This post is about what has been put down in this analysis by Gill H. Boehringer, entitled “Class and Ondoy: The Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Ideological Distortions”.
The article discusses the failure of the Inquirer to describe the disaster following the onslaught of Typhoon Ondoy in a class-unbiased way. True, the Inquirer did call the disaster a great equalizer, and we know that the daily is actually the mouthpiece of the EDSA forces, one of two voices of “the other ruling class”, the other voice being the collective voice of Boy Abunda and Kris Aquino (because the former adds credibility to areas where the latter might have left us with doubts about her sincerity). Boehringer apparently indicts the daily for having participated in a cover-up of the social dimensions of the Ondoy disaster. And apparently at the risk of sounding too class-conscious. The trouble (or problem) for proponents and believers of this more erudite analysis is that most Filipinos will say ‘pare-pareho lang tayo pagdating ng kalamidad’ and actually believe it. They will also say that this proposition is aiming toward class conflict, and hence communistic and by extension subversive. Filipinos will not dare embrace this proposition publicly, saying ‘Makibagay na lang tayo sa gobyerno, makibagay na lang tayo sa sistema.’ And with good reason.
Socialism as an ideology or body of ideologies has been proven to not work in countries like Russia, East Germany, Cuba, and North Korea. China, where the largest and longest-surviving Communist party still reigns, has eschewed socialism while continuing to call itself Communist – but oh, the money trail will tell you what it really is.
Moreover, Filipinos do not have the time or resources to initiate class struggle and sustain class conflict. Or the inclination, because any conflict destabilizes the pretty little lives Filipinos fashion around themselves.
While I agree with some points that Boehringer laid down, I don’t see the utter need to describe the role of class in the Ondoy disaster. The role of class in disasters is well-documented, anyway: in the Philippines, it is usually taken for granted that the poor suffer much more than the rich. But the poor rarely take up arms against the government because of such suffering. The rich do, and constantly. Look at Kris Aquino.
It may be said that the poor are seemingly quiet, because they have no voice in government and are often bypassed or, much more cruelly, used to bolster a bid by a member of the ruling class. Look at Hermogenes Ebdane’s ads to see what I mean.
Actually, the poor have a loud voice, if diffused: The Marcosine cabal (see later).
This article by Boehringer does not state the fact that illegal settlement of the Laguna Lake shore is the reason for the disaster. But we may also ask why the government turns a blind eye while immigrants in search for a better life flood Metro Manila and settle in every possible nook and cranny of the metropolis, rather than go to Cebu, Cagayan de Oro, and Davao and other cities in order to find work. The centralization of the Philippines around Manila is a significant part of the problem, and the poor are not to blame.
But as the topic of ideological distortions and differences has been touched, I will talk about the ideological swirls in the Philippines since 1986. I say that the conflict among these ideologies in society and politics are per se the reason for the continued destitution of the Philippines.
Philippine society and politics, I will say forthrightly, has had four major movers ever since 1948.
The first is the political and social Establishment, or “Estab”. Estab is the combined might of the rich political clans in the Philippines in Katagalugan, Pampanga, Kabisay-an and Kabikolan, as well as some clans in Ilocos. Therein are the familiar figures of Manuel Quezon (and descendants), Elpidio Quirino, Manuel Roxas (and descendants), Diosdado Macapagal (and descendants), Luis Villafuerte (and descendants), and others. You get the picture. They love to dabble in law. They live to dabble in law. And they are the leading politicians of the ruling class. Estab is self-righteous and ruthless, and will not brook any opposition, whether from Corazon Aquino or from Joma Sison. It has tried to destroy the latter, and has planted seeds all around the domicile of the former to undermine her. Joey de Venecia is the best example of those seeds.
