He had you at “power to the people!” and then he said he wanted to “occupy” your heart, and that you are his 99 percent. Yet you find his world quite exotic, his vocabulary sometimes confusing, although he seems sincere given his passionate determination to fight for his beliefs. Indeed, it is difficult to reject someone whose heart bleeds for the weak and inarticulate. But like all rational beings, you have lingering doubts not just with his integrity but also with the life he has chosen. Is he for keeps? Will you join his Cause? The final decision is of course up to you, recognizing that the act of falling in love is ruled by subjective emotions. But in the meantime, it might prove useful to gain a better knowledge about the activism of your “part time” or “full time” lover.
1. How and where did you meet each other?
a. At a coffee shop in Quezon City. His group was protesting the interventionist agenda of the United States and China.
b. Mendiola in Manila, near Gate 7 of Malacañang Palace. His group joined a multisectoral rally opposing the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement which would allow the return of US troops and facilities in the country.
c. Quezon Memorial Circle. His group conducted a flash mob urging rich countries like the US and Japan to reduce carbon emissions.
2. What is he reading today?
a. Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016. According to him, the progressive blueprint of the “reigning reform coalition.”
b. Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty. He insists that the book, an international bestseller, offers a flawed alternative especially when compared to Marx’s Das Capital.
c. 12 Little Things Every Filipino Can Do to Help Our Country by Alex Lacson. And he goes on preaching that change should start with the individual.
3. Who is his inspiration as a leader?
a. Noynoy Aquino. Allegedly sincere, honest, and reformist.
b. Crispin “Ka Bel” Beltran. Working class hero. Incorruptible, principled, revolutionary.
c. Mahatma Gandhi. Nonviolence advocate.
4. What is he saying about the Disbursement Acceleration Program?
a. He praises the government for releasing the list of DAP-funded projects. He also urges Aquino, the implementer of DAP, to continue the budget reforms of his “daang matuwid” regime. He is convinced that Aquino never used the DAP worth 237 billion pesos as pork or as a tool for political patronage.
b. He wants the Aquino government to be made accountable for implementing an unconstitutional budget program. He supports the plunder case against Abad, the author and architect of DAP. He is campaigning for the People’s Initiative against pork since he believes that Aquino and Congress are unwilling to completely dismantle the pork barrel system.
c. After cursing all the corrupt politicians, he enjoins his friends to campaign for the lowering of taxes, bemoaning the fact that professionals and businesses are overtaxed by a corrupt bureaucracy.
5. Does he support a second term for Aquino?
a. First, he wanted Aquino to “clarify” his statement. Then he expressed “openness” to the proposed second term to sustain the momentum for reforms.
b. Hell no! He warned the people to guard against a creeping yellow dictatorship.
c. No. He reminded Aquino to preserve the legacy of his parents who both fought a dictator.
6. Did you go out last August 25, during the National Heroes Day?
a. Yes, he took you to Ateneo to participate in a forum about the need to continue the crusade for reforms (read: term extension)
b. Yes, you both went to Luneta to sign the PI against pork (read: anti-Aquino)
c. Yes, you both organized an activity with some friends in support of a charity (read: ice bucket challenge)
7. What was his reaction when the three impeachment complaints against Aquino were thrown out by Congress?
a. He cheered the decision of the 54 legislators, majority of whom had been rabid supporters of Gloria Arroyo, and hailed it as a vote of confidence for the clean and transparent government of Aquino.
b. He lambasted the DAP beneficiaries for disregarding the evidence and supporting documents presented by the complainants.
c. He was disappointed since a supposedly independent branch of government hurriedly dismissed the impeachment without requiring Aquino to answer the serious allegations raised by the complainants.
8. Does he like movies?
a. Yes, some of his simple-living friends are fond of buying DVDs in wholesale. Some are even ready to spend 2,000 pesos in just one transaction.
b. Yes, he was recently talking about “The Guerrilla is a Poet” and “Barber’s Tales”.
c. Yes, he tracks and supports various film festivals although he often rants against Filipino movies shown during the Christmas season.
