fellow Filipinos may it be making him/her feel good or not and even if it is difficult. This is not just about feelings, it is breaking the structures of inequality and injustice.
To further understand the campaign, I registered at the www.AkoMismo.org site. After asking me a bunch of questions, I registered successfully. I studied the Wall of Commitments. I want to know what kind of commitments people write about. Here are some of what I gathered:
- hindi ko ibebenta ang boto ko.
- ang mag-aalaga sa pamilya ko.
- makikiisa para tulungan ang gobyerno para sa pagbabago.
- magmamatyag para sa kapayapaan.
- I exist to serve.
- mabuting ehemplo sa mga anak ko.
- ipagmamalaki ko ang pagiging Pilipino.
- aalagaan ko ang ganda ng kalikasan.
- ang tutulong sa sarili ko.
- I will vote in 2010.
- I pledge to work hard more than the company expects from me and do civic duties that can contribute to my barangay.
- magsisikap para umangat ang buhay.
- kakayod para sa kinabukasan ko at ikakaunlad ng bayan ko.
- wala akong sahod!
- ang tagapagligtas.
- ang magpapasaya sa’yo.
I stopped right here. I don’t even want to go into explaining why these statements are problematic because it is already obvious how this Campaign sees change and how they will apply these statements almost too ignorantly in their life. There are even statements that the only intent is to joke around, just read the last three Ako Mismo commitments
I still believe that changes within one’s self is important but the same way as the change of system is as important. Either of the two cannot move forward without the other or else we will all be hypocrites – changing one’s self but not changing the way the system works, which protects and maintains the status quo, making the elite live the way they are and the rest, the way they are, poorer than ever.
It can also be compared to simply saying that people are poor because they are lazy. But what people do not realize is that there are structures, which prevent the people from going up simply because the elite want to contain the wealth within their families.
I will not like to leave this simple analysis of a simple citizen like me without being critical to the corporation behind this initiative. DDB Cares, the Corporate Social Responsibility arm of DDB, is said to be the institution behind this campaign. First, I see the “corporate social responsibility concept” as nothing more than a concept of “washing of hands” like what Pontius Pilate did when Jesus Christ was turned over to him for questioning. This actually can be deduced as such, its like covering up their accountability of being accomplices of the elite and capitalists in keeping their system of inequality intact.
I think I have made my point about this Campaign, I would like to move onto the next…
“Boto Mo, I-Patrol Mo”
The Campaign used the most powerful tool it has within its possession and that is media. I want to establish as early as now how you can already see clearly the flaw in this Campaign. This is led by a multi-million peso media company owned by an oligarch, the Lopezes. It has the means and capacity to instill in the youth’s mind how they can be a part of change. But again, what kind of change?
My challenge to the Lopezes is this - if in case there will be a change in the government and the government said to their family that they have to relinquish power and redistribute their wealth to all people, so that the rest may live decently not only members of their family, will they give-in, will they allow it???? I am dying to hear them answer my question.
I have read the very touching paper of Maria Ressa of how she described this initiative by ABS-CBN. For the most part of it, I believe her. I believe that even if I am not working within a media organization, I am still a journalist like her. After all, a journalist exposes the truth and works for the common good, etc. Its just that I am not as lucky as her because was able to work for CNN. Do not get me wrong, I never regretted where I am now because at an early stage, I knew that commercial/mainstream media will not satisfy my convictions and my principles in life. Some people in the media are all too concerned with the glamour and perks of the job rather than public service. Also, they need to do balancing acts for their bosses, and have to be biased at times. I do not want to subject myself to that kind of scenario. And I am sure these bosses practice an arm’s length editorial in the newsroom.
Now, I dared Maria Ressa to answer this question, “will you do anything for the “revolution” you are talking about for the sake of change? What if you will have to defy your very bosses one point in time or another and be on the side of the people?
The Lopez Family is a clear oligarch, one of those few rich families that uphold the capitalist and elitist system. And to boot out these people who cling so well in the system, cannot be changed by just having people do good in the society but to change the entire system to which the Lopezes are clearly a part of. Do you think, they will promote such change in their initiative, in this case ‘Boto Mo, I-Patrol Mo’? I really do not think so!
True it is in the people, the mass movement, that change can happen but not in the way these Campaigns have been promoting change like it’s a product. If you do not like this product, go buy another one. Same goes with the 2010 Presidential Elections, if you do not like how the government is being run by GMA, register and vote on 2010, be a part of change AS IF CHANGE HAPPENS DURING ELECTION TIME. If elections can bring about change in our society, why is it that the Philippines is still the same way as it is from before? As if, development has become stagnant.
