Affiliates of a party-list group are hard put to justify their participation in the Aquino administration holding key positions in national security, human rights, and antipoverty program and possibly other lesser posts in government. That is, if they claim to be still part of the legitimate Left.
As it stands, they have become part of the ruling elite, whose power derives from vested interests, economic oligarchies, and political dynasties. The party-list group has been absorbed in the political mainstream which is probably their goal in the first place.
If they claim to still represent a segment of the Left, what they are doing up there is in effect “sleeping with the enemy” which is close collaboration with the Left’s natural adversary. They are no longer fighting (supposedly with other party-list groups representing the marginalized) for “crumbs on the master’s table” (to quote another columnist).
What their prominent members are having at the master’s table are not “crumbs” but big stakes.
National security covers the peace talks with opposing armed groups. The government has come to initial terms with the Muslim movement. Now the next in the agenda is the resumption of negotiations with the National Democratic Front. Surely the President would be guided by what his staff, the military, and his national security adviser (who himself came in from the cold) tell him – like, is it worth negotiating with a “spent force” — which the opponents of the NDF like to think. Let them lay down their arms first, or better still surrender. This would be wishful thinking. In the meantime, arrested NDF consultants remain in prison in violation of earlier agreements forged between the NDF and the government. No wonder the negotiations do not move. Also, do not discount US influence in this matter.
Human rights is a crucial program of the government. Despite the big sign at a gate of Camp Aguinaldo along EDSA, “I am a soldier and a human rights advocate,” the salvagings, torture, and enforced disappearances continue with impunity. (The House bill on enforced disappearances is the work of legislators, particularly one whose older brother, a desaparecido, was a former student.) But what is curious about the human rights watch of the government is its failure to differentiate between state/military violations and those allegedly committed by the New People’s Army. Giving them equal weight detracts from the commission’s mandate to go after state violators. Statistics cited by human rights watch groups abroad belie the parity, And if there are indeed violations by “enemies of the state” let the NPA impose discipline and punish offenders — as they have done.
The national anti-poverty program is also strategic. The anti-poverty drive is an area where politicians try to leave an impact on the impoverished but voting masses by attending to their problems of decent housing, food, and schooling for their children. The possibilities for the party-list group to make hay in this field are many.
The ruling party has already considered the party-list group a part of its alliance, and an attractive party-list personality is one of its senatorial candidates for the 2013 election.
Is the Left participation in national elections “sleeping with the enemy”? Not at all unless the group becomes an organic part of a traditional political machine.
Well before the implementation of the party-list provision of the 1987 constitution, the dominant Left tried to test the “restoration of democracy” after EDSA.
The Partidong Bayan was founded in December 1986 and fielded candidates for senatorial and congressional seats the following year. It was foolhardy then to venture in national elections with the oligarchies and political dynasties still in control. But the PnB did not have illusions about winning a senatorial seat. Word went around that the purpose of the exercise was educational and organizational. This would enable the Partido ng Bayan to conduct in effect teach-ins on the basic problems of society, and to expand and consolidate the ranks of the Left.
Then began the harassment by the military and the political establishment of Partido ng Bayan candidates and members. Alan Jazmines, PnB secretary general, experienced several assassination attempts on his life. PnB’s chairman Jose Maria Sison (with constant threats and attempts on his life until the present) left for abroad to accept invitations for lectures. In other words the ruling class (with the intrusion of the military with putschist designs) could not abide the presence of the Left in the electoral arena. Only two PnB candidates made it to Congress. No senator.
The PnB had to disband eventually. Hence it is understandable that the dominant Left did not participate in the first party-list elections. Their leaders/members have always been aware of the hazards of being involved in people’s struggles against injustice and state abuses, or just by running for public office. Look at the affiliations of victims of human rights violations since Cory Aquino’s regime.
People’s organizations associated with the Left fielding candidates outside of the party-list will not be “sleeping with the enemy.” They are simply reviving the spirit of Partido ng Bayan. The party-list group co-opted by the ruling party will have to decide what they want to be – another national political party identified with the government partaking of the largesse at Malacanang, or an independent political party with a clear ideology and platform vying with others for seats in Congress where ruling class and people’s interests contend in the passing of the laws of the land.