After Bayan Muna’s failed attempt to win a senate seat in 2010 by aligning itself with a major political party, it is now trying to do what it has been really good at during the height of martial rule: united front building.
There have been two major instances when the mainstream Left joined the Philippine electoral politics in a more partisan manner.
The first was in 1987 when it fielded a slate for the senatorial elections that included former New People’s Army chief Bernabe Buscayno and National Democratic Front chair Horacio Morales through its own party, the Partido ng Bayan. The result was a disastrous foray into a political arena that is the domain and territory of the very forces it wishes to defeat. Partido ng Bayan would disband soon thereafter.
It would not be until after an accumulation of little but steady victories in the party list system is the Left again giving the senate race a shot.
In 2010, it coalesced with Senator Manuel Villar’s Nacionalista Party and fielded Bayan Muna’s Satur Ocampo and Gabriela’s Liza Maza for senators. The two were however drowned by the issues that haunted then presidential candidate Villar and the popularity of unexpected candidate Senator Benigno Aquino III who eventually won the presidential race.
This year, Teddy Casiño is the lone candidate from the Left who will be embarking on an uphill battle to win where his previous comrades have failed.
Already handicapped by lack of resources to mount a sustained and competitive campaign, Casiño is also faced with contempt and derision from traditional ideological rivals that now surround the Aquino government. Even Aquino has belittled the Left’s capacity to win a senate seat, branding Casiño as mere propagandist.
The Left cannot also align it forces with the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) which includes former President Joseph Estrada and turncoats from the old party of unpopular former Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
It is now left to do it alone.
But the recent appearance of 5 senatorial candidates coming from both the administration coalition and UNA in a gathering where they were endorsed by Casiño and his allies, suggests that far from being marginalized, the Left still holds a command vote that could boost the chances of a candidate winning in a tight senatorial race.
The five guest candidates of Makabayan, the Left’s coalition party, are by no means also ran candidates. Senators Francis ‘Chiz’ Escudero, Lorena Legarda and Aquilino ‘Koko’ Pimentel III are among the front runners for the top slots in next year’s election while Grace Poe and Rep. Cynthia Villar are no pushover candidates who have been doing well in surveys.
With a solid base of at least 2.5 million votes, a figure not to easily sneeze at, the Left might be in the fringes of national electoral politics but it can also make or unmake candidates teetering in the bottom or near the winning column.
At least coalition building in this manner enables the Left to push for minimum agenda with their guest candidates and also give Casiño access to wider electoral base.
Winning the elections will be good for Casiño but creating more reliable and strategic allies for the Left is even better.
Now the Left is doing more like it.