The second force, which came into vogue with Martial Law, is the Marcosine cabal, or “Markies”. Markies are directly ideologically descended from Ferdinand Edralin Marcos, Sr., the architect of the New Society. Some people have looked up to him as some Indonesians have looked up to a Sukarno. This profiling of Marcos in this way is important for us to perceive because the Markies, the spawn he left, are populist politicians of the ruling class. They go to barrios and shake people’s hands, and they pose for pictures which will be shown on their election ads. They also love to dabble in law, like their Apo Macoy does, but they like to behave most ‘populistically’ (if ever there was such a word). The KBL (which includes Imelda’s hanky-waving worshippers) is the most obvious, if weirdest and most fringe, Markie faction, but others which can be pointed out easily are the Erap group, Jamby Madrigal, Manny Villar (who, interestingly, is the head of the Nacionalista Party that Marcos took part in before the New Society), and Mike Velarde, who although he is more a charismatic figure than a political one is very much populist. Velarde has not, it must be pointed out for fairness, openly expressed support for Marcos or his family.
The above description of Markies is important to identify certain of them in our midst. Francis Escudero, for one, although he has been pushing for ‘new governance’, is actually the latest in a long line of Markies. He is populist. He loves to cajole the people with his use of Tagalog (a foolish move) and talk about change. And we found out he is the son of one of Macoy’s ministers during Macoy’s rule. The best part of the Chiz offensive is that he can actually convince us that he is The One.
The third force is the EDSA Force, or “Edsa”. This consists of people who are so tired with what the two previously described groups are planning and doing, that they actually think of ways to move the system. But they are timid, uncoordinated, and usually sticking to conventional methods. Corazon Aquino is one of these people, and her family and every branch of the Aquino and Cojuangco families (even Danding, but not Tessie Oreta, who is decidedly irrelevant now, and Gibo, who is not very Cojuangco ideologically). So is Manoling Morato, who is a ‘morality’ guardian. They usually also belong to certain other rich families, like the Prietos (who own the Inquirer and, like their flamboyant relative Tessa, are patrons of the arts and everything more noble than making more money and having more sex), the Guidote-Alvarezes, the Lumberas and the Almarios (and other arts-and-literature families), and such like. Edsa people boast of having finished college in UP or in other old if not erudite universities, and are the cream of the cream of the cream of the crop. They write or teach for a living. The hardest part is, they have the loudest voice of all but they are the most lampa, or ineffective. While groups like Edsa are very influential in the US and Europe, in the Philippines everybody looks down on them as ‘the conyo class’. In fact, they’re the only thinkers in this country, in two senses: they ‘alone’ think, and they ‘only’ think. Hence they are fond of theories and projections, and, to expand and correct Boehringer’s assertion, the notion that rich and poor did equally suffer is more a projection than a cover-up. Maybe these are honest mistakes, or they can be calculated propaganda. It’s hard to tell. But like with Kris Aquino, the truth is this class is fundamentally self-absorbed.
Tessa Prieto, however, is a phenomenon that could only be discussed in a separate column, along with Chin-Chin Gutierrez.
The last force, but certainly not to be left out, is the Communist Party and its myriad fronts, collectively called NDF. It purports to be the voice of the poor all over the Philippines, but has always failed in its attempts to subvert governments which the first three forces head, despite the majority of Filipinos being poor. It has a very small following in a country that is very religious and also very un-cerebral. They advocate class struggle: they’re the only ones who do so in the Philippines. They are whipping boys of the governments, whichever among the governments that sat from 1946 onward. They purport to investigate human rights violations, which does not give them underdog status even today. Alas, the Filipino people are tired of such movements. The NDF is at risk of being more Markie-like, because of the tendency to populism, just to save their cause from falling apart. Of course, Satur Ocampo and friends are in that class. We are sympathetic toward them because of the military, but we don’t exactly like the idea of collectivization and, yes, class struggle.
These four forces struggle amongst themselves even now, as they have done so during the past 63 years. The Philippines has remained poor and virtually clueless about what it’s meant to be as a nation. The cruel thing is, the Philippines doesn’t know it’s virtually clueless and thinks it’s finding its real identity as a nation.
No doubt, the typhoons that swept the country were natural events. I beg to differ with Boehringer in that I regard the entire socio-political system of the Philippines as having been calamitous long before Ondoy, and that all the ideological wars between those forces, instead of only ideological ‘cover-ups’ or projections by the Inquirer in particular and Edsa in general, are the real culprits for making the Filipino/a’s political thoughts as lame, ineffective, and pathetic as they are today.