Thursday, October 29, 2009

People politics

The surprise decision of Chiz Escudero to resign from the NPC was finalized in his mind and in his heart only on Tuesday morning, the day before he was expected to rally the troops at the Bahay ng Alumni of the University of the Philippines. A simple but emotionally rousing event had been planned to begin at 5:30 on Wednesday afternoon. After a quick lunch at his informal campaign headquarters, the cozy Taste of L.A. along Alejandro Roces St., conveniently two hundred meters away from his small townhouse unit in New Manila, the decision to resign was firmed up with heavy heart.

There was absolutely no rancour in his heart towards anyone in the party hierarchy. But clear positions and personal principles could not be viewed sceptically by the public because of present company. Present company are old and genuine friends --- conscientious legislators with their constituents’ interest principal to them, with a loyal voter following brought about by years of good service. But in the larger view of the national interest at a time when public despair and despondency threaten to break the polity up, new solutions and fresh ideas, this amorphously defined cry for “Pagbabago” (Change), needed positing. And solutions offered had to go beyond motherhood statements, but specific stand on various policy issues.

For “change” to be genuine and meaningful, the tired old buzzwords and catch phrases ring empty. And for several months, Escudero had been debating these policy issues with friends and confidantes, former classmates and fraternity brothers, new-found friends among “low-involvement” young businessmen and sectoral leaders. A new kind of change was slowly defined.. Bagong Pagbabago.

He reviewed the sad and always compromised history of the nation since the birth of the First Republic. He was after all, a martial law “baby”, born on October 10, 1969, yet unable to understand what authoritarianism was all about, except that there was “peace” in the street where he grew up in Quezon City. It was his maternal lolo’s house, a compound shared by his teacher mom and his teacher dad with the entire kin. His “tatay”, Salvador, could not afford a house and lot of their own, even if he had become the youngest dean of the University of the Philippines. Ferdinand Marcos saw promise in the abilities of his tatay, who was a doctor of veterinary medicine, and tapped Salvador, better known as “Sonny” into government service. When the legendary agriculture minister Bong Tanco died, Marcos appointed Sonny as replacement, in the late days of authoritarianism. Chiz was a gangly young boy at the time. He once asked his father why, unlike kids of officials of lesser rank, he had to make do with low allowances and could not even be gifted with a Game and Watch plaything. His father merely smiled and played with the young man’s softly curled hair. Department of Agriculture old-timers have very high regard for Sonny, who was returned to their helm by President Fidel V. Ramos. FSGO’s venerable, Ting Paterno, a man I admire most, once affirmed to me Sonny Escudero’s integrity as a fellow cabinet member under Marcos.

The young Escudero saw how “people power” so soon after its proud birth, was compromised in the shoals of the return of traditional politics. And how, in the praxis of multi-party politics, the party as an institution became little more than temporary alliances for political convenience. So when he entered politics as a young congressman for the first district of Sorsogon, he joined the Nationalist People’s Coalition, which, despite having lost the presidential plum in 1992, remained fairly intact and cohesive, bound by personal friendship with its founder, Ambassador Danding Cojuangco. Undoubtedly traditional, like most every other political party, national, local or regional, young Escudero became part of the traditional panoply of our politics.

But the test of his convictions occurred when Gloria Macapagal Arroyo came to power in the heels of the touted second “people power”. He was with Erap until the end, and thus became an oppositionist as he began his second term. He even became the spokesman of FPJ in 2004 against incumbent GMA, who some of his own party-mates supported, (I was the spokesman of “maverick” Ping Lacson, and up to now, Chiz and I rib each other about our contrary “performances” in several debates then). This feat he did even as he stood for his final re-election as congressman, and won. It was in that last term where his political star shone. Elected minority floor leader of a much-decimated opposition (his own party, NPC, chose to align in coalition with GMA), he led that small but vociferous pack of two dozen in filing impeachment cases against the “elected” president in the wake of the Hello Garci revelations. Many conscienticized congressmen from the majority crossed party lines to join a failed but valiant political adventure. They lost to the money and wiles of Dona Gloria, but Escudero and company won the hearts of the people. Thus, when he ended his term in 2007, and ran for the Senate on sparse resources, a grateful nation gave him 18 million votes, and placed him second among twelve. He has distinguished himself in the Senate, where his searing questions in committee deliberations earned for him the respect of older peers.

Young Escudero studies assiduously, and has a keen analytical mind. In the few months that I have come to know him closer, I discovered that he also has a photographic memory. That explains what I used to think was nothing else but articulate abilities, which my friend Conrad de Qurios once dismissed as “glibness”. Chiz has this uncanny ability, so rare these days, to virtually memorize what he himself pounded on his Mac. When time to speak came, the words just flowed seamlessly. Amazing. (That was my fear when I was accepted into the Ateneo College of Law. Mahina ako sa memorizing. So while waiting for the first semester at law school to start, and I received a job offer from a multinational, the salary of which was three times higher than my classmates in undergrad got, I chucked off law school, to my eternal regret.)

