The electoral debacle of the Philippines left
By Reihana Mohideen
[The first two in a series of commentaries in the lead-up to the May 10, 2010 elections in the Philippines.]
March 12, 2010 -- Socialist Feminist -- While Latin America has opened up a new socialist front for the 21st century and we have the most recent victory of the united left coalition in Uruguay, the Frente Amplio (FA – Broad Front), led by a former leader of the Tupamaros Jose "Pepe" Mujica, winning thep residency in November 2009, the Philippines left, by contrast, is a tragic and even horrible spectacle going into the May 2010 elections.
While the left is undeniably present in the electoral arena, the main tactic pursued is to vie for positions in the Senate tickets of pro-capitalist trapo (traditional politicians) presidential candidates who are the frontrunners in the polls, i.e. the tickets of Noynoy Aquino, the presidential candidate of the Liberal Party (which is carrying an Akbayan Senate candidate), Manny Villar, the presidential candidate of the Nacionalista Party (which is carrying two senators for the Bayan bloc), and the previously ousted former president Joseph Estrada of the Partido ng Masang Pilipino (which is running a Sanlakas Senate candidate).
The left candidates on these tickets have unequivocally thrown their support behind these presidential candidates. And the platforms of these presidential candidates have little or no resemblance to the progressive agenda that the mass movements in the Philippines have campaigned for in the last few decades – whether it be the demands of the labour movement, the urban poor, the peasant movement, the women’s movement or any of the anti-neoliberal demands raised by the mass movements throughout the decades of 1990s and 2000.
At the local level the situation is even more disgusting with all the left parties without exception involved in unprincipled dealings with capitalist politicians bartering for votes and money – sometimes also known as "take the money and run" tactics.
The Philippines left is badly divided and unable to form an electoral front, to put forward an independent left position in the coming elections, during a period of deep crisis in the elite political establishment and social system. The main reason is the deep sectarianism and mistrust that divides the left. The left would rather deal with capitalist politicians – many of whom are thugs and gangsters – than deal with one another. This deep and long-running sectarian politics prevents the left from forming even a minimal alliance in the electoral arena.
The left today is unable to unite effectively to support even one-single progressive candidate – from senator to local councillor. The conduct of the Philippine left in these elections is a testimony to the poisonously divisive impact of left sectarianism. It’s a tragic example of how this sectarianism completely disarms the working class and progressive movement in a period when elite rule in this country is facing the most severe crisis since the ouster of the Marcos dictatorship in the 1980s.
CPP-NPA `permit to campaign fees': Fundraising or opportunism?
March 12, 2010 -- Socialist Feminist -- The issue of the New Peoples Army (NPA) collecting "permit to campaign fees" (euphemistically named "revolutionary taxes" by the Communist Party of the Philippines, CPP) from capitalist trapo politicians wanting to campaign in NPA strongholds has once again resurfaced in the lead-up to the May 2010 elections.
The fees buy these trapo politicians a "permit to campaign" in NPA areas. According to a February 5 Dateline news report, documents obtained from an NPA leader arrested in January this year pegs the taxes from 30 million pesos for a presidential candidate to P5000 for a candidate for local council. It’s a well-known "secret" in the left that this practice of tax collection during elections is a lucrative source of fundraising for the CPP-NPA.
A March 12 statement issued by the CPP, while denying that the CPP "simply accepts bribes to let reactionary politicians win in the election", at the same time indirectly justifies the practice by claiming that “there are already two governments in the country, two different laws, two different systems of life. If the reactionaries want to campaign in the areas controlled by the revolutionary movement, they must recognize the revolutionary government.”
Following the logic of this argument, one can justifiably also ask why a revolutionary government should allow a politician belonging to a reactionary government to campaign in its "sovereign territory"? Contrast the NPA practice to that of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front MILF), an armed liberation movement, struggling for self-determination of the Bangsa Moro people in Mindanao. The MILF doesn’t open up its base for money to reactionary politicians during election campaigns, so why should the NPA?
The left rhetoric of the CPP-NPA notwithstanding, this is yet another example of the opportunist electoral politics that permeates the left’s electoral tactics in this country. According to some sources several NPA fighters themselves are extremely critical of this practice. Opening up their areas compromises the security of these NPA bases, increases the vulnerability of their cadre who have to collect the money and opens up the organisation to military exposure and attacks.
[Reihana Mohideen is from the international desk of the Partido Lakas ng Masa (Party of the Labouring Masses. She operates the Socialist Feminist blog, where these articles first appeared.]