A Call for the Politics of Change Rep. SATUR C. OCAMPO Party-List, BAYAN MUNA Privilege speech delivered at the House of Representatives, First Regular Session, 12th Congress, 3 September 2001
Mr. Speaker and distinguished colleagues, Allow me to speak today on an issue of personal and collective privilege. After our party-list representation was formally seated in this chamber last August 20, a parliamentary inquiry was made on whether our group, the three representatives of Bayan Muna, had manifested the desire to join either the majority or the minority. We deferred expressing our preference then, as we had to weigh the various considerations involved in deciding on the matter. The main reason was that our party, embodying a political force with worldview and standpoint acknowledged as Leftist, wished to register its independence from any traditional political party, bloc or coalition in the House of Representatives. Essentially we intend to maintain this independent stand. In over half a century, this is the third time that a political party of the Left has won seats in the legislature in this country. The first time was in 1947, when the Democratic Alliance won six congressional seats in Central Luzon. The second was in 1987, when the Partido ng Bayan won two congressional seats. Those gains, however, were negated by reaction. The first electoral victory of the Left in 1947 was short-lived. The Democratic Alliance strongly opposed the Parity Rights Amendment to the Constitution. For taking that principled stand, its representatives were unseated by the Roxas government on the basis of spurious charges of electoral fraud and terrorism. In the 1987 elections, the Partido ng Bayan became the victim itself of electoral terrorism. Six of the party’s candidates for the House were killed along with 35 of the party’s campaigners. For a time the specter of those negative experiences loomed over BAYAN MUNA. Certain political quarters disseminated allegations, via the e-mail and the media – and even in this chamber at the closing session of the 11th Congress – that our party used force and threat to win votes. Surely the allegations were groundless. With no formal challenge to its victory filed with the Commission on Elections or the courts, BAYAN MUNA was proclaimed a month and a half after the 12th Congress began its three-year term.
Satur Ocampo A Call for the Politics of Change
Certain factors rendered ineffectual the attempts to discredit our party and to stop us from sitting in Congress on the same ground used against the Democratic Alliance. First, BAYAN MUNA is a mass-based political party with organizations in 70 of the country’s 79 provinces. Most of its leaders and core members have had long years of participation in the open democratic mass movement and other arenas of political struggle since the time of the Marcos dictatorship. BAYAN MUNA works hand-in-hand with the multisectoral alliance of progressive people’s organizations – the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) founded in 1985. Second, the role of BAYAN MUNA has been publicly acknowledged and accepted – and formally recognized by the Macapagal-Arroyo government – as a significant part of the united political forces that fought for the ouster of former president Joseph Estrada. It must be noted, however, that BAYAN MUNA did not ask for positions in the new government, opting instead to seek popular mandate through the electoral process. Third, BAYAN MUNA garnered the highest number of votes among 153 party-list participants in the May 14 elections. Comelec records attest that our party received 1,708,252 votes out of the 15,096,261 total votes cast for the party-list system. That is 11.315% of the total votes, equivalent to five seats in the House – were it not for the three-seat limit set by RA 7941 for a winning party. Our popular mandate cannot be easily brushed aside. Aside from the failed attempts to link BAYAN MUNA with the use of force and threat to win votes, certain quarters also tried the discredited “red scare” tactic, retrieved from the Cold War era. There were, and there continue to be, insinuations that BAYAN MUNA harbors a “secret agenda” in entering the electoral and parliamentary arena. There is no secret agenda. The objectives of BAYAN MUNA are clearly defined in all the documents we submitted to the Comelec in compliance with the requirements for participation in the elections. Our general program aims primarily to empower – in a real, not rhetorical, sense – the workers, peasants, fisher folk, indigenous peoples, urban poor and other oppressed sectors, as well as the women, youth and students, professionals and small entrepreneurs. To a considerable degree, the democratic mass movement of which BAYAN MUNA is a part has already given the organized segments of these sectors a high sense of political power. This is the sense of power that found palpable and effective expression in what are referred to as People Power I and People Power II. Seeking to continue building up that sense of political power and ultimately to transform it into real power of the people, BAYAN MUNA aims to assert national sovereignty and independence and protect the national patrimony from foreign domination and control. Our party also aims to uphold and protect the people’s basic human rights and freedoms, improve their social and economic welfare, and attain social justice and equity.
