Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Philippine Left and the 2010 Elections (Comment piece Number 3)

Ric Reyes for Pasig Mayor: A hallmark electoral campaign for the left

Ric Reyes’[1] campaign for Mayor of Pasig was formally launched at a 5000 strong local rally on March 26. The march, the biggest to be held in that city for many years, snaked it’s way on a ‘long march’ through the working class sections of Pasig. Ric Reyes campaign is a flag mark campaign for the left – an example of how to conduct a united, principled and effective electoral intervention. The campaign unites local mass leaders and activists of Akbayan and the Partido Lakas ng Masa, in a tactical alliance with the local ‘yellow forces’ of the Liberal Party, whose national Presidential candidate is Noynoy Aquino. The local chapter of the Magdalo, one of the political formations formed by military rebels who attempted to lead a military mutiny against Gloria Macapagal Aorroyo, are also supporting the campaign.

Pasig, Ric’s home town, is one of the four richest cities in Metro Manila, with a city government budget of around P5.2 billion in 2010. The city’s political institutions have been in the clutches of a local political clan, the Eusebios, for some 18 years. The clan has controlled the mayoralty of the city over that period, the position oscillating between the father Eusebio, mother and now the son, who is standing again for re-election. The political clan has controlled the Vice Mayor’s position, the entire City Council and even the heads of the local barangays – the Barangay Captain’s positions – for most of this period. The clan runs homeowners associations, interfere in the elections of the local mass organizations, such as the jeepney and tricycle drivers associations, through a combination of patronage politics and terror tactics.

Barangay Pinagbuhatan, the barangay where Ric’s campaign was launched, is controlled by a henchman of the Eusebio’s who has used terror tactics to quell any local resistance, including the liquidation of a number of local leaders. In 2004, an opposition congressional candidate, who was on his way to winning the congressional seat of Pasig, was gunned down and assassinated.

Electoral results are constantly manipulated, using various tricks in the book (standard fare of electoral politics in the country) including buying ‘excess’ ballots from the National Printing Office. On one occasion the certificate of canvass filed by the local electoral commission office had a total number of votes counted, which exceeded the total number of votes cast, by thirty thousand.

According to Ric Reyes, “The Pasig campaign is a good example of the left uniting together. The local Liberal party also has many progressive members, who used to be with the left. Many former activists, individuals, have also come out to support the campaign.” The campaign has mobilized many new activists, with around 300 people working on the campaign on a daily basis. Even some of the local leaders of the Reaffirmists (Maoists, who reaffirm the CPP strategic line of protracted peoples war) are expressing ‘tactical support’ for the campaign.

“Right from the start I made it clear to people that this is a ‘poor man’s’ campaign to oust a dynasty. A dynasty that has taken care of the local roads (which involve lucrative business contracts), but not the people in the area. The state of the hospitals in Pasig are dismal, with people even having to buy their own alcohol (disinfectant) because this is not being provided to them. The public school system is in a mess and there’s a drop-out rate of some 25% at elementary and high school. The city is also a well-known drug den and is one of the main distribution centres for drugs in Metro Manila. The first step to deal with the drug problem in Pasig, is to oust the drug lord controlling the city hall.”

“As for the jobs generated by the city government, these are ‘patronage’ jobs – casual and ‘volunteers’ who are on miserable allowances of around P2000/month. In the city hall bureaucracy, there are people who have been working there for 15 to 17 years who are casuals on three month long contracts, without regular jobs.

“The Eusebios don’t only resort to physical harassment, but also demand ‘grease’ money (payment of bribes) from small businesses who need to have their licences renewed every year, for example. Many businesses, including wealthier ones in Ortigas, complain about this type of harassment as well. Stall vendors in the markets, side-walk vendors, can be thrown out and harassed. Tricycle drivers are victimized and have to pay large fines of P500 for minor violations.”

The city hall’s budget meetings are held in Shanghai and Hongkong. The Eusebios have also accumulated a massive amount of wealth through local plunder and are said to own mansions in London, San Francisco and New York.

Ric Reyes campaign is called “Pasig Libre: Tayo ang Pagbabago” (Free Pasig! We Are for Change!) The campaign will be based on house-to-house campaigning, and mobilizing the people around local issues, such as the threatened demolition of some 15,000 urban poor families living along the flood ways of the Pasig river. The campaign is also attempting to minimize the possibilities of cheating, by checking on the voters lists to make sure they are not padded with false voters and with legitimate voters excluded. The campaign committee is attempting to set up a separate organization to ensure that the voters’ lists and the counting of the ballot is secured.

[1] Ric Reyes is a well-known leader of the revolutionary socialist movement in the Philippines. He was a leader of the Rejectionist movement that left the CPP in the early 1990s, repudiating the CPP’s undemocratic party practices and their line of armed struggle, via protracted peoples war.