Reaction to F. Sionil Jose's column
READER’S VIEWS (The Freeman) - May 22, 2020 - 12:00am

On 18 May 2020, F. Sionil Jose titled his column, “The oligarchy and the ABS-CBN: Don’t give them your ‘balls’”. In this commentary, he wrote correct claims. However, they are confusing needing clarifications. In this piece, I point out four.

First, one’s capacity to think and write does not guarantee clarity as intellectual giants may be dwarfed by their isolation from the people’s organizations and the society’s material condition resulting in writings that may be categorized as nationalist but no longer scientific and mass-oriented. Sionil Jose’s isolation amid this COVID-19 pandemic is metaphorical and literal at the same time. Deep thinking without immersing with the masses is theory without praxis. “Steel is the foundation of industry and modernization”, Sionil Jose wrote. What is his opinion then of the People’s Mining Bill? It was filed by the progressive solons with the support of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment. And what is his stand in the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms in the peace process between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines? Both are vital to Sionil Jose’s observation and opinion in achieving national industrialization. Sionil Jose must have been vocal against the Mining Act of 1995 and the neoliberal plunder of Philippine resources.

Second, as to the “agrarian problems”, how broad is his take with the “peasant movements”? Yes, the peasantry is “brutalized by the sugar barons”. But should we wonder as to how the peasantry take up arms and participate with the NPAs “agrarian revolution”? Or should the brutalized peasants wait for the government’s agrarian reform? Almost every president flaunts agrarian reform, but only government-owned lands are distributed to farmers who can afford the amortization leaving land monopoly unscathed.

Third, does culture change without uprooting neoliberal capitalism? If so, does this imply that Louis Althusser is wrong in expounding structure-superstructure analysis? If not, how to make mass-oriented culture in a society where the economic activity is controlled by oligarchs? Why not apply the “propaganda model theory” to other big media companies? Are they exempted in the scrutiny as proposed by Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky? If so, what makes them unique that Herman and Chomsky’s book “Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media” is applicable only to ABS-CBN? Taking Sionil Jose seriously in this context, then, the public should scrutinize the rest of big media companies according to Chomsky and Herman’s points: “concentrated ownership”,  “advertising as the primary source of income”, “reliance on agents of power as information provider” like the government and the business sector, “negative responses disciplining the media”, and “anti-communism”.

Fourth, how far does Sionil Jose look for the “need for social change and for revolution”? Does this mean down with neoliberal capitalism? Reaganomics and Thatcherism put national interests in peril. But the current administration continues the macroeconomic policy of its predecessors. Should we expect or should there be a president who does not bear with neoliberalism at its macroeconomic policy?

Noe M. Santillan

Assistant professor of Philosophy and Social Studies

University of the Philippines Cebu

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