IN an earlier column, I said I was betting on Manny. Of the presidential wannabes, he is one that did not come by his wealth through inheritance or corruption.
Today I’m taking my word back. Manny, soon after, started acting like any traditional politician. In promising a heaven of sorts to poor Filipinos, he demonstrated a lack of understanding of the tangled political dynamics that underpin the jagged surface of Philippine social reality.
Manny has to realize that it will take a lot more than good intention to improve poor people’s lives in this country. Poverty has its roots in a fundamentally flawed social order that systemically reserves political and economic decision-making to a wealthy few.
Millions are poor not because the upper class is short on generosity but because the system the latter controls is not designed to give lower classes effective access to their right to a fair share of the country’s resources.
Manny cannot help by simply being more generous to the poor with his personal wealth than other officials have been. Paternalism’s condescending generosity gives dole-outs that kill a person’s dignity and self-respect. The poor should be helped not out of pity but out of society’s duty and responsibility to provide them with effective avenues towards attaining their right to a prosperous life by their own dignified and self-sustaining efforts.
In short, the poor should be helped by shifting to a system that constitutionally guarantees them genuine access to the right to participate in government (besides voting) and to a fair share of the country’s wealth.
But no elitist government will ever shift this country to such a system. No faction of the elite will ever come up with a constitutional guarantee for the formation of a political party that will represent the interests of the marginalized sector. No elitist government will reform the electoral system where only the already wealthy can run for office.
Hence, if Manny really wants to help the poor, my unsolicited advice to him is not to run this time. He should run only as flag-bearer of a political party that represents the working class he came from. It’s a party that does not exist but which he is in a financial position to organize.
If he runs now, he will be mocked for his working class origin and all its disparaging implications. And if he wins, oligarchs will never allow him to wage a war against poverty by way of social system change. He can do this only if he has the solid backing of a unified working class.
Manny is the working class’ chance of a life-time to have a political party that would advocate for their interests in the decision-making halls of an otherwise elitist government.