The Philippines needs a “New Leftist Party”

“Hundreds of left-wing activists burned a mock U.S. flag . . . [Via CBS News; AP Photo/Aaron Favila]


By Joe America

The Philippine leftist agenda is bogged down in stubborn adherence to ideals sprouted in the 1950’s. They’ve calcified around mottoes and policies that just don’t work. Lenin played guitar for the Beatles, we all know. Except they don’t. The US is not imperialist anymore, we all know. They don’t. Overthrow of democracy is not a good thing, we all know. They don’t.

Yet what the leftist organizations do is important. They represent the people. The farmers, fisherfolk, transportation workers, and mom-and-pop shops across the land. But they seem to want to overthrow the rest of the nation rather than simply balance the powers. They want to take down the oligarchs, who are the foundation of the economy that employs their workers, rather than balance them out with reason. They want to take Duterte out and replace him with THEIR autocrat. Or at least that’s the way it seems to me.

A broad leftist push exists now, it is just not organized as a force. The laboring Philippines is suffering big time.

Senator Hontiveros is perhaps the leading stateswoman for leftist causes. Bands of attorneys are forming to represent the oppressed, harassed, beaten, and jailed common-Joses. Students rally every now and them, a clear voice for humanity over capitalist greed.

So maybe it will form of its own weight.

  • Principles and policies rather than slogans
  • Working within the system rather than trying to uproot it
  • Balancing other powers, not opposing them

Certainly the voices defending ordinary people are getting loud under the oppressive weight of a government that kills and arrests citizens as if Filipinos were an enemy rather than a constituent.

When someone with a clear voice and popular appeal decides to formalize a “New Leftist Party” that makes sense instead of noise, she will have a huge, responsive base of people behind her.


37 Responses to “The Philippines needs a “New Leftist Party””
  1. J says:

    Joe, not everyone in Philippine Left endorses Joma Sison’s Maosim. There was a split in the 1990s between the “reaffirmist” and the “rejectionists.” The reaffirmists (mostly Makabayan bloc) stuck with Maoist line, while the rejectionist (Sanlakas) sought the legal and democratic track of reform. Hontiveros’ Akbayan is totally distinct from these “historical line of Philippine left.”

    • J says:

      So in a way there is already a “new left” (Two actually)

      • Thanks for the background. So many tribes, each with chiefs. So little power.

        • J says:

          Read Glenda Gloria’s latest on Rappler. The split in the 1990s (pompously described by Sisonites as the “Second Great Rectification”) was actually a result of infiltration work conducted by Philippine intelligence. I wanted to add: Of course! FVR’s national security adviser at that time, General Almonte, is said to have done infiltration work in Vietnam too.

          • I trust you are taking notes for the book you surely will write.

          • Adan Ebuen says:

            I disagree. Not intelligence infiltration but differences in the organization’s policies and tactics from past major events ( edsa debacle e.g.) among the top cadres

            • J says:

              Oh it sure was intelligence infiltration. But yes, I think the marginalization of the Left after EDSA was the underlying overall reason for the splintering of the movement. They made a mistake by not participating in EDSA, and after democracy was restored the people saw little need for them.

        • sonny says:

          Tribalism is endemic to the Malay culture. IMO.

  2. Adan Ebuen says:

    Finally, a cogent course of action has emerged! Seems to be a clarion call for Leni et al but they are too modest and reserved to heed the call. But who can clone Joe Sison’s feat without the Marx,Lenin, MaoTse Tung’s gospels? And duplicate the zeal and sacrifices of their true believers?
    Where will this Filipino Messiah come from? And when?

  3. kasambahay says:

    looking for leftist leader that maybe dont exist? we have to make do with the ones we got. jesus christ the savior nearly got byspassed as messiah coz he was born humbly in a stable and wrapped only in swaddling clothes.

    we have to make do with what we have, develop the ones we have. they’ll come into fruition one day. appreciate them for what they are, what they have done, what they’ve given and about to give. I wont forego them just yet because they have not met and satisfied the criteria of what is ideal of a leftist leader. we may never met the criteria. the standard is too high no one can reach it and no one wants the job. so maybe we’ll lower the standard and see how we go.

