Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

Prospects for Makabayan

Posted by butalidnl on 2 June 2010

Now that the elections are over, Makabayan (the alliance consisting of Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Kabataan and ACT partylist groups) needs to take stock of its gains, and what its options for the future are. First, the gains. It seems that Makabayan would get at least 5 congress seats (maybe as much as 8 ) for this coming Congress. This is an enormous achievement, which they should put to good use.  On the other hand, its senatorial candidates Liza Maza and Satur Ocampo failed dismally to get elected – becoming only the 25th and 26th in the senatorial race. Both the positive and negative factors should play a role in Makabayan’s future.

Comprehensive Legislative Agenda
With the gains in Congress, Makabayan is clearly becoming a force to reckon with in Congress. In a Congress where personalities count, Makabayan representatives could present a unified stand on principle.  Before doing this, though, they need to have a clear comprehensive legislative agenda, drawn up on the basis of the specific advocacies of its member partylists, and on a unified vision of what kind of reform agenda they should push in Congress. Because otherwise, Makabayan will continue with its adhoc approach to lawmaking, and the reactive nature of its interventions.

I think that such a comprehensive legislative agenda, as well as a worked out strategy of how they intend to push it, will take the Makabayan lawmakers to a point where they will be able to push for progressive laws. If they really bundle their forces together, they could win over other partylist groups to their side, as well as district representatives, and could potentially form and lead a progressive bloc, which the other blocs in Congress will have to deal with. They can really get things done.

Independent Political Force
The experiment with Liza Maza and Satur Ocampo running for senate failed; but Makabayan should learn from this failure, instead of getting mired in it. The senatorial campaign showed that while Makabayan has a strong mass base, but that it did not gain significantly from allying itself with Villar’s Nacionalista Party. Rather, it was the Nacionalista Party which gained from Makabayan. In addition, being in the same senatorial slate as Bongbong Marcos confused Makabayan’s mass base on the true nature of the Marcoses; it also hindered Satur and Liza from attacking Bongbong Marcos and the legacy that he represented. I think that the Bongbong Marcos connection was the single biggest blunder in the senatorial campaign.

Makabayan should simply run as an independent political force, and not officially ally itself to an established traditional party. Perhaps traditional parties could “adopt” Makabayan candidates in their slates, but Makabayan should really avoid becoming an integral part of a slate – lest they fall into a similar trap again.

Then, again, one would ask: what use it would be to field independent candidates? To this, we can say that winning is not everything. Senatoriables have an unprecedented access to media which would be excellent for providing sharp analysis, and propagating the overall line of Makabayan to a national audience. I think it is worthwhile to do so, even though it will be admittedly more difficult to win an election given the state of things at the present. But who knows?

Local Positions
Another lesson that Makabayan should learn is one coming from Akbayan. Akbayan is slowly, quietly, fielding candidates to local political office. It has won some, and lost others. But the fact is that as Akbayan gains strength in the local field, it also strengthens its national posture. And the local field is a great way of developing electoral cadre, and of experimenting at the implementation of a program, and not merely at legislating it.

Makabayan is much better positioned that Akbayan to field local candidates. And it probably has already done so, although even more quietly, than Akbayan. But it is not enough to just have quiet sympathizers run for Makabayan, because the link with the national would not be clear nor natural. The local candidates of Makabayan should run openly as Makabayan where possible, in order to maximize the projection of the party itself, so that it could also gain from the local at the national level.

Well, these are just some suggestions for the future of Makabayan. Will Makabayan finally make an impact in Philippine politics? Or will it continue to plod along?

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