Dear Manny Pacquiao. This is my third column about you this year. I am not even your fan. My instinct tells me you are sincere and you want to do good via politics. Well and good, so read me carefully.
Yes, we need a lot of political reform, sincere politicians and a political party truly representative of the poor, a Workers’ Party. We were on the way to establishing one, but Martial Law aborted our plans.
In June 1960, when I was in my 30s and Raul Manglapus was in his 40s, we were invited by the Congress for Cultural Freedom to attend its 10th anniversary celebration in Berlin. The Congress is an international non-communist organization of writers, academics and scientists. At the time, too, West Germany was ruled by the Christian Social Democrats led by Willy Brandt. They were part of the conference, illustrating a formidable opposition to the Communists.
Raul was so impressed that when we returned to Manila, he decided to form a similar Party. He asked Luis Taruc, Rafael Tagle and me to form the ideological committee. Needless to say, I had wanted to see in the Philippines a Workers’ or Socialist Party based on class. I have studiously followed the Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC), interviewed its founder, Felix Manalo in the 1950s and watched the INC grow. I decided to follow its dynamics.
Let me state your (our) goal:
1) To build a just and sovereign nation democratically
2) To abolish poverty through modernization and industrialization
3) Establish Workers’ Party
Manny, you are comparatively very young and at the height of your creative years. You can create that Workers’ Party now; convert the Party you’ll join, or already have, into a Workers’ Party that will work the whole year and not just election time. The INC and the Soka Gakkai of Japan are your organizational models, but the Party should be non-communist and non-religious.
Creating a class party would involve time and a lot of pioneering hard work – first to identify the poorest sections of the country and then to recruit the cadres from there. For two years, this Party will not participate in any election, but in the third year, it will run for the local seats like councilor to the mayor. On its 5th year, it can then mount congressional candidates.
It is important that the leaders of this Party be developed from its membership. Membership dues include a subscription to a weekly paper. As for the initial expenses, this is where your financial contributions can go. This Party should have study sessions on history, on government. The aim is to make members true Filipinos. The Party should form cooperatives, build hospitals, schools and a foundation to assist further education. It should look after its members’ welfare.
Funding – the members do not have pesos, they have centavos. This is how the INC built those churches and acquired billions.
When Marcos declared Martial Law in 1972, Raul, who was in Japan, fled to the United States. Laban, led by Nene Pimentel, emerged as a minority party, resulting in today’s multi-party system. But like all other parties, Laban does not have any political ideology. It is led by personalities like the other parties, enabling politicians like Joseph Estrada to become president because of his perceived popularity.
As for you, Manny Pacquiao – the Filipino boxing champion esteemed all over the world, you tried to change this age-old condition when you announced that Laban – of which you are president – is the political party of the poor, the voiceless. Well and good. Now, that purpose must be made real.
The dismal political scene is brightened by Mayor Isko Moreno whose background is similar to yours. You two will make a wonderful pair. Be humble always, be selfless, the future beckons. Both of you are very young. As the days go on, the bricks that will be thrown at you will be bigger. Hang on, Manny.
Manny, don’t be naïve. In politics without any binding ideology, there are no permanent friends. Why did the President ease you out of Laban? Simple. He wants to stay in power. You cannot fight him and expect to win. But here’s how you can respond. While you organize your forces and seek new alliances, praise him. He deserves that praise for all that he done. Praise him, but at the same time, remind the people that a lot has still to be done, the abolition of poverty most of all.
Your English has improved, but you need to be yourself when you explain your plans, and don’t make unreachable promises like providing universal housing. Don’t go into areas you know little about, like corporate taxation. Governments live on taxes, keep that in mind. But you are correct when the very rich are not taxed. We need to broaden the tax base of this country. I have been suggesting that the churches should be taxed. You are right about tobacco. The industrious Ilokano can switch to cotton, high value crops.
If you have plans of becoming president, from the beginning, you should surround yourself with brilliant Filipinos, from academe, etc., to learn from them. This is what Magsaysay did. And I’m sure, if requested, these brilliant Filipinos will oblige. You don’t deserve the barrage of attacks you are now getting. You are not corrupt, nor have you stolen from government. And you are very correct when you reminded your billionaire colleagues that they can’t take their fortunes with them. Alas, this is what so many of the rich don’t realize until they are in their death beds.
I don’t know what your plans are. You are very young. Retire from boxing if you must, but don’t retire from politics, from building a political party with a moral foundation and an ideology. You can start now with Laban or any party that will join you. Be patient, persevere as you have pursued as an athlete. In a couple of decades, you will already see positive results. Continue your philanthropy. But even real philanthropy is exacting, demanding. How money can do the most good for people, you are on the right track, Manny.
Meanwhile, we should prepare for the third wave of this pandemic which is more infectious and killing people who were already vaccinated in the thousands in India and Indonesia.