The difference between discreet and central

Manolo wrote an addendum to his blog post, trying to clarify some contentious points.

He now writes:

I saw what took place in Mendiola and the central role Bayan Muna played in taking the protests to the gates of the Palace.

Which is quite an obvious corrective effort to what he wrote:

A tacit agreement seems to have been reached with the Left, during Edsa Dos, where the Left worked more or less discreetly with the other players (for example, during the “sleepy” periods during those protest days, the Left ensured there would be people at Edsa in the morning and lunchtime).

Manolo, how do you really view the Left’s role in the oust-Estrada effort? Was it given a discreet role? Or did the Left play a central role, alongside other political forces?

(By the way, I re-read the post before replying, but found it wanting just the same.)

I was also looking for that same piece that Teddy Casino wrote because it documents the efforts of the Left to forge alliances, coalitions and partnerships at the time — which we may now safely say were largely successful. (I knew most of the efforts first-hand, having served as Bayan media officer at that particular time (2000-2003) and previously as a national officer of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (1995-2000).

Of course, the Left was/is big. There are leftists and there are leftists. There is Bayan and Sanlakas and the others. I think I will let records Manolo cited to be the judge as to which group 1) was the biggest and most sizable; 2) was most ready and easiest to work with, in the point of view of non-Left groups; and 3) which issued calls shared and accepted by the overwhelming majority. The “resign-all” call of Sanlakas et al consigned the group to an extended period of oblivion. In fact, it was the group of Sanlakas that gave the Left a bad name during the Oust-Erap rallies — especially that incident when they attempted to impose the “resign-all” call in a joint rally with the Makati businessmen right there along Ayala Avenue. I think that was the Makati leg of the Welga ng Mamamayan in Nov. 2000 — with Akbayan and Bayan leading the parallel protests at Welcome Rotonda and Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila.

Manolo also lets Teddy do the talking in a lame and vain effort to buttress the point about dogmatism. I mean, there will always be groups uncomfortable with each other. That is but natural, I think. And this will always be true with the “various strains” of the “broad” Left.

But generally, there is a consensus that the Left played a prominent role and gave the oust-Estrada movement a mass character that the elite groups can only wish for. Indeed, the Left may have been split many ways, but those divisions did not hinder leftist participation which was largely positive. Ika nga ni Manolo, may sentral na papel.

The quandary on how to qualify the Left’s role in Edsa 2 and the body politics is important. Revisionism (from saying it had a central role to relegating it to having a “discreet” place and then back to giving it a central role) won’t do the nation any good: It will only provide Estrada more ammunition to himself rewrite history by insisting that the masses (the Left’s principal constituency) had no role in the 2001 nationwide uprising, and penalize the Left for doing good.

Public intellectuals should also take note that attempts to airbrush the Left out of Edsa 2 and the body politic has resulted in an ongoing massacre (nearly 900 extrajudicially executed, and another 200 involuntarily disappeared), in the arrest and detention of Satur Ocampo and Crispin Beltran, and in the filing of spurious charges against the legal Left which Arroyo considers a considerable threat. In the official script, the airbrushing is most intense. As if no legal movement exists, and as if Arroyo did not work with, sat with, conferred with, cooperated with the same movement she now wishes to kill after airbrushing operations.

Now, I’m really curious and eager to know the factual basis for Manolo to say that

Since 2001, however, the Left has found itself unable to really find a place for itself in legitimate politics

and that

From 2005, in particular, while committed and disciplined, the Left had to contend with the usual problems of its dogmatism alienating other political players, and its cause proving itself less than attractive to the broader public (for many reasons: ideological, and also, their past alliances).

In 2005, the Left campaigned mightily over the political killings and began to spearhead a broad-based effort to hold Arroyo accountable for its policy of bloody suppression. By 2007, the efforts bore fruit with Alston’s report.

In 2001, 2004 and 2007, Bayan Muna won fair and square in elections. The people accepted them as legit political players.

Or is the “criteria” for “public acceptance” when the Left is concerned — nothing less than total nationwide victory? We are not there yet but I hope Manolo will be kind enough to recognize the advances made by the Left not just in mobilizing “warm bodies” for elite-led mobilizations, but also in public discourse, in reframing the public debate, in offering the public some alternatives to the status quo, among others.

I mean, truth is at stake. We are talking here about the so-called democratic space offered to the Left, or the space now won by the Left’s own efforts.

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