MANILA, NOVEMBER 24, 2003  (STAR) HERE'S THE SCORE By Teodoro C. Benigno - It was two gruelling months in the making. But when BANGON! was formally launched Thursday, the blood, sweat and tears poured into the project was well worth it. The welcome by an overflow crowd at the Kalayaan Hall of Club Filipino was uproaringly jubilant to say the least. The BANGON! manifesto was a Picasso frieze of passion and prose, mirroring the agony of a persecuted people that had been driven brutally to the wall for decades. And when finally Tito Guingona, roared out his anger and his vision, BANGON! tumbled into reality like a bomb primed to explode when the time should come.

And now the questions come in a flood. And these are legitimate questions for the mirror the flood of expectancy, hope, yearning, the bulging desire to see the big picture, the whence, where, the how and the whither. I shall endeavor to answer these questions to the best of my knowledge and ability. So in a way, this column is a primer on BANGON!

The first and most frequent question is will Vice President Tito Guingona eventually run for the presidency despite his being head of Bangon?

The answer is No. Tito Guingona has so many times avowed his loyalty to the cause of Bangon. 2004 is farthest from his mind. Tito and we the movement’s organizers is not the people expect BANGON! To ride historic tides particularly the 2004 elections which could be critical in determining the course of the Philippines’ immediate future. "I will rise with the Filipino people!" Tito Guingona exclaimed in his address Thursday. BANGON! bids fair to play a crucial role if and when social and political turbulence should explode during the campaign and during and after the counting of ballots. Almost everybody, it seems, expects massive cheating and the prodigal use of guns, goons, and gold.

Another question had to do with BANGON!’s posture or position vis-à-vis the world of politics. Will Bangon support any candidate? Will BANGON! select what it may call exemplary candidates and ask the electorate to vote for them?

The answer is that BANGON! is truly non-partisan in this world of politics. Its moral stature is precisely defined by rising above the sound and fury of politics. This way, BANGON! can freely comment on many critical issues that may arise, without fear of favor. And this way, too, BANGON! can rise to the heights in condemning flagrant electoral abuse or violations. Its only concern is the sanctity of the ballot and the integrity of the electoral process. BANGON! will fight tooth and nail to prevent the elections from descending into a dirty, drag-out fight among the protagonists, issues forgotten.

Who can qualify to be a member of BANGON!?

Any citizen. There is however only one condition which we call the virginity clause. Any person who works actively for any presidential candidate or major political party by reason of his or her being a member of the party’s command staff or secretariat cannot be a member of BANGON! The reason is obvious. There could be a clash or conflict of interests or loyalties. Otherwise, entry to BANGON! is wide open. Even we members of the BANGON! Organizing Committee can vote for candidates of our personal choice without bringing this to the knowledge of anybody.

What makes BANGON! different from other civic or civil society organizations or groups pursuing the same principles or objectives?

Nationalism. We do insist on nationalism being the core ideology of BANGON! We are firmly convinced that only nationalism, another name for love of country and the nation’s traditional values, can set fire to the hopes and dreams of the Filipino. Only nationalism can supply the sinews and spinal system of the new economy BANGON! seeks to structure in the near future. China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, the "economic tigers" of Asia, couldn’t have succeeded without "economic nationalism". Ergo, a BANGON! member is a nationalist at the same time.

Why the timing of BANGON!’s launching last Thursday, Nov. 20. Couldn’t this be premature?

No, on the contrary. Weeks and even months before the BANGON!’ launch, our political world was a daily drumbeat of Third Force advocacies and suggestions. This Force. Third Force. Third Force became a deafening tattoo. In fact, some groups and political parties were presumed to have anointed themselves already as Third Force entities. Why? Widespread desperation had set in. Current political parties and the bulk of current leadership were perceived by many as decaying or decomposing. Whatever. It was really time to create or conceptualize BANGON! It was a void that had to be filled. And that’s what we did.

The BANGON! manifesto paints an extremely gloomy picture of the Philippines. The Filipino dream has collapsed. Its figures, statistics and pronouncements suggest a nation shattered almost beyond repair. Is it really that bad?

Yes, it is that bad. Nothing seems to work anymore. All of our institutions have tragically faltered or failed. We have the biggest begging bowl in Asia. Our economy is destitute. We can almost hear its death rattle despite the government’s roseate and phoney predictions. If we cannot adequately feed about a half of our 82 million population, then mass starvation and even famine beckon. How do we handle in less than 10 years a bloated population of about 100 million? How do we react to 2,700 Filipinos fleeing the Philippines every day? That’s about three million a year, the greatest and most shocking out-migration in Philippine history.

Then, if it’s that bad, what can BANGON! do?

For one, it can restore hope. The first leap is a leap of faith. Candles can be lit, torches. Bonfires. Until today, many Filipinos are in denial, and so is the nation. The expectation still persists that things will turn out for the better. Miracles can happen. If BANGON! can subjugate this patience and resignation of the Filipino even when he is down on his knees, then we can achieve the second leap – a leap of the heart. Courage will replace lethargy. Heroism. Outrage will bolt from the starting blocks as the Filipino realizes he has been royally had for half a century. From there, we go to the third leap – the leap of reason. Voltaire described this as the most important leap, for it flings out the cobwebs of the past and lets the rational mind, the creative mind in. Only then can renewal become a reality.

But what if things get from bad to worse, the elections are a farce because of massive cheating, the streets explode in upheaval, and the military should stage a coup to restore peace and order?

We do expect that by that time, BANGON! will have morphed into a formidable moral and social force, strongly supported by the citizenry. If so, BANGON! can move to the center of the stormy stage as a formidable social deterrent. Then arises the possibility Tito Guingona, as vice president, can play the role of a formidable arbiter. The man is universally respected. He would have slipped into the shoes of Lech Walesa of the Solidarity movement in Poland. Not to mention the brass buckle of Vaclav Havel, when Czechoslovakia needed a hero. The playwright-dramatist who was in prison played the role with brio. Charles de Gaulle was in exile in Colombey les Deux Eglises, forlorn, never more to return to politics. But when the nation in distress called, he fared forth with the Rally of the French People.

The BANGON! manifesto virtually tolled the death knell of our present democracy. Does this mean our democracy has to give way to a different political system?

No, it simply means we have to restructure our present democracy which for five decades has been the tool of the elite and the lllustrados to perpetrate themselves in power. The Lincolnian model must prevail. That democracy is of the people, from the people, and for the people. Once the people have a stake in this reinvigorated democracy, then BANGON! will have served its purpose.

Does BANGON! have an action program? After the launch, what steps will you take to make BANGON! relevant in the weeks and months ahead?

BANGON! head Tito Guingona served firm notice the movement would crack down hard on pork barrel and eventually seek to abolish it. There would also be periodic audit reports on the justice system. The administration of justice would not only have to be speeded up but restructured to make sure not just the poor go to jail but also the rich. Graft and corruption would also be a prime target but courses of action would have to be sharpened and refined so this time the big fish would not be able to get away. BANGON! wants those big-time barracudas in jail.

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Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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