WALDEN Bello is now an ex-member of the House of Representatives or the lower house of Congress, the state institution known for its trappings of power and privileges, which he did not indulge in, anyway, when he was still a congressman. He could have finished his third and last term until June next year either by constantly praising and blindly obeying President Aquino or by just keeping quiet while enjoying the perks of his office, even when he sees something wrong with the P-Noy government.
But, no, Walden is not a political leech nor a lapdog of anyone who does not have or no longer have the moral high ground to govern the nation. He belongs to a still very rare breed and very small group of public officials – hopefully, their tribe will increase sooner – who truly think and act for the good of the people. It is a genuine concern for the “masa” – not the perfunctory “kayo ang boss ko” label repeated ad nauseam in live TV broadcasts, not the pretentious pledge of “dating mahirap, kaya makamahirap,” and not the deceitful “makamasa” slogans that politicians routinely use during elections to win votes.
Walden does not look and speak like a “masa” but his politics and advocacies are certainly for the “masa” as his grassroots, activist and principled politics attest to. It is oceans apart from the prevailing elite politics as well as the politics centered on party bureaucrats and politics of expediency, a euphemism actually of opportunist politics.
Thus, not surprisingly, but with a heavy heart, Walden withdrew his support for Aquino last March 11 by irrevocably resigning as the principal Akbayan party list representative in Congress. While the immediate trigger was Aquino’s speech a day before in which he brazenly washed “his hands of responsibility of (the Mamasapano) mission he planned and executed” – there were also a series of earlier events that piled up which made that Jan. 25 tragedy the proverbial last straw for Walden, an erstwhile staunch but critical supporter of Aquino.
These include his vigorous appeals to Aquino not to lose the moral high ground of his administration’s much vaunted “tuwid na daan” drive and “reform agenda” by sacking Director General Alan Purisima, who was still then the PNP chief and not yet suspended, for his several plunder and graft cases. In the same vein, Walden implored Aquino to fire at least four of his Cabinet members who are mired in anomalies or incompetence: Vice President Jejomar Binay, the government’s housing czar and presidential adviser on OFW concerns for even large-scale and decades-long corruption; Budget Secretary Florencio Abad of the PDAF and DAP infamy; Agrarian Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes for his dismal failure to fulfill CARPER; and Proceso Alcala for being a lame duck agriculture secretary.
Walden likewise suggested the shaking up of other executive departments including the DOTC, DOE and DFA as part of the needed revamp and improvement of the bureaucracy. The goal of these and other related efforts is good governance or where the government is able to honestly and effectively serve the people (whom Aquino claims to be his “bosses”) and to institute necessary measures to achieve the elusive genuine inclusive growth – amid the successive GDP “growths” under Aquino but still do not benefit the vast majority of the Filipinos.
But lo and behold! Bello was instead castigated, ostracized and disowned by the President and the government he sincerely wanted to succeed, as well as by his party leadership he thought shared his passion and commitment to truly serve the people and advance progressive agenda.
Sentro expresses its unequivocal and unwavering support to Walden Bello’s well-intentioned proposals and constructive criticisms – emphasizing that no amount of rebuking or disowning him will prevent Sentro from expressing its support to him – as long as what he conveys is for the benefit of the vast majority of people, and not a few privileged ones. Walden should have been thanked for all his efforts.
Indeed, prior to the Mamasapano tragedy, Walden honestly and persistently believed – even amid the growing doubts – in Aquino’s credibility and big potentials. Even at present, he considers Aquino as “a decent fellow untainted by corruption,” but this has been “overwhelmed by his pigheadedness, loyalty to and tolerance of corrupt and incompetent subordinates, inability to appreciate the urgent need for massive social reform, and his allowing the United States undue influence on our foreign policy and internal security policy.”
Walden said that it “seems that the President’s idea of an ally is someone who follows Malacañang’s line without question and without hesitation. It seems that an ally raising legitimate questions and criticisms is seen as sleeping with an enemy.” This is despite his unflinching support to the administration’s core legislative agenda, including the now controversial Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
Hence, Walden’s decision to quit his congressional post and privileges – as indignation to Aquino’s intransigent stand against meaningful social change as well as Aquino’s double standards and self-righteousness; and, unfortunately, in deference to the continued and unwavering support to the Aquino administration of his party’s leadership – is a paragon of statesmanship, consistently principled politics, integrity, courage and dignity to engage his adversaries head on.
Sentro and its member organizations are firmly behind you, Kasamang Walden. Mabuhay ka! Mabuhay ang prinsipyadong pulitika!