    I’ll support what we currently have and lend both hand and voice to them. be they risa, leni, kiko, hilbay, chel diokno and the likes.

    we are disorganized. good! so long as we know who is who and what is what.

    • kasambahay says:

      take down the oligarchs? in our country, it’s duterte who wants to take down oligarchs, hated them too and wanted abs-cbn closed. most filipinos work for oligarchs and got paid by them as their parents before them and the parents before.

      as for replacing duterte, we would of course and rightly so during election. most of the hubbub currently against him is mostly a call for him to do better, to lead and show leadership and strength, and not cooking up terror bills and maritial laws and whatnots just because he cannot rebuild marawi city. people do want duterte to step up vs china, to control the pandemic, to create jobs for filipinos, to improve the economy and not by overly taxing mamamayans.

      and mostly, I think, people just want duterte to control his overly erring friends and to junk the terror bill. coz he is friend with terrorists, right? he freed misuari and the top leaders of npa and rebels who were once in jail. he even traveled and dined with them sa malakanyang pa. so if he can be friends with terrorists and rebels, surely he can be proactive and be friends with up and coming terrorists and rebels and stop them on their murderous tracks sans terror bill!

      there is notion that terror bill will mostly be used on ordinary folks, mamamayans and the likes who criticize his not so good and overbearing antics. those critiques are calls for him to improve and do better. for the good of all.

      • “most filipinos work for oligarchs and got paid by them as their parents before them and the parents before.”

        It took generations for property in German corporations – for instance – to be more widely shared via stock ownership, spreading from the Krupps and Thyssens of old. Only one major company (BMW) still has a prominent major stockholder (Quandt family).

        ABS-CBN has already been going down the road of spreading the wealth via stocks, with Angel Locsin among the most well-known small stockholders.

        As for checks on Duterte, the democratic system of the Philippines was designed to have checks and balances but these are all but destroyed.

        The check and balance system of popular clamor only worked at the barangay level and if the chief cared enough to listen. Besides, a chief of old had a few men with kampilans against farmers with bolos, so possibly he had to listen more than President Duterte does.

  4. sonny says:

    Reminds me of the Gileads and the Ephraimites.

    • sonny says:

      Or totally miss the point(s). Not the first time. 🙂

    • karlgarcia says:

      “Reminds me of the Gileads and the Ephraimites.”
      Because of Tribalism and infiltration? The Gileads detected infiltration because the Ephraimites had no sh when they speak.
      So when they were made to say shibboleth they could not do it.

      • sonny says:

        🙂 Yes, Neph, and more. Maybe.

        • sonny says:

          The clan of the Gileads also belonged to the tribe descended from Joseph if I understand the Scripture story, suggestive of the splits that easily happen within Filipinos.

  5. NHerrera says:


    Working out from principles to policies; working within the system; and balancing of other factors are just too much hard work. Sloganeering is easy.

    • sonny says:

      “When men follow justice, the whole city blooms, the earth bears rich harvests, and children and flocks increase, but to the unjust all nature is hostile, the people waste away from famine and pestilence, and a single man’s sin may bring ruin on a whole city.” — Hesiod

      NH, you and I have always lived in the Quantum world: governed by laws of the Uncertainty Principle, the absolute reality of the duality of force, it’s a wave (penetrating), it’s a particle that has impact, governed by vector laws of scalar magnitudes and direction, it’s a world both orderly and stochastic, a world at once beneficial and deadly, etc. These laws are inexorable and now we see these effects playing out in the streets, cities and populations. We understand them, like slow-moving neutrons hit unstable nuclei a chain reaction of explosions follow and we pay no heed to our peril.

      • NHerrera says:

        Sonny, yes I believe too that majority of the US police officers are good and God bless their kind. But I believe too that reforms are needed not only with respect to the police but the whole attitudinal, cultural aspects. Whether it will finally be done remains a question.

