THE LIGHTER SIDE
Making (Non)Sense of Politics Election Lexicon Quickie Quiz for the Politically Insane All these from i’s special election issue Order your copy now!
THE LIGHTER SIDE
Making (Non)Sense of Politics
Quickie Quiz for the Politically Insane
All these from i’s special election issue
Order your copy now!
T H E C A M P A I G N — T H E X - M E N
THERE are many of us who had completed college and acquired the skills to make a living. Some of us were even board or bar topnotchers and have made now made our marks in our post-leftist professional lives. But yes, there was a time when we were fixtures at rallies, acting as command centers relaying a series of quick instructions to a band of demonstrators, in an age before cell phones and text messages.
Many of us have maintained friendships with our ex-comrades. The activist movement was national in character and involved many from all corners of the country. It wasn't far fetched for a Manila-based activist to know someone from Cebu, Cotabato, or Baguio who studied in the same school, or belonged to the same cell or collective within the movement.
Those ties have remained. It's like an old boys' network of sorts. On a visit to Davao City, I might be able to look up an ex-comrade, pay him a visit, and invite him out to dinner. Over bottles of beer, we would recall the good old days, reminisce about our days in the movement, relive our lost youth, and all that. And then I might ask him to help campaign for my candidate in his area, or to contribute votes to my party-list bet.
In a manner of speaking, it is this old boys' network that now holds a reunion every three years, or each election year. That's when you track down former comrades and ask for their help. With a former comrade, there's that element of trust. You feel comfortable working with this person and can anticipate his moves. A campaign or a political organization is the kind of a working environment that puts a premium on trust.
There are many comrades like this, former foot soldiers who faithfully toed the party or the national-democratic line and are still willing to help old friends. Because there's a job boom during elections, I might offer him or her part-time work or business as a charitable act, to allow them to earn money on the side.
Many of us have gone into all sorts of businesses-printing presses, catering, selling cellular phones. Election campaigns would just be a hobby for these entrepreneurial types. More than the money, maybe, there's also the psychic income they get from helping install a government in 90 days through elections, which is a more viable route than Sison's protracted 100-years-war ever was.
A simple poster can show you the interaction of ex-Reds. A poster can be funded by a former activist, now a big shot in a corporation, who has offered to bankroll the printing of posters of a candidate whose campaign is being run by ex-leftists. The photo will most likely have been taken by a photographer who used to be one of them; he probably now has a studio. The poster will be printed in a printing house managed by an ex-activist. The people who will be hired to put up those posters were also one-time activists, and to do the job, they'll probably hire jeepneys and ladders of people who once were leftists.
Go to any hotel lobby and have coffee. Chances are, you'll see a table full of campaign people belonging to Candidate X, another table with the staff of Candidate Y. It would look like a reunion of former Reds, only now they're working for opposite camps. But there are no hard feelings. It's just a job.
I wouldn't call myself a mercenary. Mercenaries are emotionless. Besides, this is not our principal source of income. I would say that for people like us, it's not the money. It's the trip. It's just a hobby, a game. There's a thrill in doing it. You get pleasure out of manipulating this fight among the political elite. The difference is that every player or participant has an activist in his corner.
Actually, whatever career an ex-revolutionary or ex-activist chooses, his progressive heritage will always be a value-added qualification. It's a lifelong itch that has stayed, and now it can be scratched every three years.
IT has even become a selling point in the campaign to be an ex-activist. It's part of disclosure. You have to tell your prospective client whom you worked for in the past, who your previous clients were.
After the elections, some of us will be joining the staff of the candidate (if he wins), others will go back to nongovernmental organizations, or return to Congress where we are embedded. Still others entertain thoughts of running for public office themselves, or accept appointments in the bureaucracy, which is why there are ex-activists all over government. These people are skilled, not only in the acquisition of a popular mandate, but also in the exercise of that mandate.
In the end, you can look at it this way: Candidates imagine themselves as governments-in-waiting, and the clique of activists in that candidate's campaign are just a bunch of ex-activists trying to depose a government that's partially run or propped up by ex-activists.
In the past, Joseph Estrada had former National Democratic Front leader Horacio 'Boy' Morales and Edicio de la Torre, former head the underground Christians for National Liberation, in his government. When Estrada was deposed and Gloria Arroyo took over, another group of activists came in. You have Rigoberto Tiglao who used to head the Manila-Rizal chapter of the Communist Party of the Philippines. There are also Mike Defensor, former vice chairman of the University of the Philippines Student Council, and Hernani Braganza who was once chairman of the League of Filipino Students. Raul Roco has former student activist Jimmy Galvez Tan, and former Kabataan Makabayan member Gary Olivar. Fernando Poe Jr. has, again, Morales and de la Torre. There are many, many more of them.
And so if you hear a candidate spewing progressive ideas or trite leftist slogans, you can be sure that an ex-activist has wormed his way into the media or policy circles of that campaign. How else do you explain Poe calling for things like "sustainable development?" That's nothing but artificial intelligence, fed to him by a leftist. Things like this would probably make Sison salivate in his winter quarters in Europe, while his ex-comrades, sweltering in the tropics, are running the show.
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