9. What is his view about guns and politics?
a. Oh he abhors guns too much including the idea of mobilizing the people to take up arms against the government. He believes that the use of guns is not a legitimate option in the democratic struggle. Curiously, he rejects the people’s prerogative to use arms in the defense of their communities, but he sees nothing irregular with a Cabinet member and so-called nonviolence advocate carrying AK-47 and M-16 rifles in his SUV as protection against perceived threats to his life.
b. He recognizes the right of the people to arm themselves against the attacks of the reactionary state and various private armies of warlords and despotic landlords. He sees armed struggle as both a form of resistance and political solution in response to a situation where the ruling classes are brutally preventing the people from altering the repressive status quo.
c. He wants stricter gun control, he prefers to use guns for sporting events, and he is horrified by the rising crime rates across the country.
10. Does he agree with the statement that the Conditional Cash Transfer program is an effective anti-poverty program?
a. First, he says no. Then he will retract his statement. He will even praise the CCT as an innovative grassroots approach undertaken by the government.
b. No. He will point out that it does not address the roots of inter-generational poverty in the country. He will reject it as a band-aid solution which is being used by the government to buy the political support of the poor.
c. Most likely he will urge the government to rechannel the dole outs to strengthen social services and the foundations of the domestic economy.
11. Does he advocate gender rights?
a. Yes, he supports sexuality and gender rights. He actively campaigned for the passage of the Reproductive Health bill. However, he is hesitant to subsume gender to the political class struggle believing that identity issues have an independent dynamic.
b. Yes, he believes in RH, divorce, and the ending of discrimination based on gender. And he asserts that we must decisively destroy the political economic base that breeds a patriarchal culture. End feudal bondage by advancing the social revolution.
c. Yes, he believes in the equality of sexes and the proper recognition of feminist rights through legislation and other state-sponsored measures.
12. Does he join rallies?
a. Yes. Although he avoids political actions that would make him appear disrespectful to authorities such as lightning rallies, heckling, and burning of effigies.
b. Yes. He is an unrepentant advocate of People Power politics as he anchors the achievement of his political goals on the strength of the mass movement or the mass mobilization of the people.
c. Yes, as long as it is peaceful, lawful, colorful, environment-friendly, children-free, politician-free and will not cause traffic.
If most of his answers are letter A, it means he belongs to an activist group which has already identified itself as a “junior partner” of the government. He called it critical collaboration but it is dismissed by other political forces as a case of shameful sell-out. It is one thing to push for reforms within the bureaucracy but it is already opportunism when you compromise your principles just to give absolute support to a conservative landlord president in exchange for some petty spoils from the pork largesse. Armchair intellectuals suddenly became respectable when the pro-Aquino activists turned to coffee house activism during Obama’s visit last April. It’s activism which mutated into a tragedy and farce.
If most of his answers are letter C, it means he is affiliated with middle-class activism. His direct political engagement is not consistent since his advocacies are few and specific. He often makes intelligent political posturing but sometimes it is fueled by a naïve worldview. Still, it is an intervention worth celebrating. He distrusts politicians but willing to work with government agencies to advance some reforms. However, it is rare that his networks have deep connections with the basic sectors and marginalized forces in society.
If most of his answers are letter B, it means he is a radical activist, and most probably a member or supporter of the national democratic movement. Mainstream media often refers to it as the extreme Left. He is an activist with a comprehensive critique of society and a revolutionary vision as he demands the total disruption and remaking of the moribund social order.
So what type of activist is your friend? The choice is yours, but here’s one advice: If love is a commitment, then choose the activist whose fidelity to the Cause is beyond question. Why surrender yourself to some petty reformism when you can embrace the promise of an authentic radicalism?
Mong Palatino is a Filipino activist and former legislator. He is the chairman of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Metro Manila. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org