MANILA, Philippines – The intellectual who gave up his seat in Congress to protest President Benigno Aquino III’s “fraternity-like” leadership is running for senator in 2016.
Former Akbayan Representative Walden Bello is seeking a Senate seat as an independent candidate.
Currently in the US for a fellowship, Bello will ask a representative to file his certificate of candidacy at the Commission on Elections office in Manila on Friday, October 16.
“I am running to promote an electoral insurgency against politics as usual, injustice, inequality, and corruption. I am running because people demand a representative with high ethical standards, who’ll go to hell for them, who won’t bullshit them like most politicians,” Bello said.
He added: “I’m running because I hate power and the only one you can trust with power are people who hate power.”
Bello, 69, is a global activist, author, academic, and political analyst.
A former Aquino ally, he became a harsh critic of the administration. Bello resigned as representative of the progressive party-list group Akbayan in March after nearly 5 years in Congress. He accused Aquino of a “brazen cover-up” of the January 25 Mamasapano tragedy, differing with Akbayan which remains allied with the administration. (READ: Bello: Aquino can ‘scratch me off his list of allies’)
The former lawmaker told Rappler he was “bombarded” with requests to run for senator.
“My bid is supported by a broad civil society network, progressive organizations, and individuals, including overseas Filipino workers, that came together to convince me to run over the last 3 months.”
He swore before the Philippine Consul General in Chicago to attest to his candidacy, and sent the document to Manila.
Akbayan not supporting Bello
Bello is a world-renowned intellectual whose views on a wide range of topics like globalization, militarization, politics, and the economy often appear on local and international publications. He is the author of at least 14 books on these issues.
As Akbayan representative, he pushed for the party’s initiatives like agrarian reform, the Reproductive Health law, the Freedom of Information bill, bills to end discrimination of the LGBT community, land use, and measures to secure the welfare of workers and the urban poor.
Yet Bello’s withdrawal of support from Aquino clashed with the position of the party leadership.
Akbayan has been in coalition with Aquino’s ruling Liberal Party (LP) since 2010. The partnership continues for the 2016 polls, with key leaders actively involved in the campaign of LP standard-bearer, former interior secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II. Akbayan chairperson Risa Hontiveros is running under the LP senatorial slate for the third time.
Bello said that he hopes Akbayan will support his senatorial bid. “I am confident many of my comrades in Akbayan will vote for me.”
Akbayan Representative Ibarra “Barry” Gutierrez III, also a spokesperson of the administration coalition, said Bello did not inform Akbayan about his senatorial bid.
“He did not seek the party’s official endorsement and he was absent from the party congress … So no, the party cannot endorse him at this time. We will leave it to the personal decision of individual members whether to support him or not,” Gutierrez told Rappler.
Bello said he supports the candidacy of party mate Hontiveros.
Hontiveros told Rappler that she wishes Bello well but cannot endorse his campaign.
“It is his right as a citizen to run for public office and to raise his critical views on important issues of the day. Though I cannot support his bid because it hasn’t been deliberated by Akbayan in our party processes,” she said.
The former Akbayan representative added: “I look forward to seeing him on the campaign trail where he will certainly contribute to raising the level of the public discussions.”
Bello first differed with Akbayan on the administration spending measure, the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), parts of which the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional. He wrote Aquino urging the President to fire Budget Secretary Florencio Abad over the “non-transparent, unaccountable, cavalier and reckless manipulation of public funds.”
The former representative also asked Aquino to sack Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes, and former police chief Alan Purisima, calling them “reckless, inept or corrupt officials.”
A peeved Aquino then asked Bello to run for president since he had “so many complaints.”
In each occasion, Akbayan clarified that Bello’s opinions were his own.
The last straw was when Aquino blamed former Special Action Force director Getulio Napeñas for the bungled operation to kill Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. This statement prompted Bello to resign, saying he disagreed with a basic party position of supporting Aquino.
Bello said: “This is the latest development in the shrinking of a man I once admired from a credible president to a small-minded bureaucrat trying desperately to erase his fingerprints from a failed project to save his own skin.”
“This man, I must conclude sadly, knows nothing of command responsibility or of honor.”
Akbayan stalwarts occupy key posts in government including Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs Ronald Llamas, National Anti-Poverty Commission head Joel Rocamora, former Commission on Human Rights Chairperson Etta Rosales, and Hontiveros who is director of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation.
Bello wrote an essay in June on Akbayan’s support for Aquino, saying the party must hold on to its principles “even if this means losing one’s position, possessions or life.”
No plans of leaving Akbayan
Earning his doctorate in sociology from Princeton University, Bello became a dissident during the Marcos dictatorship. He is a leading critic of “corporate-driven globalization.”
Bello co-founded the Bangkok-based think tank Focus on the Global South, and was professor of sociology at the University of the Philippines. He became president of the Freedom from Debt Coalition, and chairman of the board of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.
A prolific author, he is now in the US for a fellowship at the University of Wisconsin, and gives lectures in different universities and groups in America and Brazil. He will return in “a few more weeks.”
Despite his differences with Akbayan, Bello said he still belongs to the party.
“I remain a member of Akbayan and have no plans to leave it.” – Rappler.com