Sep 01 2013

PATRONAGE POLITICS AND RADICAL SOCIAL TRANSFORMATION: A PLEA TO CHRISTIAN LEADERS

stoppatronagepolitics

Sherel Quider, John Mel Sumatra, and David Quico are three of the PeaceBuilders Community members who joined the Davao rally against pork barrel system and against patronage politics. 26 August 2013, Rizal Park, Davao City.

The God of the Bible is the God of History. God is working in our history. God is doing a radical transformation in our land.

The people are seeking God-centered, people-oriented, moral-ethical leadership towards the transformation of our land. That could be the Body of Christ—the community composed of people who have submitted their being to Jesus Christ for personal, radical transformation. The same Body of Christ in the Philippines ought to lead our people towards a radical, social transformation of our land. We can do this as we help educate, organize, and mobilize the people towards this transformation.

We are deeply mired in a socio-political system that enslaves our people and devastates our land for so long. This inherently corrupt system is called ‘patronage politics.’ It is a poison tree. Its leaves and branches release toxic elements in our social environment. It poisons and destroys our land. It poisons and destroys our people, our children, and our children’s children. It corrupts the spheres of our society — arts & sciences, business, church, daily news & media, education, family, and government. We need to take out the radix or the root of this toxic tree from our beloved land. We need to work together towards a radical transformation in our society.

Praying for a radical social movement. I’m praying for radical, active non-violent social transformation leaders who would give their lives and resources to establish alternative communities across our land because they love God, they love Jesus, they love the people, they love our land, and they love the Body of Christ. I pray for these radical transformation leaders who will lead alternative communities not because they are beholden to a religious, political, or civil society personality with a big name, but because they are stirred by the Spirit of God from the deepest aspects of their being.

I also pray for alternative communities who will operate proactively even within their current means and resources. I’m praying for a genuine network of alternative communities who are truly dialogical in their inter-dependent operations.

My spirit is groaning for a non-violent, radical, alternative movement that is moved by the Spirit of God from the ground up.

A time for radical transformation. We are entering a new historical segment of radical transformation in our land. The people have started to question the prevailing patronage political system. They will advance a new liberating system that would free our government and our institutions from the abuse of the few political and economic elites whom we refer to as oligarchs or traditional politicians (or trapo–the Filipino word for ‘dirty rug’).

As we trek through this new segment in our national journey, Christian leaders will be confronted with tasks so different from our previous and current ministry exposures. It will be the ministry of dialogical, justice-based reconciliation between those who belong to the oligarchies and the common people who are being oppressed by the oligarchs.

It begins now. As a result of the explosion of the pork barrel scandal, a ministry challenge in the area of social theology and ethics is now confronting us.

Oligarchy, traditional politicians, and patronage politics. Oligarchs are mostly remnants of former colonial families and their cronies who maintained their ownership of the best lands in our country based on Regalian Doctrine. They may have given up their great grandparents’ direct colonial rule of our country. But these descendants of colonial families made sure that the laws of the land perpetuate their ownership of the best arable and commercial lands in our country. To protect their interests, they secured the control of the legislative processes in our government. They even managed to control the executive and the judiciary branches of the government after the Spanish and the American colonial governments have supposedly left our country, according to the history they wrote. With the political machinery in their hands, they also made sure that the economic system is under their virtual monopoly. They extended their land capital to the commercial-industrial capital, and then merged them with global capital.

These national-global mergers of mega-capital are protected by the laws of the land. Since the interests of these elite families and their global partners are supposed to be legal, they are then protected by the armed forces and the police forces of the land, with the support of the global military power operating in our land.

Some of these colonial families inter-married with certain landed, traditional leaders in many indigenous communities. These inter-married clans of colonial families and tribal royalties brought vast areas of lands within their ancestral domains under the Regalian system. When the new elites opened their lands to modern agri-business corporations, many indigenous clans outside these mixed marriages were pushed up to the mountains. Their traditional livelihood began to disintegrate along with their indigenous governance, culture and identity. Meanwhile, the new elites morphed into local oligarchs. Soon, they sent their children to senate and congress to join the national oligarchs.

The big media and the perpetuation of oligarchy. The big media, which are owned by these oligarchs, are the narrators of the story. The story, as they tell us, is that some elite families are more benevolent than others. The Filipino middle class and the masses must learn to discern which of these elite families are best suited to rule over them. And the story sounds so true! Actually, there’s truth that elite families try to annihilate each other, through violence and other means, just to be on top of other oligarchs. What the big media do not tell us is that, these oligarchs will always maintain their class dominance over the middle class and the masses.

Through the big media narratives, the oligarchs maintain a system in which the majority of the professionals would manage the oligarchy’s interests for them. And surely, those professionals get rewarded enough to be controlled by their oligarch masters.

Through the big media, the masses are lulled into a kind of entertainment that paralyzes their analytic capabilities. They are also pushed into an economic state that made them easy targets for financial manipulation especially during election time. A media that causes the dumbing down of the people, and an unjust economic system, create and sustain a people of mendicants who are easy prey for patronage politics. And true enough, the masses indeed reelect the oligarchs. The price for each vote? From 100 pesos to 1,000 pesos. Then as soon as the oligarch-politicians assume power, they would immediately get their money back through various forms of pork barrels.

This is the story of patronage politics that enslaves our people and devastates our land.

We need a radical transformation.