        About the duality of QM — particle and wave — the duality of the police behavior by way of analogy, not only in the US but in all countries: the good and the bad. And yes, too, if you add the Uncertainty Principle into the mix.

        About the link, the writer presents a picture — some good points there. But that is only one picture as the events have shown. In any case, there will be a court trial that will be interesting in the evidence and arguments that will be presented and subject to cross-examination.

        Take care, the COV is still out there. Although it has greatly abated in New York, New Jersey, it is getting stronger according to reports in other States, not helped I am sure by the close un-masked contacts of the Protesters on the death of George Floyd.

        It will also not be helped by Trump who will go on the old-style campaign rally with the exception that those attending will have to sign a waiver not to blame him or the organizers if they catch the COV. That is your brave Twitter-in-Chief — afraid of being blamed.


        Repeating this probably more for myself than the readers:

        The Choice to make several times every day absent an effective COV vaccine using these key phrases:

        * Close contacts, crowd, closed space;
        * Social distancing, wearing of mask, washing of hands.

      • I personally wanted to hear more police chiefs like this, NH. Truth to power, ” Power, you’re just a hash-tag”.

  6. Pablo says:

    Every country seems to consist of a spectrum of political opinions, from the far right to the far left. It seems to be natural. Most people are in the middle of the spectrum. Now, if you start to oppress the freethinking of the middle, people drift towards the extremer sides. We had a Gina, she had common sense idea’s and started getting a big following. She was not “left”, but put people first. Subsequently, she got taken out. Some of her followers will now start drifting (far?) left, there is no middle option anymore. Duterte cannot handle criticism, so he started to hunt down people drifting “left”, which will force part of these to move to the extreme groups. The “left” will be portrayed in the media as “the bad” people resulting in many of the right inclined people to drift more to the right and supporting ‘the strong man’.
    It is remarked that there are “left” inclined politicians. How long will they be allowed to run and criticize government? Likely not very long.
    Indeed, the solution would be to create a “leftist” party with a formal program etc, the way how advanced democratic countries work. However, that is not how the Filipino (or indeed as mentioned Malay) are trained. Schools and universities tend to beat out critical thinking, it becomes part of the training of Filipino culture. Critical thinking people shut up in public and go underground and follow the extreme left. As an old-hand, I know several UPV trained people who supported the NPA in the ’70&80ies and see the same starting all over again in the younger generation.
    Back to the 1980’s again???

    But this “Left” and “Right” talk is so silly, it is so shortsighted, so McCarthy. It enables reducing the discussions to black-and-white and classify people and thereby stop effective discussions about policies. It is what Duterte likes, you are either his supporter or his enemy. Where I come from in Europe, I would be classified as right-leaning but with the same principles I would be classified as a leftie or even communist in the US. In Philippines, just trying to discuss a political program with aspects in healthcare, tax, environment, law, accountability, etc. seems to be possible only with people returning from abroad. Discussions always stall on single issue items. The road to political programs is still long. For the time being, leaders seem to be elected on personalities.
    And maybe that is the direction the discussions should take. Political awareness is not something which a population can acquire in a few years, it has to be nurtured. So it we want to have change in the next elections we should not focus on political programs but concentrate on the moral integrity and political capabilities of the candidate. And maybe learn from this Corona issue??? The best leaders turned out to be female, especially in Asia. After a rogue bully, Philippines probably needs a tough “mother”, someone who makes it clear that she cares for her children…. but don’t make mother angry, an angry mother can be very unpleasant…. Mother is not ‘left’, she is not ‘right’, she just wants the best for all her children, even the naughty ones.
    Think about it… Corazon and Miriam were not ‘mother’. Gina got a long way.

  7. The kind of left you are suggesting is Social Democratic like Risa Hontiveros, or at most Democratic Socialist like some of the Filipino leftists today de facto are minus the rhetoric.

    Participation in the democratic process somewhat civilized those within the left who were given a role in it, think Neri Colmenares and Teddy Casino. The left of old was not necessarily in favor of the values of the 1986 Constitution, which is more democratic than its two predecessors.

