- Pilar Santos
SONA 2017: a test for the Left’s credibility
In the almost thirty years of State of the Nation Addresses (SONAs), one thing to me is clear: the Batasan area is always a battlefield pitting the various factions of the Philippine left (for our purposes, the National Democratic movement under the National Democratic Front) against established government. So far it is only this group that has remained in the “left”, as the other groups once called as such have fallen under the banner of Akbayan, which is recognized as the main enter left party that supported former President Aquino.
As they try to burn effigies or raise red flags, public perception of them has always been mixed. Of course, no SWS survey has ever been done to ascertain people’s trust in them, but truth be told, the vast majority of Filipinos have had it with them. The last two years have amped up this frustration.
Flashback to 2015. In the run up to the may 2016 elections, much discussion has taken place within left circles on who they would support. The Luzon based leftists opted to support then candidate Senator Grace Poe, while southerners supported Duterte. As the surveys came in with Duterte surging in front, more leftists from Luzon, understandably, moved to the Duterte camp, or at least voted for him.
A year into this new administration, various left personalities such as DSWD Secretary Judy Taguiwalo and DAR Secretary and others like former Gabriela Representative and now NAPC Chair Liza Maza, raising the expectation of greater participation in government.
Likewise raising the hopes were the restarted peace negotiations, complete with supportive statements from the likes of Jose Maria Sison and Luis jalandoni, punctuated by the release of the Tiamzon couple who reportedly head the New Peoples Army. Almost immediately, talks began in Norway, and moved to Rome.
Yet despite the initial good will, the question worth answering is whether the left was sincere in pursuing peace, and related development efforts.
Time and again, we hear of sporadic attacks against government installations, belying the claims of the Europe based leaders.
What we hear today, is that collection of revolutionary taxes are at an all time low. Even their leaders have gone on television to justify this practice to remind people that these taxes are still being collected. Going to that extended shows their own failure.
On the other hand, they have foolishly launched offensives in Mindanao during Martial law, with the supposed intent to mobilize people against extending the measure. Congress was not cowed and the extension came.
Sadly, the red fighters had by then revealed their positions and must now bear the brunt of pursuit by an armed forces which has the presidents back.
Perhaps they have overestimated their influence on mainstream media, or have been left irrelevant by other groups with the rise of ISIS- a group that will have nothing whatsoever to do with atheists like them- save for cutting off their genitals as certified infidels. As rumors of so-called human rights abuses by the military have remained unproven, confidence in the constitutionally mandated measure has risen.
The recognized leader meant to unify all efforts remains in exile and is no longer in robust health. This serves to compromise the groups ability to lead.
The bottom line is that the left is now entering difficult ground- where half of its forces, both below and above ground, are divided, and whatever military actions are pursued, are at best guerilla attacks led by various heads that cannot seem to coordinate. Worse, many of their supporters on the ground are avid supporters of the President- when their leaders are not looking. Their on and off support for the President is but the tip of their own inconsistency. They are confused.
After a year, the left stands divided. Its back is against the wall, it has exposed its weaknesses. Good luck!