Friday, January 29, 2010

Doy Laurel's Ordeal

Perhaps the most painful ordeal in Salvador H. Laurel's political life arose from the broken promises of Corazon C. Aquino very early in her presidency. When on 11 December 1985 she agreed to run under the banner of the UNIDO party, which Laurel organized and led, she promised him that he would be the Prime Minister (under the 1973 Constitution) and that he would be closely consulted for most of the Cabinet appointments. Instead, from the first few months of her presidency, a Palace "cordon sanitaire" gradually and systematically denied him access to her. She also refused to be identified with the UNIDO right after assuming the presidency.
Here is an excerpt from the 13 August 1988 Open Letter that Vice-President Doy sent to President Cory and which concluded with his announcement that he was completely disassociating himself from her administration:
"Despite my limited access to you, I tried to focus your attention on the need for a well-defined program of government. Such a program was made available to you by UNIDO from the very start when it made you its presidential candidate. But in total disregard of all political norms, you completely ignored the party platform, refused to acknowledge your obligations to the party that sponsored your bid for power, and tolerated all open or underhanded assaults against it.
"If I have held my peace until now in spite of your decision to ignore me altogether and to listen instead only to the counsel of those whose political, economic and social interests are more congruent with your own, it is because my sense of responsibility for the new government goes much farther back in time. It was I who, although already nominated for President by the UNIDO National Convention in June 1985, offered you, not a million signatures on a petition, but a solid pre-existing political party with nationwide roots and structures that would assure you of victory and a chance to fulfill the hopes and dreams of our suffering people.
"While I accept my share of moral responsibility for having helped place your administration in power, that responsibility must be proportionate to the actual opportunity given to participate in the decision-making process. That opportunity was close to zero."

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Salvador 'Doy' Laurel: Missed Statesman

Today is the 6th death anniversary of a Filipino patriot and statesman, Salvador 'Doy' Laurel (1928-2004), who served his country as National Centennial Commission Chairman (1994-1998), Vice-President of the Republic (1986-1992), Assemblyman (1978-1983) and Senator (1967-1972). Doy & Ninoy Aquino were best friends from childhood and entered Congress together.
In a testimony written by Lupita Kashiwahara, Ninoy's sister, one reads:
"Doy and Ninoy served together in the Philippine Senate. Those were the glory years of intelligent, articulate discourse. Can you imagine being in the Senate gallery, listening to those two giants of Philippine politics debating the critical issues of the time? The Senate has not been the same since.
"During martial law, Doy established UNIDO [United Nationalist Democratic Organization], the leading opposition party to [Ferdinand] Marcos. And when Ninoy decided to end his self-imposed exile and return home, Doy took charge of his homecoming.
"In a quiet moment during the turmoil that followed Ninoy's murder, Doy, I was told, cried. Doy the bon vivant, the life of a party, the fierce Batangueno
, was a caring and sensitive human being. He felt our pain and his own. We had lost a loved one and so had he."
In the testimony of a loyal friend, Raul M. Gonzalez, Doy "fought valiantly together with other freedom-loving Filipinos during the darkest hours of our democracy, earning the ire of the then martial law regime."
These testimonies and those of many others can be read in the beautiful coffee table book, "Doy Laurel," put together by his talented & devoted widow Celia Diaz-Laurel and published in 2005. His life, ideas, and writings can also be read in the newly launched website:
One my fondest memories of Ninong Doy, who was a main sponsor at my wedding, was the dinner he & Tita Celia hosted for me and my fiancee, Deeda, and our parents, Raul and Pacita Gonzalez and Oscar and Alice Villadolid in December 2002. Ninong Doy & Tita Celia were perfect hosts, and he personally prepared and served us his delicious specialty, Sukiyaki.
May the spirit of Doy Laurel cheer us & sustain us to "help those who cannot help themselves" and to love country above oneself.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Missing Element in CBCP Call for Political Involvement

The call of Philippine Catholic bishops for the active involvement of the laity in "principled partisan politics" (24 January 2010 CBCP Pastoral Statement) targets individual candidates and voters but neglects necessary institutions like political parties. More than our flawed elective officials, the bigger national challenge is our weak governance institutions. Enduring and pervasive unethical practices in politics are rooted in flawed systems and institutions, which can outlast individuals & cannot be changed without sufficient competence, imagination, strategic moves & sustained efforts.

The CBCP asks the candidates to educate the people on the situation of our country and “to present their platforms and convictions rather than attack others.” The bishops appeal to voters to exercise wisely their right to vote, and to “follow the dictates of conscience after a prayerful and collective period of discernment” rather than be swayed by “survey results or political advertisements.”
The CBCP encouragement for lay people to participate actively in principled partisan politics should target the strengthening of institutions like the political parties, which are weak in the following: clarifying and promoting their ideologies and platforms, mobilizing resources for political education and electoral campaigns, and disciplining their party members (see “Priorities for Parties,” 15 August 2009 blog). Political parties that are financially stable, ideologically strong, platform-based, and dialogical in practice will be more effective in the political education of the citizenry than the institutional church will be.

In this light, here are some crucial pastoral actions for the institutional church:

(1) Encourage voters, and urge the political parties, to support a Party Development Law that would create a State Subsidy Fund for party strengthening and campaign financing, require an established participatory process for selecting party candidates, and punish party-switching.

(2) Encourage voters to review the platforms, programs & accomplishments of current parties, and to join a party & actively contribute to its capability in formulating & implementing its programs & disciplining its members.

(3) Specify & disseminate criteria to guide voters and neophyte candidates in assessing & choosing to join a political party, e.g. the coherence, the explanatory ability & the explicit & implicit anthropological assumptions of the party ideology & platform.

A radical theologian once suggested that faith without ideology is dead. If ideology is understood as a politico-economic theory on how a society may resolve or balance the competing interests of its members, then the practice of one’s religious faith without ideology tends either to neglect social reform or to pursue reform in incoherent or unsystematic ways. The evangelization of Philippine politics is ineffective when it ignores the institutional weakness of political parties, which are ideologically & financially weak.