Regime change in Bacolod

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By Karl G. Ombion

The Essentials

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

IS BACOLOD ready for a regime change, specifically class-based regime change?

By class-based regime change, I refer to leaders and politicians of workers or lower middle class origin advocating class rights taking the pilot seat of city governance.

Theoretically, yes, but practical reality says not yet. We may need another generation or more to restructure the political landscape of Bacolod.


Although several middle class politicians with liberal and reformist orientation have made inroads in local politics since the election of Evelio Leonardia in 1994, a lawyer of middle class origin who was backed by Marcos crony and kingmaker Eduardo "Boss Danding" Cojuangco, the local political landscape, and elections for that matter, remains as the domain of the landed elites and their dummy political parties.

Most elected politicians have always been dependent on the support of the local and national landed elites, and some with alleged support from the organized underworld groups, while the new aspirants would still need the backing of the right family names in order to ascend to the upper echelon of local political power.

1920s to 1940s are considered a watershed in local politics, when the landed elites of Iloilo came to Negros to further consolidate the monocrop sugar-based economy which already undergone rapid frontier expansion decades earlier. With the growing affluence of Negros came the consolidation of the political rule of the landed elites.

This explains why the political history of Bacolod up to the present decade has always been a history of the landed class, Montelibano, Locsin, Yulo, Montilla, Ledesma, Remitio, Villanueva, Cordova, Montalvo, Parreno, Corona, Benares, Dizon, Guanzon, Montelibano, and many others from known economic and political families.

The short-lived rule of the more progressive middle class politicians like Villamor, Valdez and few councilors can be explained by the political conundrum brought by the post-Edsa transition that affected all classes and sectors.

Still, the likes of Arche Baribar, a veteran of street parliament, made use of the "democratic space" to launch the progressive crusade and built their own independent political machinery. Unfortunately, Baribar and few others remained outnumbered by politicians with backing from the landed elites of the city and province.

Unlike Roding Ganzon who broke elite politics and dominated Iloilo with his timawaism (movement of the poor) in 1959, 1972 and 1986, using the elite backers and the timawas of the city, progressive politicians in Bacolod failed to capture the support of the poor, many of whom were dependent on the landed elites for their living and survival. In his waning years, Ganzon used the timawas not to uplift their poor economic condition but to elicit mass support for Guanzon and his associates' vested interests.

But unlike in Iloilo during Ganzon's time, the progressive mass movement in Bacolod was stronger, and had it been used effectively by the progressive politicians to their advantage, or that the movement had the keenness to use its strength to capture political seats, the political course of Bacolod could have taken a progressive course since then, albeit slow and zigzag due to the well entrenched powers and influence of the landed elites.

Obviously, I reiterate my analysis that candidates of the poor slugging it out with candidates of landed elites for the city's top posts is still far from reality.

But whether it remains a political rhetoric or not, the challenge remains for the progressives and the working class to continue building their strength, seizing every opportunity, turning every contradiction among the elites to opportunities, parrying attacks, innovating on tactics, building right alliances, until the general conditions become ripe for significant regime change.

The old political forces back by the landed elites must be defeated or reduced to insignificant numbers by the progressives and reformist candidates back by a mass movement. They and the mass movement must also start investing seriously on real alternative political structures and power centers. They must find means to frustrate or reduce the might of money to minor influence in voting turn outs.

This year's elections up to 2016 elections are critical junctures in the political history of Bacolod. Their outcomes could hasten or further delay the remaking of the city's political history and realignment of the balance of political forces.

German critical thinker Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once wrote, "One must be something in order to do something."

Mahatma Gandhi also said "Be the change that you want to be."

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on February 12, 2013.


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