by: Atty. Lyndon P. Cana
Bangon Pilipinas just went through its second foray into national politics. At first glance, everything seemed to have ended in disaster. Its standard bearer early on was hostaged to a measly two to three percent survey rating, and the results of the automated quick polls seemingly just confirmed it. The “religious” or spiritual approach to political participation was put on trial, and seemingly the verdict is that faith and politics don’t mix, and they will not work. Worst, the score they gave Bangon’s standard bearer is only half the votes he got the first time around. Appearing to have suffered a direct hit also is the prophetic movement that partly, if not largely, fueled the Bangon fight.
So, the question now is, quo vadis Bangon?
Let us put things in proper perspective:
First of all, even from a purely earthly point of view, casting aside all religious and spiritual moorings, anybody who proposes to reform, overturn, and change the utterly sick Philippine socio-economic-political system will have to begin on a tremendous disadvantage. You enter into a fight disavowing the use of half of the weapons of the fight because precisely you want to change the system. So vote-buying is out, putting barangay leaders on payroll is out, “special ops” to add or subtract votes is out, demolition job on the opponent is out. These are about the most powerful and devastating weapons in the political battlefield, and the reformer lets go of them. For all practical intents and purposes, from the purely pragmatic point of view, the reformer is already a poorly armed warrior even before he gets into the ring.
Political reformers are like revolutionary movements. The oppressed always starts as a severely disadvantaged underdog against the oppressor. All battles for liberation against oppression and injustice do not start fair. But that is why it is called a cause, not just a fight. A cause is greater than a fight. A cause is the resolve of the disadvantaged to undo or overturn a superior oppressive or unjust force which is enjoying all the advantages.
Tested against this standard, Bangon succeeded in more ways than people are wont to grant or concede: It has put up a credible and veritable nationwide army of volunteers. It has ran a campaign largely on volunteerism, with the overwhelming majority of its foot soldiers willing to fight on the power of conviction and not on the persuasion of cash. Most gratifying of all, the army held despite severe lack of logistics, despite intermittent personality clashes and differences, because of a commitment to a higher principle (“the cause”) that enabled them to transcend and set aside these problems and differences.
In short, Bangon has decisively proven that an army of reform-minded citizens can be assembled and that it will engage head-on armies of superior force. It may not yet be an army of overwhelming numbers, but at least it is a critical mass, a core group of dedicated and committed soldiers, spread far and wide enough to be able to cover the entire archipelago. Victory is of course the ultimate objective. But, as rightly put, it is the ultimate objective. Electoral victory, however, is not the first item in the agenda of the reformer. It is whether the reformer can assemble people crazy enough to fight at a tremendous disadvantage, fully aware of the inherent handicaps and limitations, yet being willing to wage battle to the end. And Bangon has amply demonstrated that, yes, there are people in this country who are willing to wage such a severely handicapped war. Besides, history always shows that it is the courage and conviction of a few that change the quality of life of the many. Bangon has shown that it is willing to be the decisive few and not the clueless many.
It was not a perfect, flawless fight. Bangon struggled defining and conveying its message to the electorate. What it understood so well inside (complying with God’s standards for blessing a nation), all of a sudden became a communication difficulty to the electorate. Was it a fight of good versus evil, or which was the better good? Was it righteousness versus unrighteousness, and everybody else unrighteous? Was it about who was the best qualified, or was it even class struggle, i.e., masses versus landed or vested interest? Was it about the Philippines’ “glorious prophetic destiny”? Can we preach in a political campaign? The task became doubly complicated with huge media institutions clearly favoring the already popular candidate.
There were also challenges on how to integrate the backbone of the army, which is JIL, and the other members of the body of Christ. Stalled or slowed down in its effort to address theological questions (separation of church and state, should a pastor abandon the “highest calling”, etc.), pacify wounded and offended feelings from the 2004 election experience, Bangon courted the sectors rather late, with an NFS-led charge into the farmer and labor sector undertaken mid-way already and late into the campaign. And of course, there was the perennial funding problem.
But the army held on. The organization did not split or dismember. The volunteers willingly took and bore offense, charging everything to the account of the greater cause and the higher principle.
