Scenarios and trends

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By Karl G. Ombion

The Essentials

Saturday, May 11, 2013

POSITIVE and negative scenarios are unfolding in Bacolod and these will become visible after elections. These will define the trends up to 2016 and set the main challenges for those who take active part in future-building.

One, the main winners of 2013 elections will still be the established traditional politicians (trapos) and they will dispense the political power according to the desire and interests of their elite families, clan and their political advisers and operators.

No amount of their demagoguery, hypocrisy and nice agenda and commitments can cover up the deplorable plight of most Bacolodnons. They will perpetuate the existing political order, seize public treasury and accommodate their patrons and kin while making tokens of benevolent services and cultural deceptions so people won’t rise up against them.


Notwithstanding, few good councilors will be re-elected and elected. But their equalizing and fiscalizing role will be tougher this time because the old trapos will likely become more emboldened and use all means to speed up their personal enrichment in view of the shrinking local economic pie, so to speak, and the growing discontentment of the people. Nevertheless, their presence in the city could clip or reduce some powers of the trapos.

Two, the cries of Bacolodnons for substantive political and cultural reforms will continue to gain strength and momentum in 2013 and 2014, and will sharpen the class and social contradictions towards 2015 to 2016. But these cries will have to be translated into doable initiatives and action programs to become potent force for reforms.

The key to realizing this is on the progressives in the city -- mass organizations of workers, urban poor, students and youth, sugarworkers in the peripheral barangays, partylist formations and non government development organizations. Unless they unite and agree on some forms of cooperation, they will have a hard time building alternative centers of power that will challenge the machinery and money of traditional politicians (trapos).

Their combined strength, if correctly dispensed, will also be instrumental in winning over the progressives in the city government, the progressive-minded small and medium business and progressive minded in catholic and protestant church institutions. If this is done, the progressives can speed up the strengthening and widening of their political strength.

Another aspect that progressives must address is the phenomenon of the fusion of left ideas and tactics with traditional electoral politics. Months back, I argued that Bacolod and Negros Occidental are probably unique areas of application of this political fusion. A relatively large section of former left cadres and community organizers who left the movement after its serious crisis in 86-87 and splits in 92-93 have enlisted beginning late 90s their political services to the traditional politicians in Bacolod, province and region for reason of economic survival. A number of these former left forces became the core think tanks and barangay operators of the traditional politicians.

Still, this strange fusion of left politics with traditional electoral politics is nothing but mere leftism, improving the stake of the trapo politicians, strengthening status quo politics and marginalizing further the poor, oppressed and exploited.

Three, Negros sugar leaders are preparing for the 2015 scenario where tariff reduction due to Asian Free Trade Agreement (AFTA) will drop to five (5) percent and to zero (0) in post 2015 indeed poses chilling scenario for our sugar industry.

How they can convert this grim scenario to opportunities will surely have an effect on Bacolod, being the seat of provincial political power, the center of commerce and trade and the haven of most big landowners and hacienderos.

If sugar resurges towards a new boom, businesses in Bacolod will surely feel the pitch, and employment will likely grow, albeit slow and small. If the contrary happens, the economic pressures that have already shaken Bacolod will deepen and, worse, it will absorb the expected migration of the jobless and the hungry from sugar farms and rural villages.

Fourth, the surge of the revolutionary movement of CPP-NPA-NDF in the island, as demonstrated by their capacity to launch tactical offensives in several districts, expand their territorial influence and even of reported alliances with some local business figures and politicians -- will likely grow and expand in the next three years despite the claims of the military and police officials that they are on the decline.

The prospective main winners in the elections in the province, either Marañon or Alvarez camp, will likely adapt a more aggressive and militaristic position towards the revolutionary movement, including push for localized peace talks being encouraged by the Aquino administration.

If sugar industry takes a boom, chances are the hacienderos will take harder stance against the revolutionary movement to defend their economic gains. If the contrary, they might be forced to ally with the movement to force government to institute laws and policies that will protect the sugar industry.

Unless these scenarios are analyzed well and given comprehensive solutions by our government officials and non government leaders, there will likely be a confluence of these scenarios that will set the trend for the sharpening of social contradictions in the sugarlandia in 2015 and 2016 similar to or even more explosive than the situation in the early 80s.

Bacolod government leaders cannot and must not ignore these scenarios and just confine themselves to their limited political nutshell. They must start appreciating that the political economy of Bacolod cannot be detached from that of the province and entire island.

The same mindset is required of those in the province. Bacolod is their seat of power and their family refuge. Whatever they do for the province and island, they must as well do for Bacolod.

All of us are stakeholders, and we must therefore take extra efforts in helping find sound solutions to the main issues and problems being sharpened by the unfolding scenarios and trends.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on May 11, 2013.


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