I have been listening to all the gripes about vote buying and cheating during and in the lead-up to the last elections. One common thread runs through them — the implicit wish for change to no vote buying and no cheating in future elections.

But what really is remarkable about these gripes is that they surface just about after every election. Which could only mean we have simply complained and wanted change but have done nothing about it. Things don’t change simply because we want them to.

Since they killed Andres Bonifacio, our first and only commoner President (Aug. 24, 1896-May 10, 1897), we have been ruled by Ilustrados and their successors, today’s oligarchs. They have since succeeded in keeping ordinary folks, commoners in medieval speak, completely unrepresented in the decision-making halls of government.

Let’s not kid ourselves then. Our vaunted American-style democracy has never been a representative one. It has never been a government of the people, by the people and for the people. Our demographic profile (a few super-rich, an insignificant upper middle class, and a lower middle class and lower class majority) attests to the deplorable fact that our government is by oligarchs, of oligarchs and for oligarchs.

If we want any positive change in the quality of life of the majority of our people, the system must be changed that effectively limits representation in government to the few in the upper class and/or their surrogates in the upper middle class. The lower class labor sector has absolutely no say in the economic policies of this country.

To give the majority of Filipinos (workers, small farmers, small fishermen etc.) a voice in government decision-making, their leaders must gain seats in Congress. This is necessary, as other countries have shown, for economic policies to swing in favor of labor at least periodically. This is also a necessary way of creating a balance between the greed of the oligarchy and the needs of the majority.

This can happen only if the poor majority could reason their way into shifting loyalties from political patrons (on whom they now depend financially) to one United People’s Labor Party. The performance in the last elections of Ka Leody and Luke Espiritu, two capable pro-labor candidates, shows the futility of running under the banner of one of so many disparate and disunited labor groups.

A word of caution. The Labor Party must stand for a social reform philosophy or agenda that clearly is on the other side of the violence and moral relativism of the Communist party. It must fight for workers’ rights in the strictly legal political arena. Otherwise, it will be red-tagged and crushed by oligarchs.

According to a Chinese saying, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is today.” Similarly, the best time to organize a Labor Party was a century ago. The next best time is also today.