Imagine that you are running for the Senate. Imagine that you have thrown everything you and your organization has into the race and the latest survey shows you have fallen behind by three spots, or by five percent. What would you do?
Some would focus on convincing the voters that they are ‘the better choice’: with their credentials, track record, platform, proposed reforms, stands on important issues. ‘Vote for me because I have done this” and “Vote for me because I can do this” are the general themes behind their campaign.
For Risa Hontiveros and Akbayan however, their approach is the complete opposite: “Vote for me because my opponents are worse”, that’s the general theme of their campaign.
In a Pulse Asia survey taken on the last week of March 2010, and whose results were published in the first week of April, Akbayan-LP senatoriable Risa Hontiveros was shown to have fallen in the rankings from the 15th to the 18th position. Her ratings plunged by 5.1%.
Alongside that were several sinister and seemingly unrelated developments of a nationwide scale. Posters of two other senatoriables, Makabayan’s Satur Ocampo and Liza Maza, as well as those of Makabayan’s partylist groups, were being spray-painted with messages claiming that they are “communist candidates”. Their supporters among incumbent local officials have received “poison letters”, warning them of “cooperating with communists”. Two local election candidates who are members of KABATAAN Partylist, as well as the group’s second and third nominees, received death threats with similar messages.
By the 19th of April, Hontiveros released a press statement in which she claimed Ocampo and Maza are “linked” to the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army. In the same statement, she dared the two to condemn activities of the CPP-NPA and implied that failure to do is equated to being members and supporters of the said groups.
This led the activist group League of Filipino Students to compare Hontiveros to retired Army general and notorious human rights violator Jovito Palparan. The latter became controversial after openly justifying the assassination and abduction of activists done in his command area by saying the victims were ‘communists’. He also dared his victims to ‘denounce the CPP-NPA’ as proof that they were not communists.
In a last-minute response to the criticisms, Hontiveros released another statement saying she did not link Ocampo and Maza to the CPP-NPA. At the same time however, Akbayan leaders told their members and supporters the opposite, as shown by the following message of the Facebook group ‘Youth Volunteers for Risa’.
At this point, the following should be clear:
The drop in Hontiveros’ ratings was before she was criticized by many groups and bloggers for her “irresponsible” statements. It cannot be attributed to the critiques. And the critiques are in no way, as Akbayan is telling their members, simply a cheap-shot to lower their bet’s ratings.
As shown by this article by online election watchdog group 100araw.com, such accusations against Ocampo, Maza, et.al have been thrown out by the courts under three Administrations and has been rejected by international groups such as the United Nations.
Why then has Hontiveros and Akbayan taken the discredited message of Jovito Palparan and plays it at full volume?
The problem with Akbayan and Hontiveros is that it has nothing else to prop up their candidacies/campaigns. They can only engage in negative campaigning because they cannot engage in positive campaigning. Why? Because they have nothing to back up the statements ‘Vote for me because I have done this” and “Vote for me because I can do this”.
1. Akbayan and the Right to Education: When the P300 to P1000 per unit tuition hike in the University of the Philippines was approved last 2006, did Akbayan’s chapters in the UP campuses support the call to launch protest actions? No. They were absent when the students from the Diliman, Manila, and LB campuses barricaded the Administration building on the very day the increase was passed. What did they do? They released a position paper claiming that the increase was ‘timely’. In short, they supported it.
When the students of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines burnt dilapidated chairs last March to stop their own proposed tuition increase, and when UP students again went to the barricades, was Akbayan present? No. When the protesting students succeeded in preventing the hike (in the case of PUP) and prevented several proposed anti-student policies (in the case of UP), what did Akbayan do? They condemned the actions.
2. Akbayan and the Filipino Peasant: Akbayan and Hontiveros make it a point to mention in their publicity materials that they are the primary authors of the CARPER, or Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms. But they never expound on what CARPER does, or its provisions. Why?
Because CARPER has been criticized by peasant groups. It is no better than CARP without the ER because it still contains the latter’s ‘legal loopholes’ which enable landlords to evade the legal and Constitutional right of farmers to own the land they work on, among them the ‘Stock Distribution Option’ of Hacienda Luisita notoriety.
3. Akbayan and Human Rights: As mentioned above, Akbayan has taken to repeating the statements of notorious human rights violators like Palparan EVEN BEFORE. In fact, even before Palparan began his first murderous tour-of-duty (in Mindoro), Akbayan has been red-tagging and red-baiting the progressive movement back when it was only Bayan Muna which was participating in the elections (in 2001).
This is the problem with Akbayan and Hontiveros. It has nothing to show for its more-than-a-decade of existence in politics. It has done nothing for the marginalized sectors of our society and has helped and continues to help the military in harassing those who do. Thus, there is no other way for them to campaign than to present themselves as a ‘lesser evil’ in comparison to their opponents.
Akbayan supporters are venting their rage (as well as their fantasies) in this blog entry by UP Manila student council officer Cleve Arguelles.
Arnold Padilla expounds on Hontiveros and Akbayan’s addictions: red-baiting and red-tagging.