So to the charge that Bangon lost miserably, and must therefore consider folding up, I say so did Erap, Villar, Teodoro, with all their huge advantages, and incumbent senators of the republic, as well as a Nobel Prize winner and a party inspired by and standing on the principles and precepts of the largely predominant Roman Catholic Church. That Bangon fielded coordinators in all layers of the political geography, established a command center, deployed watchers, toured the archipelago and held decent rallies and mitings de avance, are veritable proof that Bangon has successfully and convincingly demonstrated that an army of principle-based, faith-ran, reform-minded, all-volunteer political force is very possible and doable in the deteriorated and morally moribund Philippine political setting.
We need only to look at history that we may not judge Bangon too harshly. The struggle to free the Negro slave and imbue him with full civil and political rights took more than a hundred years in the United States. The movement to abolish the slave trade took a quarter of a century in England. King David became king of Judah 15 years after he was anointed by Samuel, and an additional 7 years before he became king of all Israel, or a total of 22 years. Bangon has just been in the fight in the last 6 years (2004 to 2010). Put another way, Bangon is a just a six-year old kid-warrior, battling century old giants and institutions, big on cash and popularity and media support, grizzly veterans of political warfare not encumbered by moral or divine rules of engagement, not counting Uncle Sam.
Yes, the kid-warrior has not won the numbers (yet), but after a full-blown conflagration, it is left standing, with its wounds, scars and all, but standing still, the flag torn but still flying, and the sword still in hand, with a real score several times more than what was given to it. The kid must not be scorned.
Looking at this audacious kid, five things come to my mind and spirit:
1st is Respect. Respect this kid, this disadvantaged soldier who has a lot to learn but who believed the cause and fought to the end. Respect that he fueled his own vehicle, walked unpaid to deliver the flyers that quickly ran out of supply. Respect him who continued to tour the homes and the barangay even though there were no posters and streamers of his party in sight. Respect him for how he stood in the blistering heat and the pouring rain, waiting for hours on end for the slate that is coming hours behind schedule. Respect him that he made his own t-shirt, bought his own ballers, performed “ola” and did “speak and run” for a party or candidate that never got beyond 3% in the survey rating. Respect him for never once suggesting to his commander-in-chief to raise the white flag of surrender. Respect him for having disagreements and differences with his comrades but putting them aside because he is loyal to the greater cause. Respect him for how he wanted to speak to the nation but was not given enough space. Respect him for reaching the finish line.
Second is gratitude and appreciation. Gratitude that in a country carried away by cash, popularity, and sentimentalism, the kid became the remnant that has not lost its sight on righteousness, the singularly most crucial thing that this country desperately needs to truly arise. The kid, this remnant, is the only one that did not forget that without God, no amount of brilliance can turn this country around. Gratitude that this remnant has organized itself into a nationwide army. Gratitude for the more than decent tour-de-force all over the country by the slate and the rallies held. Gratitude that some local Bangon candidates made it. Small victories but victories nonetheless. Do not despise the day of small beginnings, as the prophet says. Appreciation for the audacity of hope and faith. And gratitude for the faithfulness, courage and integrity of the leader that has remained intact through out the dark nights.
Third is kindness in judgment. Kindness in judgment is not being soft on ourselves. Kindness in judgment is being careful that we do not throw out the baby with the bath water. Kindness in judgment is being sure that we preserve and nurture what we have even as we learn from what we have not achieved. Brutality in judgment may be a form of self-flagellation and may be a tool of the Devil to quench the spirit, the spirit of the reformation. Kindness in judgment preserves the army that it may learn from its mistakes and fight another day. The kid does not need a sermon or a lecture. He deserves an arm around his shoulder and a long walk in the woods with those who love him and care for him. I strongly propose kindness in judgment for this kid.
But we need objectivity in evaluation of the kid’s strengths and weaknesses. The kid has to continue to grow up. The art and the science of campaigning and political engagement is not thrown out of the window in the exercise of faith and in the atmosphere of love. Faith sanctifies the art and science of politics, and in mastering the art and science of politics, the kid-warrior becomes a man.
Most of all, we need courage, fortitude and resolve to go on. To borrow from Lincoln’s words and ideas, to take care of him who has borne the battle, with malice towards none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to build on our gains, learn from our shortcomings, and to continue the cause of righteousness in the land. This must be the disposition of the kid.
So, let the kid-warrior retreat to the woods. Let him rest, lick his wounds, walk by the brooks, reflect on what has been, talk to his God, repair his weapons, practice in the forest. In due season, let him come out a better man.
In the meantime, let everyone learn to love, respect, and nurture the kid-warrior. And let not everyone forget his name, which is his calling and anointing, Bangon. Bangon Pilipinas. What he is called, that is what he will become.