Let us count the number of elections Mrs. Gloria Arroyo has competed in. The first was a 1992 senate run, followed by a 1995 re-election which she topped. Then her 1998 VP run which she won handily and the controversial 2004 presidential election. Post- presidency, she has won two congressional runs in my district.
That’s a total of six elections. From my personal realm, a total of six opportunities to vote for her which I did not despite the fact that she is from my town, a town which still deeply reveres the memory of her late president-father. Scores of next of kin and town mates have not forgiven me for not voting for Mrs. Arroyo. Same with the colleagues in the farm organizations who adored – and still adore – Mrs. Arroyo. They all accused me of something short of treason. Betraying my roots, at the very least.
In the 2016 election, and without prodding from anyone. I will change the course of a lifetime. And vote for Mrs. Arroyo’s third congressional run. The past is past. And I will bury that in my 2016 vote. You know what? That vote for her will go with a clean conscience.
What are the compelling reasons for the change of vote? Not Amal, gorgeous as Mrs. Clooney is. You don’t vote for a candidate because of her famous and gorgeous lawyer. Reason number one is President Aquino, her arch political enemy.
Say what you will of Mrs. Arroyo, the “ impunity” aspect of her presidency included, she has been better to the peasantry than Mr. Aquino. While she did not focus on agriculture’s renaissance at all and smuggling of agricultural commodities was rampant under her term (worse now under Mr. Aquino), she listened to problems of farmers and summarily acted when presented with the problems.
The late Ka Ben Cruz, a party-list representative, could go to Malacañang without a schedule and seek help on specific problems. Glo, patubig sa Bulacan. Glo, pabinhi sa Pampanga. Glo, pautang sa Nueva Ecija. He told me he was never turned down, not even once. The support was micro, not one broad sweep of a program to help the whole sector, but it was support nonetheless. Farmer-leaders were treated well at the Palace. Whether she just pandered to them, I do not know (farmers have penny-ante requests 100 percent of the time and she can readily grant these). But she allotted time for them and never treated them with disrespect. When she visited Lubao, she posed for “selfies” with ordinary farmers.
I used to loath at these superficial entreaties to the peasantry. I told my farmer-friends such gestures had no deep impact on our lives, or for the improvement of the sector for that matter. But then, what do we have under Mr. Aquino?
Mr. Aquino has no time for the vulnerable and the suffering but his disdain toward the peasant sector has been of a special kind. We don’t know what motivated this (his father’s first national recognition came after helping farmers fight rat plagues in Tarlac rice lands) but the disdain has been visceral and unapologetic. After the expose of the Napoles scam, Mr. Aquino’s first official directive was to cut off all farm subsidies, from seed to fertilizer subsidies, as if it were the fault of the farmers that farm organizations had been used as fronts for the scam. Many of us from the peasant sector still feel that Mr. Aquino used the Napoles scam as a gleeful excuse to launch his assault on the peasantry.
He even failed to grasp the basic fact that these were phony farm and coop groups and that farmers were the victims and not the perpetrators of the scam.
For the leadership of the DA, Mr. Aquino named two secretaries. The original appointee, and still the DA secretary, is Procy Alcala, a former public works contractor, or “ kontratista.” The second, who resigned to run the for the senate anew, was Francis Pangilinan, a former broadcast bloviator, or “ komentarista.”
Clueless as to the policy framework needed to lift the agriculture sector, the former “ kontratista” and the former “komentarista” have been both abject failures. Mr. Alcala even used a minor league football player from England to hawk his rice policy, perhaps the ultimate admission that he is just jerking and fooling around, the agriculture sector be damned.
At the porous borders and at the seaports, the smuggling of agricultural commodities has been ramped up and the quantity of smuggled goods under his term may even exceed the volume of smuggled agricultural commodities under the Arroyo administration.
Was there ever a celebration of Farmers Day with Mr. Aquino? Zero and Nada. Zilch and Wala. While he would grace the events hosted by plutocrats and oligarchs dozens of times and with giddiness in his heart, Mr. Aquino, in his five years in office, has not spent a minute celebrating with farmers and trade unionists. He just hates them, that’s why.
Update Mr. Aquino is just about to meet the record of Mrs. Arroyo as the world’s most prodigious rice importer.
Mrs. Arroyo is now clearly an underdog and it is not Mr. Lambino who is saying this. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) said in a recent opinion that Mrs. Arroyo’s detention “ is arbitrary” and “ violates international law.”
I vote for the underdog 99 percent of the time. In 2016, she will run as one and I will vote for her.