As The Bamboos Sway: Change not possible within government


If there is anything positive about President Rodrigo Duterte’s regime, it is that it is the most glaring proof that change emanating from within the government is not possible. It should now be more apparent that those who advocate for the complete overhaul of the system had been correct all through the past years of their struggle.

Sometime in the middle 1990s, when I was deputy director of the Filipino American Council of Ventura County in California, I was among officers of different FilAm organizations invited at the Philippine Consulate in Los Angeles to meet with Gringo Honasan. He was then fresh from attaining a seat in the Philippine senate in 1995. He is of course known more for his key role in toppling the regime of dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos whereupon Corazon Aquino became president of the Philippines.

Being a rabid anti-communist after battling them and being wounded in skirmishes as a baron graduate of the Philippine Military Academy, he became frustrated with Corazon Aquino for releasing from prison Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chairman Jose Maria Sison and other leading cadres of the CPP. He then led a series of violent but unsuccessful coups against Aquino. Imprisoned, Fidel Ramos, when he became president, granted Honasan amnesty. To date, Honasan is still an incumbent senator after losing to Leni Robledo in the bid for the vice-presidency in the latest elections in 2016.

In Honasan’s talk at the Consulate, he bared his sentiments against dictator Marcos and justified why he rebelled against Aquino whom he has supported in putting up her revolutionary government. He, however, insisted that the democratic system in the Philippines works and change can happen even if it takes a long time.

I don’t really recall now if he defined for whom change should be then and how it will be attained.

To this I believed in the words of the late Ramon Magsaysay, third president of the Republic who perished in an airplane crush early in his presidency. A populist who was loved by the “masses” for he appeared to identify with them and believed he would actualize “those who have less in life should have more in law.”

I take it that the “masses” in the Philippines are the peasants who constitute 75% and the workers who are 15% of the population respectively. I take it that the sons and daughters of the peasants and workers who constitute the students and other lower classes of society, including the urban poor are also of the “masses.” If the “masses” would have more in law, the peasants should be granted genuine land reform. If the “masses” would have more in law, the workers should have higher wages, have more employment opportunities. From Magsaysay, however, down to Benigno Aquino, no genuine land reform has been implemented. Peasants who clamored for them or the fulfillment of reforms with loopholes had been mowed down. No industrialization for better wages and opportunities ensued in the country. As a result, millions of Filipinos had to seek for greener pastures out of the country, causing family breakups, children emotional imbalances, not to mention – causing loneliness for those who go abroad to work at the mercy of their employers who pay them relatively meager incomes if they are paid at all.

Why? Because the government is run by landlords whose land interests are diametrically opposed to the interests of the peasants. Why? Because the government is run by rich entrepreneurs whose profit interests are diametrically opposed to the wage interests of the workers.

Then Rodrigo Duterte came, appearing as a savior. He promised land reform. He promised industrialization. He promised to eradicate corruption in government. He promised to kick out foreign interests. He reopened peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) which banners the ideology of the CPP and the New People’s Army (NPA). He appointed so called leftists in his cabinet, who were for protecting the environment, really giving help to the poor, and executing genuine land reform.

Duterte, however, just immersed himself in killing the poor in his Operation Tokhang saying that the war on drugs is the main problem of the Philippines. He did not kick out foreign interests. He even added more foreign interventionists. He scuttled the peace talks which was designed to identify and give solutions to the problems of the masses. Land reform and industrialization is no longer in his radar. He had left his leftist appointees at the mercy of the Commission of Appointments which is highly landlord peopled or influenced.

We could not over emphasize the fact that the leftist appointees were willing to work within the government to institute change. Add here that oppositionists like Leila Delima, Senator Antonio Trillanes, and Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, could be imprisoned and impeached if they do not tow the Duterte line. These draw the line. Change cannot be executed within the system.

Duterte has finally proven this – big time.

I would, however, understand why Honasan would not want to play rebel against the system now. He is now a senator, blessed by the system. With his acumen, he should now be thinking like a landlord or a huge entrepreneur or plainly enriching himself with whatever he could get from the corrupt laden government. Surely, he is still thinking that democracy in the Philippines will still work – in his favor. It will just take time.

There are others, however, who can no longer wait. Their waiting stopped over 50 years ago. The NPA, composed largely of peasants, are being led by the proletarian ideology – “Workers, unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains” for if the government cannot do it for them, they have to do it themselves.

Whether we like it or not, they are doing it. There is lot of killing you say? If they do not rise, the “masses” are dying in squalor everyday. Only in rising, they believe, could they change the system and redeem themselves from the death pit of poverty.

Will Honasan be again involved? I think not. #


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