PROGRESSIVE means “happening gradually or developing in stages.” Its other meaning refers to a person or group that “favors or implements social reform and new liberal ideas.”

In 1967, as a newly ordained priest, I favored and implemented, as much as I could, Church reforms the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council (1962-65) had decreed. A few years later, as assistant executive secretary of Cebu’s Archdiocesan Social Action Center, I joined social activists demanding badly needed social reforms in the country.

That should have qualified me as a progressive. But to my surprise I was not accorded that epithet, not anyway by the more radical of the activist groups. The latter, as I soon realized, were using the word “progressive” to refer to persons who were either actual or potential members of the Extreme Left’s (Communist Party) front organizations.

Instead I was called a clerico-fascist, a term the Left adopted for a person or group that uses religion to support Marcos’ fascism or give it no more than token resistance. But because I openly and consistently opposed Martial Law, I was eventually treated as a potential progressive. Yet, I never became one in the Left’s sense of the term as I insisted my Christian Faith (not Marxist ideology) was (still is) the well-spring of my activism.

It seems that the Left’s appropriated meaning of progressive still holds today. Even journalists now seem to use it in the Left’s sense of it. This is shown in a recent news item about “progressive lawmakers” questioning the appropriation of P16.5 billion to the government’s anti-insurgency task force.

We don’t have progressive lawmakers as they are all for the status quo and not for social reforms. That leaves the Makabayan bloc as the lawmakers the news reporter must have alluded to as “progressive,” the same group that Undersecretary Loraine Badoy tagged as CPP-NPA officials. True, they are not for the status quo; but they are not for democratic social reform either. They are for the violent overthrow of our democracy and its replacement by a dictatorship of the proletariat (translate: Central Committee).

They want Ms. Badoy to apologize for red-tagging them; yet they reject her condition that they denounce the atrocities of the NPA which clearly do not result in democratic social reforms but in the violent overthrow of our weak and struggling democracy.

The country definitely needs progressive Filipinos who work for radical social reforms that strengthen our democracy as the term progressive truly means. But to qualify as progressive those who are working to destroy our democracy and replace it with a dictatorship (of their Central Committee) is a gross distortion of the meaning of progressive.