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[IRL] POLITICS and PANDESAL

By Menchu Aquino Sarmiento



The Philippine political and economic climate leading up to the May 2022 elections was recently the topic of the Pandesal Forum, one of the innovations, along with dine-in services and Chinese dishes on the menu, introduced by writer and realty entrepreneur Wilson Lee Flores, as he steered the pre-WWII vintage Kamuning Bakery Café into the 21st century. The Pandesal Forum is now online. However, in a personalized edible survey of sorts, you can order an artisanal pandesal specifically targeted for your presidential candidate of choice (e.g., Pan de Leni).


Prof. Bobby Tuazon, director for policy studies of CENPEG (Center for People Empowerment in Governance) direly predicted that “the May 2022 elections will further entrench the country’s ruling political dynasties while the Filipino people will continue to be marginalized from exercising their democratic rights to governance.” CENPEG has found “a strong correlation between low Human Development Indices (HDI-income, health, and education) and a singularly dominant political family in a province. This correlation is strongest in small island provinces (remember we are an archipelago) dominated by a single political family, with only Batanes province as the exception. This negative outcome is further worsened when these small island provinces are geographically distant or have no easy access to established centers of trade and commerce such as big, urbanized cities.”


Retired UP Political Science Prof. Temy Rivera is more cautiously optimistic. Although he pointed out that it’s unrealistic to expect immediate structural reforms within the next six years of any new administration, we might at least choose the candidate who “will do the least harm and provide some relief.” We all know who she is. That sounds like a prescription for healing our divided and ailing nation: First, do no harm.


Even Sonny Africa of the IBON Databank agreed that we need a president who will at least nudge the quest for the Holy Grail of structural reform forward. Although he is admittedly qualified, Africa noted that the Left’s candidate Leody De Guzman is “operating in a political vacuum” with underwhelming public awareness or support. Africa acknowledged that VPL is the only other candidate who has been actively working with and consulting with civil society, and Rivera added that she is the only one with a track record of positive accomplishments throughout her term and especially during the pandemic. Thus the Makabayan Bloc, through senatorial candidate Neri Colmenares, has pragmatically stated that it would be regrettable if even this statistically insignificant sliver of support for the Left’s anointed, contributed towards an unfortunate (for Filipinos) victory for He Who Must Not be Named. The Makabayan bloc now officially supports the Leni-Kiko 2022 tandem and senatorial slate. That is a giant forward step towards a unified opposition.


A first step towards the longed-for structural reform or the total overhaul of our governmental, economic and societal institutions would be changing our promiscuous political party system. Even during the Commonwealth Period, when there were just the Nacionalista and Partido Liberal, Pres. Manuel L. Quezon bluntly said there was no difference between them, so we might as well strive for a partyless system based on true people’s representation through professional guilds. However, Quezon did not envision a lawyer claiming he represented midwives simply because he was among the authors of a law referencing them, or a presidential son representing security guards for whatever shameless and ludicrous reasons.


A management book compares problem solving to repairing a dented fender. The trick was to apply many tiny gentle taps all around the dent—not directly at it—in order to gradually coax the battered metal back into shape. You don’t use a demolition hammer or masô. The unprecedented number of Kakampink volunteers might be likened to just so many tiny hammers, carefully and delicately tapping away, not just at a single dent but what seems like a near total wreck. With patience and great care, we will make it work by working all together.





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Menchu Aquino Sarmiento is an award-winning writer and a social concerns advocate. IRL (In Real Life) are short verbal pagmumuni-muni, the essay equivalent of fast fiction--but in real life. She really wants more Filipinos to care, and to do something legal and non-violent about it, preferably together, so that we act more like a civilized country, a mature democracy.



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