Patronage politics of the oligarchs and violence. As a system, patronage politics is corrupt, unjust, and violent. Although the oligarchs may be bloody competitive against each other regarding issues of wealth-and-power-distribution (what election has been all about), the threat of dismantling their system of patronage politics will surely bring them together to protect their interests as a class. In the face of this threat of losing their corruption-based wealth and power, especially from people outside their network of elite families, these trapos will join together into a phalanx-like cohesion against the outsiders.

The outsiders are the common people. The outsiders include you. The outsiders include me. The outsiders include anyone who will stand up for, and with, the common people. The oligarchs would ‘neutralize’ or ‘pacify’ the outsiders who would challenge to dismantle their base of wealth and power—which is patronage politics.

Would there be traditional politicians who would join the people in dismantling patronage politics? Of course. Those are the exceptions though. As a class, trapos will continue to be the perpetrators of patronage politics. They will have so much difficulties turning away from this system. It’s their source and base of wealth and power. Through many decades, their amassed wealth and established clan power have corrupted them and have become their gods. Within their realm of power, many of them have even manifested their view of themselves as gods. Impunity is one of such manifestations.

Active nonviolence as a powerful response. The instinctive response of many against the violence of patronage politics would be violence. But responding to the trapos with violence only increases their power because they thrive on violence. The violence of injustice will only be exacerbated by the injustice of violence. Violence begets violence.

The best approach to respond to violence is through active non-violence. Through active non-violence, we take the oligarch trapos outside their sphere of power. A radical, active non-violent transformation is what we need to really empower our people and thus liberate our nation.

The power of active nonviolence has been shown in recent history.

People power in the twentieth century did not grow out of the barrel of a gun. It removed rulers who believed that violence was power, by acting to dissolve their real source of power: the consent or acquiescence of the people they had tried to subordinate. When unjust laws were no longer obeyed, when commerce stopped because people no longer worked, when public services could no longer function, and when armies were no longer feared, the violence that governments could use no longer mattered—their power to make people comply had disappeared.

Peter Ackerman and Jack Duval. “Victory without Violence,” A Force More Powerful, p. 505.

Will we actually rise up as a people and initiate a radical, non-violent social transformation? Will the Evangelical pastors and theologians provide leadership and framework for biblically-based social ethics towards this new wind of national transformation?

We need to finish the people power movement. In the past, we have started a series of ‘people power movements’. There were EDSA 1, 2, and 3. But it seemed we were good at starting well but we still have to improve on finishing well. Perhaps this time, we may be ready as a Church and as a people to continue the people’s power movement. This time, let’s finish well by dismantling the roots of corruption—the patronage political system as perpetuated by the oligarchs.

As Christian leaders, we can start by praying for President Benigno S. Aquino III to listen to the people — whom he voluntarily referred to as his ‘boss’. Then, we can all work together to advocate for the following:
1. Abolish the pork barrel system.
2. Reveal, investigate, and prosecute pork barrel scammers — past and present.
3. Pass the Freedom of Information Act.
4. Dismantle the patronage political system of the oligarchs.

And for our immediate actions within the Body of Christ, may I suggest the following?

  • For the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC) to be more active, visible, and audible in your leadership as the nation go through this process of national transformation — for example, PCEC could call for all 30,000+ congregations all over the country to have a simultaneous “Jericho March” around their respective city halls or municipal halls on a Sunday afternoon and pray for our country using the recent PCEC statements, and invite the local and national media to cover these national marches;
  • For the young evangelical leaders who are passionate about radical transformation but feel restricted by their respective church councils (PCEC, NCCP, etc.) to have a respectful, transparent relationship with such councils; then, when deemed appropriate, form a non-formal, non-official intra-council and inter-council alternative mobilization networks both in cyberspace and realspace;
  • For the Christian theologians to develop biblical-theological frameworks that are in harmony with your specific denominational perspectives and at the same time comprehensible and doable in the context of the local congregations;
  • For the pastors to pray, reflect, discern what God may be doing in your respective local communities and lead your congregation—as part of your discipleship and mission—in their education and mobilization towards social transformation; and,
  • For youth pastors and youth leaders to include the issues of social-political transformation along with the issues of personal-spiritual transformation in your discipleship ministries such as youth camps, youth fellowships, youth retreats, and all on-going youth activities.

May God wake us up as biblical leaders, as the Body of Christ, and as a nation!

Amen.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  John 14:27

Permanent link to this article: http://peacebuilderscommunity.org/2013/09/patronage-politics-and-radical-social-transformation-a-plea-to-christian-leaders/

2 comments

    • Doy Nacpil on 07.September.2013 at 1150
    • Reply

    While reading Kuya Dann’s article, let me share what I intend to do:
    (1) observe with the marginalized, poor people in our mind, and (2) analyze or reflect on how the present system or situation have continually oppressed this marginalized created being, then maybe (3) ask ourselves, consult our family, our leaders, ministry partners, next is (4) we can pray, intercede for this present needs. Afterward, (5) lets go back to our community and lets act or do something or continue to do (integral mission con incarnational discipleship) that will attempt to meet the basic human needs of our kapatiran, kapitbahay, kabaranggay or kababayan. From there (6) we can reassess or evaluate their situation from time to time.

    1. Dr. Doy, I have so much confidence in what God can do in and through you as you become a change agent for radical transformation among your sphere of influence. For the glory of God. For the obedience of the Body of Christ in advancing the Good News in all areas of life. For the liberation of our people. Peace and blessings!

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