AKBAYAN’s first nominee, Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel is an incumbent member of the House of Representatives. In her three-year stint in Congress, her accomplishments have surpassed those of other congressmen and congresswomen who have occupied their positions longer. This comes as little surprise to those who know her and have worked with her, for her background and experiences speak volumes of her commitment and dedication to uplifting the lives of the marginalized, voiceless and forgotten.
Though best known for her stint as a television broadcaster and media personality, Risa has quietly but steadfastly been involved in various advocacies ranging from peace, agrarian reform and women’s rights. Since 1998, for example, she was a member of the government peace panel conducting negotiations with the CPP-NPA. Such engagement has provided her with the necessary perspective in addressing pressing issues of peace and human rights, and has earned her a Nobel Peace Prize nomination. Her activism, however, traces itself much earlier, however, for even as a student, she had taken leadership positions in student organizations and helped articulate the voice of the youth in issues of national consequence. Both in St. Scholastica’s College, where she went for grade school and high school, and at the Ateneo de Manila University, she was at the forefront of the student movement – eschewing an otherwise sheltered life and throwing herself fully to progressive work.
Risa’s legislative track record reflects this passion and commitment. A well-known women’s rights advocate, she has filed several bills in Congress for the protection of women and the promotion of their rights. Among them are the Reproductive Health Bill, which aims to provide women with the necessary reproductive health information to empower them with knowledge and to protect them from sexually-transmitted diseases; the Anti-Prostitution Bill, which looks at prostitution as a symptom of inequitable and exploitative social structures and prostitutes, as victims rather than criminals; and the Gender Balance Bill, which will ensure women’s representation in all structures of governance. She is likewise at the forefront of the campaign for breastfeeding.
A critical piece of legislation crafted and filed by Risa is the Bill for Cheaper Medicines, a measure aimed at lowering the cost of essential medicines in the Philippines by allowing parallel importation and compulsory licensing. That the Bill was approved by both houses is a victory not only for Risa and AKBAYAN, but for the Filipino people as well.
Risa is also known as an agrarian reform advocate, campaigning actively for the implementation of genuine agrarian reform and condemning all forms of landlord violence. It is her office that has filed the CARL Extension Bill, a bill that pushes not only for the extension of CARL but also for a more meaningful program better suited to the needs of the farmers and the agrarian reform beneficiaries.
Over and above these achievements, it is her calm and gentle demeanor that has earned her the respect of her peers and the trust of the constituents that she serves. Though soft-spoken and mild-mannered, the passion of her activism and the strength of her convictions guarantee that her voice is always heard – whether in a podium inside the Session Hall of the House of Representatives or out in the world where the voice of truth always rings loud and clear.
University of the Philippines Prof. Walden Bello, AKBAYAN’s second nominee in the Party-List elections, is first and foremost a teacher. A committed Sociology professor at the University of the Philippines, he has inspired generations of his students with the potent combination of fiery activism and scholarly discipline.
To himself and to those privileged enough to sit in his classes, he will always be the consummate professor. To the rest of the thinking world and the international academic community to which he belongs, however, he is an intellectual heavyweight and one of the foremost critics of the current model of globalization. His extensive contributions to the body of literature on the folly of neo-liberal capitalism and his thoughtful insights on a vast multitude of political and economic issues of the day have gained him the respect of friends and foes alike.
Many remember Walden’s participation in the round of WTO talks held in Seattle in 1999 where he was beaten up and manhandled by the Seattle police. Few know, however, that the bravery he displayed there was the product of an activism dating back as early as the Martial Law period.
When Ferdinand Marcos plunged the country into Martial Law – a move that has allowed wide-scale economic plunder and wanton human rights violations – Walden dove headfirst into the anti-Marcos movement. He became one of the leading lights behind the international movement to restore democracy in the Philippines and established the Philippine Human Rights Lobby in Washington. His indictment of the Marcos regime was at the same time a searing indictment of the global capitalist structure that supported it. He documented how loans and grants from the IMF and the World Bank were actually being used to fund a dictatorship. Though subjected to repeated arrests, Walden could not be silenced, and produced one hard-hitting report after the other that denounced economic subjugation and political repression.
In 1995, he founded the non-government organization Focus on the Global South, which seeks to build grassroots capacity to tackle wider regional issues of development and capital flows. With Walden at its helm, it continues to push for alternative models of development that are people-centered, rights-based and democratic.
Beyond that, Walden is also a known environmentalist, campaigning actively against environmental destruction at the hands of multinational companies. He is likewise a firm human rights advocate, denouncing military intervention in vulnerable states that has resulted in massive and widespread loss of civilian lives. For all his efforts and initiatives, he was given the Alternative Nobel in 2003 for “…for outstanding efforts in educating civil society about the effects of corporate globalisation, and how alternatives to it can be implemented.”
Though a known academic, Walden truly remains committed to the marginalized whose interests he represents in the broader arena. A dedicated professor, a published writer, a public intellectual, a committed activist, a global Pinoy – Walden is truly a worthy addition to Congress.
Gico Dayanghirang’s idealism and principles are razor-sharp. They have been tested in an arena where the incentives to discard them present an unmistakable allure.
If AKBAYAN’s third nominee to the House of Representatives gets a seat this May, it would not be his first time in Congress. In the 1980’s, he was a district Congressman from Davao, his hometown. While his colleagues have been making the most out of the pork barrel given them by the administration, Gico made the bold – and solitary – decision to refuse his allocation. For him, it was a means to perpetuate patronage politics and institutionalize horse-trading and he wanted to be spared the baggage of “utang na loob”. He surprised many with his courageous move, and inspired them when he stood by his decision.
Gico’s refusal to involve himself in traditional politics and ingratiate himself to trapo politicians affects not only the decisions he makes, but also the legislation he crafts for the society he envisions. In his short stint in Congress, he was part of a small group of congressmen who pushed for the implementation of genuine agrarian reform. He had some experiences working in farmlands in Davao and saw firsthand the oppressions that tillers of the soil undergo, so he sought to enact a piece of legislation that would truly serve their interests. As expected, there was much opposition to the bill. Amidst the company of landed congressmen who could not be persuaded to give up their vast tracts of land, he pushed his pro-people measures without flinching. Though the bill was waylaid by political realities, he had managed to gain the respect of his colleagues with his integrity.
Gico was born and raised in Mindanao, and so Mindanao issues of peace and development are foremost in his mind. He is a dedicated advocate of electoral reforms, owing to the tragedy of electoral disenfranchisement faced virtually every elections by voters from the South. He has a solid grasp and understanding of the problems faced by Mindanao and its people, and would be a worthy representative of the island’s broad and far-reaching concerns.
Gico Dayanghirang is a true-blue promdi, an experienced legislator, and most importantly, a man whose ideals remain untainted and intact. In Congress, he will speak for the sons and daughters of Mindanao ravaged by poverty and conflict, the farmers who are being victimized by a flawed agrarian reform system, and all Filipinos who seek clean politics and a robust democracy.