Musings of a political animal

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated March 14, 2010 12:00 AM

Our hierarchy of concerns varies depending on our age and circumstances. Most of our lives, we worry about family, children, money, health, religion, country, sex and other basic needs.

Admittedly, as a young man in high school, the opposite sex occupied my consciousness for the most part. But I also found myself thinking about topics like music, religion and spirituality. But as much as I was moved by those topics, I was also quite fascinated with politics and how to solve our country’s problems.

When I look back at my life, I would say that political concerns have dominated my consciousness.

Maybe it’s because my family has always been exposed to politics and politicians who were either relatives or friends. Or it could be because my father worked closely with President Ramon Magsaysay and died with him in that plane crash on March 17, 1957. But I have always felt a stirring in my heart whenever I think of the Philippines.

I must also credit my mother whose unwavering belief in fairness and justice and her concern for the less fortunate moved me deeply. Her compassion for the poor was always evident. She always shared the meager resources we had with people who came to her for help. And the Philippines, to me, always seems to be needing help, from as far back as I can remember.

I cannot deny that I am a political animal. In fact, I often wonder how some people can exist without even a hint of interest in the socio-political questions of our time and the future of our country.

In my college years when the First Quarter Storm engulfed my generation, I studiously read newspapers, books, political treatises and manifestos, listened to lectures by various political personalities representing different stripes about the problems the Philippines faced. I read as much as I could about our history and why we are as we are.

I admit I was in awe of what seemed like the boldness, daring and correctness of the activists who walked the talk by dropping out of school and joining the armed struggle. The backdrop of all this ferment was the corrupt, repressive Marcos regime which seemed like it would last forever.

However, while I was sympathetic to the call of armed struggle, I was not bold enough to drop out of school and fight the system with violence, as others were doing. (When I think about it now, I must have been some kind of a pacifist even then, although I had not thought the position through. All I knew was that violence repelled me even if it may have been necessary). Besides, I was more interested in music, girls, and other mundane concerns of people my age.

But I was cynical about change through peaceful means. The armed struggle was, sadly, the only way to battle martial law, or so I thought, until Ninoy Aquino was assassinated and people power came into being. When I saw throngs of people showing up to peacefully but militantly challenge the dictator in the campaign for the snap elections in 1986, I experienced a paradigm shift.

While many people in the Left whom I admired looked at participation in the elections as a historical “folly,” I wholeheartedly embraced the Cory campaign, showed up at the rallies, and marched with cause-oriented groups. I wrote songs and performed with the APO Hiking Society to rally the troops, so to speak.

The people rose and spoke boldly and eloquently, and we won the elections. The marginalized Left had to eat crow and they have joined every electoral exercise since, even as they continue to challenge the government militarily through armed struggle.

These days, I am again fired up, just as I was in the ’86 election campaign. I am supporting Noynoy Aquino, Mar Roxas and the entire Liberal Party slate. I am going all out for them because I do not see any change happening if Manny Villar and his ilk become the leaders of this land. Villar, with all his money, can buy everyone—media, local politicians, opinion makers, the poor, even the Left and the NPA, as he recently claimed. He can even buy Gloria, if he hasn’t already come to a political accommodation with her to guarantee victory for himself, and for her, a friendly government that will absolve her of corruption.

Meanwhile, the Aquino-Roxas campaign is struggling with insufficient funds and organizational problems. But to their credit, they have a lot of spirit and the support of ordinary people everywhere who believe in the possibility that change can happen with the true opposition in power. Their base of support is people power, with its many moving parts, that hopefully can come together in May and carry them to victory.

For many people, this election is the election of their lives. They see the Aquino-Villar showdown as the fight between good and evil, a newer, more reformist leadership versus the old order. For me, it is all of the above. It is a showdown between money and the lust for power on the one hand, and idealism and the spirit of change on the other. In many ways, it is a lot like Marcos versus Cory all over again.

If Villar wins, the message for all of us will be clear — that winning the presidency is all about money and the old ways of seizing power in this country. To be acquired, the presidency must be bought with money, deception and all the elements of old style politics. Woe to the un-moneyed, for they will never hold power in this country.

I know some of you will find my take on this to be cynical and simplistic. But I am in my late fifties and I am both impatient and practical about change. There are other candidates in this electoral contest who represent change, and I have entertained the possibility of supporting them. But I am betting on Noynoy and Mar because, realistically, only they come close to winning and thus can make change possible.

With GMA running for a seat in the House, my assumption is she will go for the speakership, and so, with my vote, I am giving Noynoy not just the presidency but the Senate as well. I want the forces of change to be strong and vibrant so as to counter the still significant forces of reactionary politics.

I am writing this in Sydney on Thursday, a day after leaving Manila. My heart and mind are still engaged in the political arena back home. I will stay here only a few days so there is no point in easing up on my enthusiasm about what is going on back home.

In contrast to the frenzy of our politics at home is the calm of Australian life where people enjoy socio-political institutions and processes that deliver on most of their promises to their constituents. I have this dream that one day, our people will have something that can deliver as well.

People are anxious about the possible grim scenarios that can happen in the next few months. We could lose. Automation could fail. There may be cheating, or even a failure of elections which could make GMA stay longer in power. I know many people who stay up late at night over endless cups of coffee worrying, strategizing, planning for any eventuality.

These days, I am constantly singing a line from a song written by Ryan Cayabyab for the country’s centennial celebration which goes, “O bayan ko kailan ka tatayo?”

The outcome of the campaign these next two months will provide the answer to this poignant question.