    The values of the 1986 Constitution also created a New Right (Magdalo with Trillanes and Alejano) and very few Liberals are still of the old mold (think Franklin Drilon who voted FOR the anti-terrorist law) – Pablo is right, the Philippines on the whole is a conservative to reactionary society.

    The US of course is also very conservative compared to Western Europe while Eastern Europe still has a highly conservative bent – a backlash also to having been under Communism so long, plus Christian Orthodoxy does not have the intellectual, liberalizing foundation of Catholicism.

    Orthodoxy is mainly just obey, Catholicism also has ideas which formed the basis of humanism.


    German Social Democracy is old, but its policy of accepting the reality of industrial power and trying to reform it by pushing for worker’s rights succeeded so much over here that they have a bit of a crisis of identity nowadays, as the German mainstream is de facto very Social Democratic.

    They did disappear for a while during the Nazi period. Though the Nazis also had a left wing to attract those whose agenda was social justice, they destroyed their own left wing and killed much of its leaders like Strasser in the Night of the Long Knives in 1934, moving to the far right.

    The Social Democrats in East Germany merged with the Communists to form the “Socialist Unity Party” which was the State party over there, but there is suspicion that Russian agents pushed that. The SED became the PDS (Democratic Socialist Party) after 1990, then merged with the disgruntled left wing of the SPD under Oskar Lafontaine when the SPD took a neoliberal course under the populist Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. The leadership of the Leftist party is Lafointaine and his much younger East German (half-Persian) girlfriend Sahra Wagenknecht.

    So it isn’t just the Filipino left that has a representative named Sara who happens to be hot.

    Schröder overdoing his anti-American thing and even openly being friends with Putin not only dismayed many a former follower, it also damaged the SPD and made way for Merkel.


    The true basis of social democracy in Germany were strong and confident trade unions. Intellectuals certainly played a role – leftist liberal Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, for instance, was one of the major editors of the weekly “Die Zeit” newspaper. But real workers had a voice.

    The Philippines is too much of a class society for those who are being helped to have a voice. Including an educational system that intimidates those who don’t have the means for private schools. The era were public schools were still good is long over.

    Besides, Filipinos tend to aspire to higher rank in society. Leftists are often those who in high school and college are not quite able to access the cliques that join fraternities and get power. Therefore the left is their alternative road to power, it isn’t quite about justice there.

    VP Leni used to be SCA, Student Catholic Action. Her way is de facto a bit leftist as well, but it is more of what good Catholic girls do whose families would faint if they joined the leftist groups, but who still have a sense of wanting to to good.

    Like Christian Democrats in Germany can also have a social agenda but may be from a more conservative household, not really made for the sometimes roughshod ways of the working class.

    Seems Western societies tend to be more divided into milieus than tribes.

    • The Philippine left seems to have the same structure as the rest of Philippine society – patrons who had good opportunities in life and clients (fishermen in Pamalakaya, homeless in Kadamay, jeepney drivers in Piston, etc etc) with less opportunities in life than their leaders.

      Recently the scientific bent of the Philippine left has been an advantage during Covid. The reliance on prayer and church (badges of belonging for the established classes) is less in that group than in the conservative and liberal crowd. That is why Renato Reyes made the most sense he ever made in his life recently.

      • It’s fascinating that the power to unify for vote-getting is the shallow qualification of ‘popularity’, not policies like state’s rights or taxation. Or even ‘your life will be better in an honest land’. Even the left can’t get across the idea of ‘nationhood for workers’ to put the factions together. The line of thinking ‘unity–>economy–>better life’ is not there.