Satur Ocampo A Call for the Politics of Change
In due time, by our actions and pronouncements within this chamber and without, our humble representation will show how we go about pursuing these noble objectives. Our entry into the legislative process, and intent to participate meaningfully in it, supplement what we have been doing in the open democratic mass movement. This representation and my other two colleagues remain basically and primarily mass leaders of this movement. As earlier pointed out, historically the government, including the House of Representatives, has been inhospitable to the politics of the Left. But it is this politics that BAYAN MUNA calls the New Politics, or more aptly the Politics of Change – the politics of the majority of the Filipino people. Now we take the Politics of Change into this House. We are determined to express the collective demand for fundamental change of the “marginalized and underrepresented” sectors of our society that we in the party-list system are called upon to represent. Who are the marginalized and underrepresented? In answer to that, I quote here the pertinent section of the Supreme Court landmark decision on the party-list system issued on July 26, 2001. The decision pertains to the petition filed by BAYAN MUNA and the OFW Labor Party questioning the qualification of certain partylist participants in the May 14 elections. The high tribunal chastised the Office of the Solicitor General, which argued for the Comelec, for claiming that “even the super-rich and overrepresented can participate” in the party-list election. Saying that the Solicitor General’s position “desecrates the spirit of the party-list system,” the Supreme Court declared: “While the business moguls and the mega-rich are, numerically speaking, a tiny minority, they are neither marginalized nor underrepresented, for the stark reality is that their economic clout engenders political power more awesome than their numerical limitation. Traditionally, political power does not necessarily emanate from the size of one’s constituency; indeed, it is likely to arise more directly from the number and amount of one’s bank accounts. “It is ironic, therefore, that the marginalized and underrepresented in our midst are the majority who wallow in poverty, destitution and infirmity. It was for them that the party-list system was enacted – to give them not only genuine hope, but genuine power; to give them the opportunity to be elected and to represent the specific concerns of their constituencies; and simply to give them a direct voice in Congress and in the larger affairs of the State. “In its noblest sense, the party-list system truly empowers the masses and ushers a new hope for genuine change. Verily, it invites those marginalized and underrepresented in the past – the farm hands, the fisher folk, the urban poor,
Satur Ocampo A Call for the Politics of Change
even those in the underground movement – to come out and participate, as indeed many of them came out and participated during the last elections. The State cannot now disappoint and frustrate them by disabling and desecrating this social justice vehicle.” The results of the two elections for the party-list system, in 1998 and 2001, show how the system, as a vehicle for social justice, was rendered inept. Weaknesses in RA 7941 and in its implementation by the Comelec have disabled the more than 100 participants in the election to fill up the 20% of the total number of seats in the House allocated for the party-list representatives. In the llth Congress only 13 seats were filled up. And in the 12th Congress there are only of us five party-list representatives. In terms of number – and it is number that counts in legislation – we are clearly marginalized. How then can we further the cause of empowering the marginalized majority whom we represent? With this reality, our humble representation has decided to enter into a working relationship with the majority in the House. We have done this without formally joining the “Sunshine Coalition.” We have entered into a mutual understanding that our group of three retains independence and initiative within the working relationship. Specifically, we shall take positions on important issues raised and legislative proposals pushed by the majority consistent with our principles. This way, we aim to maximize, to the extent possible, the fruits of our efforts to advance and defend the aspirations of the sectors we represent. We have no illusion that by working with the majority or the minority we can easily push the legislative proposals submitted by our constituents. Nonetheless, we shall do our best. Moreover, our representation is looking at a possible meeting point with the President of the Philippines and the Speaker of the House of Representatives – however unlikely it may seem – in advancing the immediate demands of the basic masses we represent. First, I refer to a passage in the state-of-the-nation address of President Gloria Macapagal–Arroyo at the joint opening of the 12th Congress. She started from the correct historical premise that the Katipunan Revolution gave birth to the Philippines as the first republic in Asia. The President referred to People Power I and People Power II as positive actions in our time towards advancing the causes of freedom, justice and prosperity that Gat Andres Bonifacio and the Katipuneros fought for. The President said: “We also see in our great history a progressive advancement towards the ultimate goal to transfer power over the state from the traditional economic and political bosses to the people.” Unfortunately, President Macapagal-Arroyo gave no further indication of what her government intends to do to hasten the attainment of that goal. But her recognition that the
Satur Ocampo A Call for the Politics of Change
transfer of power to the people from the traditional elite is the ultimate goal of building a nation is good enough. Good enough for us to call on her to exercise the political will to hasten the process. We in BAYAN MUNA believe that the Filipino people’s aspirations for national freedom, justice and prosperity can be attained only when the people shall have been sufficiently empowered and mobilized for their own welfare. Second, I refer to the speech of the Speaker at the opening of the 12th Congress. Also adverting to the call for change by People Power II, he declared that “the politics-as-usual, business-as-usual attitude toward national problems no longer works.” The Speaker then called on the House “to transform our house into an activist, reformist, achievement- and performance-oriented House, a bastion of good politics, which we must strive to attain as its enduring standard.” Against our well-grounded skepticism, our humble representation would like to believe that both declarations by the President and the Speaker are not the usual rhetoric for the occasion. We would be happy to be proven wrong on this skepticism. Can we be convinced that such declarations reflect genuine appreciation of our people’s historic struggle and a sense of urgency on the part of our officialdom to undertake fundamental change in the way public affairs have been run? At her inaugural address, President Macapagal-Arroyo vowed to espouse “new politics” – politics based not on personalities but on principles and programs. We assume that the Speaker had the same in mind when he called for “good politics.” In vain did we seek evidence of that new politics in the People Power Coalition in the May elections. We continue to seek evidence of it in the Macapagal-Arroyo government. Can we hope to find it in the House of Representatives? It was the Partido ng Bayan that in 1987 raised the call for New Politics. BAYAN MUNA raises it today as the Politics of Change. We are fostering this politics principally through the democratic mass movement and secondarily through our work in Congress. The Speaker has urged the House to help the Macapagal-Arroyo government “get this nation moving again.” We submit that, for the people to truly achieve political power and for the nation to move towards attaining national freedom, justice and prosperity, the proper vehicle for such a journey is the Politics of Change.
The first time was in 1947, when the Democratic Alliance won six congressional seats in Central Luzon. The second was in 1987, when the Part...