The concept of “Boto Mo, I-Patrol Mo” is “to get the people to care and to take action”. It’s people power with new technology!” To make use of media – mobile phones, digital cams, internet, etc. to report anomalies, vote-buying, problems in registrations, etc. All these initiatives are geared towards the elections as if it is THE BE-ALL AND END-ALL. Is this the revolution that Maria Ressa is talking about? Is this the change and the brand of people power they want to promote? At first glance, you think this is a new concept, a new initiative but it is still the same quick fix solution that happened 23 years ago when Filipinos use People Power as a means to oust a dictatorship but only to install a president for the elite ruling class, Mrs. Corazon Aquino, who said to be an honest leader, yes, but did not uphold pro-people policies and exempted her Hacienda Luisita from the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARP) and push forward an, “HONOR ALL OUR DEBTS POLICY” which she even proudly informed the whole international community about it during her speech in the U.S. Congress as if trying to impress the big guys. This is despite the fact that most of the debts incurred during the dictatorship were used to finance crony projects and went to individual pockets. Mrs. Aquino should have grabbed that chance, when the international community has its sympathy and attention on us and would have agreed to cancel, if not all some of the big debts incurred. If only Mrs. Aquino had that political will to do that during her time, she has all the opportunity, the timing, etc. It was a transitional, revolutionary government during her time, it might have been different now if she only did what she has to do. It is really not enough to install an honest leader but also a leader who is “from the masa, and are still with the masa, and therefore can properly represent the masa”. Mrs. Aquino was not from that class, her family was a part of the ruling class and clearly she will push forward policies that need to protect their class. As much as I want to be blind with this reality of class here in the Philippines, it is actually very much alive.
Most of the time, “revolution, change, etc.” are terms being co-opted from the Progressive Left to make it sound that their brand of revolution is the ONE. But I am sure, the revolution that Maria Ressa is talking about is not the same brand of revolution of what the Progressive Left has in mind. Until the Lopezes recognize that they are a part of the system that upholds inequality and injustice – politically, economically, socially and culturally speaking, no genuine change can take affect through Campaigns such as “Boto Mo, I-Patrol Mo.” Moreover, this Campaign is geared for the 2010 Presidential Elections, another tool, which legitimizes the system. Why do I say that? Observe, who are the presidentiables? If anyone can tell me, with of course detailed explanation that there is one from those candidates who deserve to become president and who can properly represent majority of the people who are poor, then maybe, just maybe the system does not really exist. My first criteria again, he/she must come “from the masa, and are still with the masa, and therefore can properly represent the masa.” I believe all these presidentiables are from the elite, ruling class and none of the masa.
Another proof that this brand of change they are so hyping about is not genuine was the recent ANC-sponsored leadership forum. In that forum, there were no in-depth questions about how each presidentiable responded to the Global Economic Crisis, no questions about their platform. If we really want change to take effect, as early as now, we should be able to gauge each one of the candidates through their platform of government. ANC and ABS-CBN had that power to ask and expose these candidates, but how come questions during that forum were so lame and disappointing.
I couldn’t say anything more about these Campaigns. Let me now start discussing the other option.
GENUINE SOCIAL CHANGE IS DIFFICULT & PAINFUL BUT A COMPREHENSIVE SOLUTION
The Anti-Trapo, Pro-Masa Movement PAGBABAGO! NO MORE TRAPOS IN 2010!
GENUINE SOCIAL CHANGE IS DIFFICULT & PAINFUL BUT A COMPREHENSIVE SOLUTION
The first instance that made me write this article is this new development in the political sphere.
The first instance that made me write this article is this new development in the political sphere.
If change cannot be found in any advocacy or voters-ed campaign, where do we find it? What do we do?
The option proposed by this broad-based group is nothing new. Many groups have already claimed that they are anti-trapo. So, what is the big deal in this movement?
First, we have to clearly specify that we are not only anti-trapo but also we are pro-masa. Thus, being anti-trapo is not only “face-wise” but also “system-wise.” You cannot be anti-trapo but at the same time you are engaged in the system of “trapo politics,” or use the same methods they use, which is basically the current system in place. And pro-masa means we have a clear bias for the people and that our platform of government shall promote, pro-masa/pro-people policies unlike those who are claiming to be not trapos but are not willing to push forward pro-people economic policies and would like to maintain the status quo because they are either a part of the system or beneficiaries of it.
He has defined TRAPOs very well and named some of the prominent families that perfectly fit the criteria of TRAPO.
Trapo means traditional politician. In its narrow meaning, the trapo is the political representative of the Filipino elite. The trapos are the political clans and the political dynasty which the clans have established in several areas of the country for long years now. Some clans have in fact been holding political power for centuries.
