Keeping the Faith

Krupskaya Añonuevo teaches German at the Ateneo High School, but will once again be teaching at the UP Department of Psychology in the coming school year . This piece was published in the April 19, 2010 edition of the BusinessWorld, pages S1/4 to S1/5.

I can understand Ara Mina’s sentiment when she says that watching/reading the news can be depressing. Last week, as I read the almost identical articles by Apo Alvarez, Anakbayan chair, and the one on Joma Sison supporting Manny Villar, I felt my blood pressure shoot up and I am not even thirty.

What really galls my virgin-voting self is how both articles laud Villar, with his rags-to-riches story as his hero’s banner.  Both articles concluded that pro-poor programs are a necessary consequence of his not being born to an “elite, landed” family.  In the first place, Villar’s poor roots have yet to be sufficiently proved. The problem with Villar is not only that he never sufficiently answers the most serious allegations against him; he also has an almost sly tendency of turning the tables on the person questioning him.  He laments, for example, the fact that documents pertaining to his dead brother were dug up.  In the same breath, he patronizingly explains that even poor people bring their sick relatives to hospitals, while bungling the answer to who paid for his brother’s hospital bills.

Secondly, even if we assume that Senator Villar really had simple origins, doesn’t it bother Mr. Alvarez that the candidate he supports is, as Mr. Edel Garcellano succinctly puts it, “a bureaucrat-capitalist whose enterprises have eclipsed the earnings of haciendero paragons like Aquino.” (See Inquirer, 14 April 2010)? Does Mr. Alvarez honestly think that a man implicated in controversies such as the C-5 Extension Project and land-grabbing cases, a man whose campaign spending is akin to Ferdinand Marcos’ colossal spending on his 1969 presidential campaign, a man whose net worth grew from PhP 75.93 million from 1992 (when he started his first term as a congressman) to PhP 1.05 billion in 2008 (Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism report, 10 February 2010) really “represents a new paradigm of development”?

Sadly, it is not just Mr. Alvarez and Joma whose way of thinking confuses me.  Senatorial candidates Satur Ocampo and Liza Maza’s support of Senator Villar is similarly mind-boggling.  It was actually in Satur Ocampo’s benefit dinner (I even bought a Palaban Makabayan shirt!) when I first heard his justification for running with Villar.  He was the only presidential candidate who was receptive to their platform of change, he said.  In recent interviews and “debates,” he reiterates that they have a shared platform of political and economic reforms, thus the alliance. Interestingly, when asked about what someone like him is doing running with a Marcos, Congressman Ocampo, a social activist who has fought the Marcos dictatorship and is one of the longest-held detainees under Martial Law, cites this same platform.  Villar supposedly promised that he will prioritize compensation for the victims of human rights violations and recovery of the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses.  This has been seconded by Joma himself, saying that Villar’s programs include “respect for human rights and indemnification of the victims of human rights violations during the Marcos regime.”  This after Bongbong, a Nacionalista Party (NP) senatorial candidate, denies not just his father’s corruption, but also the massive human rights abuses, as “proven” by the lack of charges against him and his family.  While this kind of crap can perhaps be expected from a Marcos, I wonder about Ka Satur:  where are his beliefs and principles that his website touts as things he has had steadfastly held?

Maybe all of these rationalizations are just after the fact.  As a Psychology major, I am inclined to think that the cognitive dissonance produced by such a decision was perhaps too much that Ka Satur et al. had no choice but find ways to make this kind of compromise acceptable. Instead of second-guessing their actions, they have become insensitive to better, wiser choices they could have made.

More than my amazement at how the human mind works, I am truly disappointed by how their campaign does not depict them as palaban and matapang.  Not at all! What is so valiant and brave about the NP’s hodgepodge of characters?  While I still respect them and their simple lifestyles, the company they keep and the example they are showing by making that kind of choice made me finally decide this week not to vote for them.

As a mature first-time voter, I must clarify though that beyond this episode of frustration with statements flying in the face of logic and disappointment with certain candidates, the Elections 2010 ride has been an exciting problem-solving citizenship-building exercise. Headstart, The Philippine Daily Inquirer, and the evening news have become things I look forward to. Sure, sometimes reading an article like Mr. Alvarez’ can ruin my mood for hours, but keeping myself informed is mostly fun and empowering (You should try it sometime, Ara!).

I really enjoy listening to candidates, reading about their opinions and positions, and even getting to know their significant others. I even created a Twitter account just so that I am always updated and can ask candidates questions online.

I am exhilarated that I am part of this very important event, partly because this is my first time to vote and partly because of the high stakes involved.  For me, having a role in the change about to happen, in finally getting rid of a tiny tyrant who has made a mockery of government, is a big deal.  And while being here for such a momentous and decisive time is already something, the bigger gift is how everything I’ve experienced so far, instead of making me jaded, disillusioned, and hopeless, has truly encouraged me to be an active Filipino citizen. My interest in politics and good governance is slowly developing into commitment and, as Time Magazine (26 April 2010) phrased it, “a cautious optimism”.

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