Friday, January 30, 2009

Who’s trapo and non-trapo?

It is frustrating to watch the different groups vying for “alternative” presidential bets and those self-proclaimed “presidentiables” offer themselves without as much as a hint of what they intend to accomplish once entrusted with the reigns of government. In our cable-TV discussion on the subject of “Third Force or Farce?,” Puno-for-President and anti-trapo advocate, Nilo Tayag, justified his support for the Chief Justice by claiming that Puno’s “character” makes him best suited for the presidency. But who’s to judge this?

Character, as applied here, can simply be: 1) the combination of qualities or features that distinguishes the person; 2) moral or ethical strength; or 3) the public’s estimation of someone or his reputation.

Going by the third definition, Puno’s measly +3 approval in the pro-elite SWS popular survey alone is already a negative after you subtract the percentage of error.

Then, if moral character were to be the gauge, as many do-goody, Third Force groups like “Kaya Natin,” the “Ang Kapatiran,” Eddie Villanueva’s and other politicized Christian groups have resorted to, maybe they should look for a Filipina Mother Teresa to run for public office. Yet, as one looks at many of these groups with a magnifying lens, one will find less “moral” personalities behind them, like Joe Almonte in Kaya Natin and the same US fundamentalist Christian groups providing the bulk of funds for Eddie Villanueva and his ilk, in the same manner that the CIA funded South Korean Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s cult. Although Ang Kapatiran is more legitimate in its claims, it still has muddle-heads like Nandy Pacheco who look at the world through rose-colored glasses, so much so that they are willing to leave guns in the hands of criminals and rogue cops to shake down innocent civilians.

Meanwhile, those searching for “alternative” leaders concentrate their artillery on “trapos.” Just what is a trapo? This witty contraction of the term, “traditional politician,” refers to the run-of-the-mill candidates who make promises that are never kept, who espouse hardly any principles, or forget what these are when in office. Yet, another aspect is even more important: The trapo since time immemorial preserves the status quo and keeps things as they are in the country, chief of which is the “tradition” in Philippines politics of utter subservience to US, local, feudal and oligarchic-corporatist domination.

In this vein, a trapo that comes to mind as the poster boy of trapos is Joe de “bola-bola” de “lehensya” de Venecia. Although, Joe’s been calling for “moral regeneration” of late, all those disparaging attributes should only be dropped if, and when, he delivers on his promise.

A moral person can be as trapo as a non-moral person. For that matter, a trapo can be of any age. Let’s take some young politicians now in the Senate and Congress, who are as trapo as can be--gaining seats either by inheritance of what otherwise should be won based on merit and not familial ties, or owing their keep from “Pacman” oligarchs in cahoots with or dummying for MalacaƱang to buy up, for instance, Meralco and Petron, and to set up the newest giant cellular phone service. As someone said of this Pacman-engineered robotic talker: “So young, so trapo; so young, so opportunist.”

Sadly, civil society still does not understand that the non-trapo is really Erap Estrada and FPJ, both of whom shunned US and Big Business support because they were confident of winning on their own.

President Estrada’s favorite saying, “Walang tutulong sa Pilipino kundi kapwa Pilipino” and FPJ’s denouncement of globalization are both prophetic as the current neo-liberal, globalized set-up is fast crumbling. Marcos, in his time, also tried shifting from trapo to non-trapo mode, and was consequently cut down by the US and Makati Big Business. Instead, those servile characters who chant “people power” are the actual pawns.

Among the younger non-trapos who have declared nationalist stands are Gen. Danilo Lim and Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, who are still in detention for refusing to play ball with the corrupt system and its sponsors, both foreign and local. As such, the hallmarks of non-trapo political leaders are that they are independent of foreign and Big Business domination, truly Filipino, and wholly supportive of programs for the nation’s political and economic sovereignty.

And so, I was pressing Nilo Tayag for a program of action from Puno; to which, Tayag could only say that promises smack of trapos. Though insisting that Puno’s character is enough, notwithstanding his illegal ponente for the “constructive resignation” yarn--which I no longer pressed, the problem is: Puno provides no basis for judging if he knows the problem and solutions, and be measured by what he does or fails to accomplish.

In effect, if he promises nothing concrete except his nebulous “moral leadership,” can this sufficiently resolve, for instance, which energy project is better--nuclear or geothermal?

Furthermore, can a so-called moral leadership surmise that renewables like geothermal and hydro-electric power are our ultimate liberation, despite the fact that there is now a made-up clamor for the revival of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, which, if pursued, will make us perpetually dependent on imported uranium as we are today on oil?

Also, can such vague leadership quality help decide to which direction the P300-billion pump priming fund should go? Would it be to build more roads and bridges which will just carry the same old smuggled rice and electronics, imported milk, diapers, Taiwan garlic, and cheap Chinese copies of anything?

Any nationalist who goes beyond the usual morally-upright mold knows that the funds should be used to increase the country’s production of its own goods from its own resources. These include: integrated virgin coconut processing centers for 3 million coconut farming families on 3 million hectares, using 350 million trees that could feed all Filipino children with skim milk, and all Filipinos with low-glycemic sugar, coco flour for the healthiest breads, virgin coconut oil for nutra- and pharmaceuticals; rice sufficiency programs through the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) method and cultural shift to unpolished rice consumption; and expansion of marine industry and aqua culture to boost seafood production and marine mineral production.

China , India , Malaysia , Singapore , and South Korea did not become dragon economies by being Mother Teresas. They were ferociously practical and aggressive in patriotic, nationalist and populist economic development. The great world leaders such as Mao, Nehru, Park Chung-Hee, Mahathir, and Lee Kwan Yew were no do-gooders. They were rough nationalist revolutionaries who were determined to make their country independent and industrialized--and none loved by the US .

(Tune in to 1098AM: Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. / Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. / Saturday, 10 p.m. to 11 p.m.; Destiny Cable, Channel 3, Tuesday, 8:45 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., featuring, “Integrated Coconut Processing Centers for National Recovery;” also visit