According to the Citizens Anti-Dynasty Movement, at least 120 families control political power in more than 75 percent of the country’s 81 provinces. They also reported that practically 100 percent of major cities are under the control of one or another political clan that passes down power almost as a right on inheritance. This is what we mean when we say these are the people who are “born to rule”.
Just to give you a rundown of the trapo clans. The most prominent from North to South are the Dys of Isabela, the Marcoses of Ilocos Norte, the Singsons of Ilocos Sur, the Josons of Nueva Ecija, the Magsaysays of Zambales, the Cojuangcos and Aquinos of Tarlac, the Macapagals of Pampanga, the Osmeñas of Cebu, the Rectos of Batangas, the Gordons of Zambales, the Duranos of Danao City, the Antoninos of General Santos, and the Lobregats of Zamboanga City.
In recent years new dynasties have emerged like the Estradas of San Juan, the Arroyos of Pampanga and Negros Occidental, the Angaras of Aurora, the Defensors of Iloilo and Quezon City, the Villafuertes of Camarines Sur, and the Akbars of Basilan.
If we look at today’s election, the trapos are back in business once more. And we mean not just the trapos of the Administration, but also the trapos from the Opposition.
The list of today’s presidentiables reads like a whos-who on the top trapo families:
n Gilbert ‘Gibo’ Teodoro, one of the main presidential contenders of the Palaka (Partido Lakas at Kampi merger), comes from the clan related to Danding Cojuangco, who’s the brother of Gibo’s mother. Teodoro’s wife, Monica “Nikki” Prieto, is a congresswoman from the first district of Tarlac, which is the bailiwick of the Cojuangco’s and now the Teodoros.
n Manny Villar (Nacionalista Party) represents the clan which has been holding power in Las Pinas City. His wife, Cynthia Aguilar-Villar, is the congresswoman in Las Pinas. The Aguilars, together with the Villars, are the politically incestuous clan in Las Pinas.
n Mar Roxas (Liberal Party) is the grandson of former president Manuel Roxas, who was suspected as a collaborator during the Japanese period but was cleared by MacArthur, and then became the first president after the war. His father was the late Senator Gerry Roxas.
n Chiz Escudero (Nationalist People’s Coalition) comes from the Escudero clan which has been holding power in Sorsogon. The father was the former congressman in the first district of Sorsogon; Chiz uncles were the mayor and vice-governor in Sorsogon.
n Joseph Estrada (Partido ng Masang Pilipino) is trying to make a comeback. He has built his own dynasty in San Juan. His son JV is now the mayor, the other son Jinggoy and his wife Loy have both become senators.
n Perhaps, Noli de Castro is the only one who’s not identifiable as a trapo. He came in power in 2001 as a senator, and became the vice-president in 2004, so he has already 8 years in the government. But what has he done in these 8 years, and whose power has he been serving all through these years? If not GMA, is it the oligarchs who are reputed to be supporting him?
Some points to clarify.
Sometimes there are newly-emerging trapos (who are the scions of the political clans) who have not been involved in any traditional political and corrupt activities, and who therefore resist the tag of belonging to the trapos. Although the tag may not seem to fit them yet as separate individuals, they are trapos in the sense of being members of the clans which perpetrate elite rule in the country.
The trapos are usually seen as the most corrupt and warlord-like representatives of the elite. But some of the elite may be benign and modernizing, but they are trapos nonetheless as they represent the dominant forces in a system that oppresses and marginalizes the broad masses.
Sometimes they are not really part of the political clans or the economic elite in the country. But they become trapos because they have given their services to an elite group in order to be voted to and remain in power.
While the trapos may vary in their viciousness as a trapo, the point we are making is that:
First, the people deserve better. Some trapos may be benign and modernizing, but even the monarchy of the old days have kings and queens which were benign and modernizing. But even then, who needs a monarchy/dynasty-type of rule today?
Secondly, the trapos/ the trapo clans have been given all the opportunities in the world to serve in the government. In fact, the government has become them. The trapos have become the government, and the ways of the trapos have become the ways of the government.
While monopolizing power, the trapos have failed to provide for the needs of the people, they have failed to provide for employment for the labor force, they have failed to provide affordable food and services for the poor, affordable housing, land for the landless farmers and agricultural workers, education for the young people, hospital care, and others. They are a failure. They have become the stumbling block to development. They in fact have become the problems, and not a solution.
What we are saying is that enough is enough! Sobra na, tama na! Pagbabago na! No more trapo in 2010!
The solution to the country’s problems lies not in the trapos but in the antithesis of the trapos, the non-trapos or the genuine representatives of masa. That’s why we’re bringing here the non-trapo candidates who represent the masa. Not in the way in which Erap has come to represent the masa, and even named his party Partido ng Masang Pilipino, which was a misnomer given that Erap was not of the masa (in his films perhaps). We are referring to candidates who come from the masa, and are still with the masa, and therefore can properly represent the masa.
