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Unlike some, I am not as cynical or critical of 1Sambayan.
But first things first, what is 1Sambayan? If you scan news reports and social media accounts, these are the answers you might get: "an electoral or political coalition,” “an opposition bloc,” and "a pro-democracy, anti-Duterte, and anti-authoritarianism movement.”
Needless to say, a lot of unpacking and fleshing out is needed to fully appreciate the launch that unfolded at the plush Makati Sports Club, which was followed closely by thousands across the nation through social media and other online platforms.
From a more optimistic perspective, I see this much-talked-about launch as the start of a long process of national political renewal.
You see, as I was closely monitoring the proceedings on social media, I could not help but recall the most stressful days of my life in UP campus politics, when we had what we referred to then in our Diliman-based political party as a political primary.
Originating from the practice of the American polity and the US' major political parties, political primaries are basically internal political party exercises that allow these political parties to select and unite behind one candidate or a slate of candidates.
Because of our nation’s harrowing experience under Duterte’s mismanagement of the Philippine polity and economy, enabled by digital platforms and the Philippine digital infrastructure, however weak and limited it may be, we have been witness, as a nation, to the attempts of concerned, well-meaning, and leading political influencers to initiate a united and more solid electoral opposition to whoever is aspiring to get the sitting President’s anointment as candidate by the current regime.
As one news agency put it, “1Sambayan is represented by democratic forces from the progressive Bayan Muna on the Left and the Magdalo party of retired military personnel on the Right. The new bloc is led by the powerhouse troika of Carpio, former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, and ex-Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario.”
1Sambayan is, to my mind, the fortuitous and positive confluence of many factors and interests brewing for decades within our national polity.
For one, we have a multi-party system lacking in genuine political parties, and dominated by traditional political parties backed by oligarchic interests and populated by opportunistic political operators and brokers at the grassroots. This, on top of our various founts of social diversity in our archipelagic country,
In other words, we have a very fragmented society and polity that is now too inutile to protect itself from authoritarian assaults from within and much less from the meddling of foreign interests.
At the bottom of all this, I wish to underscore the need for genuine political parties in the country that can serve to aggregate public interests and, through good governance if ever their candidates get in office, translate such interests into relevant, pro-people policies and programs such as genuine agrarian reform or sustainable development.
Now there lies the rub. Precisely, beyond wanting to obviously get Duterte and his ilk out of formal political office, what else could be 1Sambayan’s electoral agenda?
How will it or its candidates eventually stand on key national issues today beyond offering competence or integrity? What policies and programs will they push for?
Posing this question is important, yes. Very important, in fact, for real talk on political change must first start with crafting an issue-based agenda before any talk of personalities and leaders. The horse must be put before the carriage, as it were.
However, in the context of seeing things as a historical process of renewal unfolding before us, and of which we can be a very real part of, I would, for the moment, give the 1Sambayan convenors the trust that they can offer more than hope for all of us beyond 2022.
I recall that sometime during the last presidential electoral season, one candidate for VP stated that we have no political parties in the Philippines.
He was correct in one key sense — we have no real parties in the sense of being issue-oriented and truly constituency-based. Our political parties have historically been nothing but playgrounds for the self-interested political games of oligarchs or the political elites.
Now we see something like 1Sambayan rising, and so we already hear criticisms and many questions from the jaded and the pessimists, especially those lacking in sociological imagination – a term coined by the sociologist CW Mills to refer to an individual’s capacity or ability to see how his personal life story intertwines with that of his broader society or community.
I say let us be more hopeful. This is not flowing from naiveté, I tell you, but from direct political experience and guarded optimism.
Allow me then to meander a bit about my own life story, which has honed my sociological imagination. In my short lifetime of but a half-century, I have seen two very popular presidents taken down, and local political parties and local leaders, even from student political parties in campus politics, rise from nowhere to turn the tides against the unjust and liars in our communities.
Furthermore, I have been involved in campaign work in all the presidential campaigns since 1997, and have also had experience in election campaigns at the local level from the barangay up to the provincial level – so please, I am no misty-eyed idealist. I have seen many good men and women lose electoral battles to individuals who, to be blunt, do not even deserve the label homo sapiens. I would prefer to see myself as an unyielding optimist and possibilist.
Hence, in view of all my experiences, I see the 1Sambayan launch as but one of countless attempts at helping bend the moral arc of the universe, drawing from from Martin Luther King, Jr., who once eruditely said that "The arc of the moral universe may be long, but it bends toward justice."
As a possibilist, I see so much that 1Sambayan can offer to enrich Philippine political culture. I have a feeling that the moral arc Martin Luther King spoke of is now really beginning to bend!
However, we all will only win the long-drawn war against injustice or corruption by continuing the good fight and never giving up!
Let us give 1Sambayan a chance. In the '60s, the boomers once rallied around the call, "Let’s give peace a chance." Today, in the Philippines of the 2020s, I say, let us, the Zoomers, give justice a chance! Let us give 1Sambayan a chance. – Rappler.com
Louie C. Montemar is an Associate Professor at the PUP Department of Sociology.