        • kasambahay says:

          ah, nationhood, I thought, you said notionhood. still, I’m thankful our directionless and aimless leftists kababayan got the sense not to be like talibans and bring the sledgehammer to historical statues!

          yay! we have just celebrated 122nd yrs of araw ng kalayaan. glad leni was there, now wearing glasses. despite the pandemic, emotions are still strong and awfully, awfully, awfully against terror bill. and govt’s inter-agency task force is clueless pa rin, methink. doh is still hapless and vapid, doj is playing catch up to what congress dished to the man at the top. so, overall, what a nation!

          the one who often sleeps said china will prioritize filipinos once covid vaccine is produced. bet china said and promised the same thing to one and all and as always, it comes down to price. gotta outbid others and the vaccine is ours. and it had better be not placebo.

          we carry our nation in our hearts, rarely on our sleeves for show and tell. glad too, our university of the phil got 396th place in qs 2021 world university ranking. did better than those ranked 400. heard it in passing from students being dragged off campus by kapolisan.

          • Russia might have a vaccine ready in September, they say. Seems they are going to test it on some soldiers, or even in Nicaragua. Still I believe it only when it is there.

            Germany, Netherlands, France and Italy have a contract with Astra Seneca for 300 million doses once their vaccine is tested and ready, all EU states can take part, probably December. There is a fund raised by the EU and Bill Gates to pay for vaccination worldwide.

            But even if and when a vaccine is ready, producing enough doses is a tall order. 8 billion doses for the world might use up the small bottles they need to out vaccines in. What is possible is that the Philippines might play the same role as Nicaragua might for Russia.

            • Sounds like Filipino kids are going to be out of school for awhile. The on-line education program is very haphazard, I think, with no structured programs for computers for kids. I suspect rich LGUs will figure out a way and poor ones will struggle.

            • kasambahay says:

              irineo, as the norm, there will be obligatory ‘patikim’, professional sample not for sale covid vaccine given free of charge to doctors. few batches for promotional purposes only, to be dispensed as doctors see fit. philippines and other countries will have initial share of free promo vaccine courtesy of WHO and pharma companies. after that, philippines may have to buy, or barter, additional batches for mass vaccination.

              • kasambahay says:

                true, joeam, online edu is haphazard and edu boss briones knows that. karamihan of public school kids come from families that have no computer. sasadsad ngayon ang mundo nila, many are thinking they’re the unluckiest kids, covid students at that and some are already contemplating ending their short and miserable lives. immature minds think differently from adults.

                if online learning is not possible, briones ought to consider alternative learning like the distant edu of the old days where teachers sent instructions and learning materials to kids via drivers out of work because of covid pandemic. completed materials can be sent back to teachers via the same way.

                pandemic is going to test kids ability to overcome adversity, to manage and organise their own time, to discipline self and make good choices. there are lots of opportunities for failure too. life can be unpredictable and kids need to adapt and adjust their expectations.

                middle income parents who lost jobs, lost businesses too, and with little to no income, wont be able to continue to send their kids to private schools. public schools ang bagsak nila. edu boss briones ought to prepare for higher influx of students, some traumatised and ill prepared for sudden change in life.

              • karlgarcia says:

                This lockdown proved that if many people are online, you will have slow internet.

                They just cant say rush this and that.

  8. Slightly OT: the EU IS reopening it internal borders. Germany is lifting all travel warnings in the EU except to Sweden (too many infections), France (still locked down) and Spain (not yet open again except for a few German tourist groups allowed to go to Majorca) but the rest of the world is still under travel warning that may be lifted for countries that have handled or are handling Covid well. Only Greece is reopening for worldwide tourism, but with mandatory health checks.

    As NHerrera has said, the virus has moved. The American continent is badly hit. And South Asia. Turkey is not yet out of the woods, even if they are mad at Germany for not allowing travel yet. Turkey’s health minister has given people who ignore warnings the fault for the latest rise.

  9. sonny says:

    Maybe this is OT but just in case it is not. This is an FYI-type info.


    “In an unlikely nuclear missile-naval digital remote-control war in the WPS, there will be very few China and US casualties. The Philippines, as well as Vietnam, will bear the brunt of collateral casualties, hopefully not in the millions. A policy of neutrality is the best in a war of giants, but many observers say that is almost impossible. You are forced to side with one or the other. It’s a tug of war, and the Philippines is the rope.”

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