The other side of the anti-trapo movement is the pro-masa movement, which means that in defeating the trapos, we have to ensure that we put the masa in power. We do not believe in another Edsa where we overthrow dictatorial and corrupt government only to install a more corrupt one.
We are fighting the trapo precisely to promote the needs of the masa. But first we have to expose the trapos, because they have used the media and the three Gs to project themselves as the ones fit to rule the masa.
Platform of Government
One best way to expose the trapo is to do away with personality-oriented politics and to look into the platform of the candidates. Let us pin them down on their platform of governance. The trapos get away with motherhood statements because the masa fail to concretize what they want.
And this is the challenge we pose to all, even among the non-trapos and the masa that are gathered here: Are we going to look for leaders on the basis of their clan, their education, their wealth, their connections, their money… Or are we going to test them on the basis of whether they can solve our long-term problems, and therefore contribute to the development of each one, and not just a few lucky bastards.
This test would mean asking the candidate whether his or her platform of government is based on, for instance:
n An immediate moratorium to the closures of factories and lay-offs, and a program towards full employment for the labor force. We mean not partial employment, not temporary employment, but full, long-term employment based on wages that can provide for the needs of the families. Not employment outside the country, but employment in the country, in the Philippines, right now.
n A program of delivering basic services to the poor, such as free education for the poor children; no demolition but decent housing for the urban poor; genuine & comprehensive agrarian reform that provides land to the tillers and the necessary support infrastructure for agriculture; free health care and hospitalization; provision of doctors’ services at every barangay; the setting up of government-run stores at every barangay which carry items that have affordable prices for the poor.
n A program of political reforms, which include the democratization of Congress or the formation of a People’s Congress which will reverse the setup where a few trapos rule our politics while the majority of the population do not have political power, and are even called the ‘marginalized sectors’. We must also have a program to disconnect the barangay councils from the control of the local government trapos, from the trapo mayors and congressmen, and the replacement of the barangay council with a barangay assembly that represents the entire families in a barangay much like the neighborhood councils.
These are just some aspects of the pro-masa platform that we should ask each of the candidates whether he or she can deliver. And we know that these demands of the masa are not impossible. All these things are possible. We know the government has the resources to provide for the needs of the people, except that it has no political will and the trapos have no personal will to provide for the needs of the people. And this is because this is a government of the trapos where the trapos do not serve the people but their clans and immediate friends and cronies, and their own pockets.
But where can we get the money to provide for the masa? In
Lastly, the building of an anti-trapo, pro-masa movement corresponds to our call for a Revolution for Change. We declare that from hereon, we will be launching a revolution, a genuine one compared to the series of so-called Edsa Revolutions. The Edsa Revolutions were fake revolutions where incumbent trapos were overthrown to give way to other trapos. We should be reminded that a revolution is an act where a ruling class is overthrown by another class which takes power. What could be more revolutionary today than dismantling trapo rule and putting the masa in power. Let us now put in place the building blocks for a new future. Tunay na pagbabago! No more trapo! The masa should rule… #
What do this long article is trying to say? If we really want CHANGE, if we really do want to see real CHANGE, we cannot simply entrust our futures to these corporations, do-gooders, philanthropists and oligarchs. Let us not be swayed by these attractive ads and campaigns, which rely solely on emotion and the “feel goodness” of doing something for the country but not clear with the change their offering in the table. We have fallen so many times after supporting what we thought was change but look where it got us all. A day after the election, we go back to our own separate lives and comfort zones thinking that our duties as citizens end when we cast our ballots. Genuine change will only be achieved if the citizens collectively and continuously act on nationally-significant issues. Citizens can participate in the discourse, go out in the streets and express their grievances, get themselves involved in educational and other creative actions and look for more ways to help. But before any CHANGE can happen, the CITIZENS must first acknowledge/recognize the existence of TRAPOS including its system, who and what they really are. If there’s no recognition of this or there’s resistance in accepting this kind of analysis, then CHANGE will be more likely difficult to achieve.
A broad-based anti-trapo, pro-masa movement is currently being created to push forward this concept of change. Our brand of change may be painful to most of us maybe because there is a lot at stake and seemed very, very difficult to achieve though we all know, each one of us know deep down inside that this is the way forward. If we do not want another failed EDSA, then we should not commit the same mistakes again. Quick-fixes and band-aid solutions never worked and we already experienced and saw them first hand. Our country is already heavily wounded, thus, short-term solutions won’t work anymore.
If you have at least a little love left for our country, then you will want that change to happen, we owe this to ourselves, our youth and a far better Philippines.
If you decide to stand for genuine social change, you may contact this blogger for more information – 09217941407 / firstname.lastname@example.org.