Through the many days and nights that Escudero discussed his thoughts with me and others, he had a consistent plaint, expressed mostly in Tagalog even if his proficiency in English was beyond reproach. Twice we had “people power”, but power never really went to the people. The poor are as wretchedly despondent as ever, and political power has only served the economic interests of the few. As it was in Marcos, so it was with Cory and beyond. And as degenerately worst in Gloria’s reign. He has fashioned in his mind, after several meetings with experts in various academic disciplines, or read their published and unpublished work, what we call a new kind of change. Bagong Pagbabago --- not the usual motherhood statements, but specific solutions that could serve as the lynchpin of a vision that would make the common man, middle-class or poor, realize that he matters in the scheme of things.

People power never brought power to the people. It was exploited by the powerful and wealthy few to bring them more power and more wealth. For the people to feel that to them belongs the power in a sovereign and democratic nation, then what must be practiced is “people politics”, in present practice nothing else but power politics in the guise of party politics.

Escudero’s message would not resonate with the people if his politics reeked of “old and inherited” wealth, though not his own, and certainly not of “new wealth” with questionable origins, as in the case of a man born poor but ascended the economic ladder quickly through wheeling and dealing.

Hindi pwedeng Lumang Pulitika. Lalong hindi pwedeng Nagpayaman sa Pulitika.

The idealism remains intact. The vision is clear. The intent to serve in higher capacity remains.

Cynics scoff in scorn, in a political environment where “practical” (read that as traditional) politics is the rule. Quixotic, many dismiss.

But in a time of continuing blight, with 65% of the population young but helpless, young but hopeless, reaching for one’s North Star must be done without mental reservation or emotional qualm.

I have chosen to accompany young Chiz Escudero in his political odyssey.

And so this is my last article until after the tenth of May, 2010. I had hoped to invite the publisher, boss Jake, and the editors, boss Pocholo and Manong Joy among others in Malaya, to lunch or dinner to explain why I must take a leave of absence from column-writing, but the whirl of events that led to young Escudero’s decision prevented an earlier person-to-person farewell.

I thank Malaya and Abante, and all the staff, particularly Che who reminded me of my deadlines patiently, for the privilege of writing these past five years and five months.

* * *

P.S. When young Chiz informed his ninang, Mrs. Jesusa Sonora Poe, Susan Roces to every Filipino, that he would begin his political odyssey on October 28, she asked --- “Why the date?”

Chiz replied: “Wala lang po. Nagkataon lang dahil na-postpone na nga”.

And Mrs. Poe smilingly said, “That is the Feast of St. Jude, the patron saint of the impossible”.

Chiz laughed upon the realization of the religious significance of the date. Incidentally, St. Jude is located right beside Malacanang. Serendipity.


red359 said...

Chiz has a brand of wit and candor all his own. Very Admirable.
"Leadership" in Philippine politics is a whole different ballgame, I think he has yet to prove he has the umphh! (18 million votes notwithstanding) to clench top spot specially now he's THE lone warrior for real change.
Lito, wish you and your team the very best. Chiz is lucky you're with him.

Glenn Jaen, Butuan City

Maynila said...

Run Chiz, run, if only to take votes away from Villar and Erap.

Maynila said...

And btw, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is also her ninang, whose support Chiz was secretly asking for, as Mikey Arroyo had once adverted to.

For one to get the President of the Philippines as wedding sponsor smacks of opportunism which Chiz now claims to eschew.

Bagong Pagbabago? Or Bagong Panggagago?

Anonymous said...

feeling mo naman maynila kaw lang ang tao..naman

sana napakinggan mo din sa dzrh na sinabi ni mikey mas matanda kay chiz yun secretly nakipag usap sa kanl..sino ngayun ang loko, ikaw, nag aakusa ka ng di ka nagreresearch!

itaas mo ang kandidato mo at wag magbato ng iba! hilig mo sa tsismis, kaya di umuusad ang pinas dahil sa tulad nyo akala mo mga bigay kayo ng diyos!

sino ba mga nasa likod ng kandidato mo butch abad eh yan yun may scandal sa books di ba. di ba ang mga nasa likod ni noy yun mga nag upo kay gloria,,di ba,,sila yun mga ayaw maalis sa kapangyarihan, paalis na ang dati nila amo kaya, gagawa na naman ng kakapitan..tsk tsk,ikaw ng nagagago kasi di ka nagreresearch! yan namn si mr google!

rainee salazar

Pedro Garcia Millan said...

Yo pepper, pasop. Pusit balan ditou alan. Manganapong iglesia ni cristo loipas manag ditu?

Titu Litu Marquez ang Manny Pacquiau silopang pasalubong anderson?

Sigue, sigue bokbyron!