Philippines progressives set up coalition

Issue 

By Reihana Mohideen

MANILA — SANLAKAS (People's Solidarity for Democracy and Freedom), a broad coalition of organisations campaigning for national freedom and democracy, held its inaugural convention here on October 29.

The coalition is being built by the activists of the old Manila branch of BAYAN. Twenty-four organisations representing trade unions, urban poor, churches, youth groups, women, consumer groups, market vendors, drivers, human rights organisations, non-government organisations and other community sectors attended the convention.

The new socialist organisation MAKABAYAN is also playing an important role in SANLAKAS. The mass base of SANLAKAS represents more than 100,000 members.

Sonny Rivera, the newly elected president of SANLAKAS, described the goals and campaign perspectives of the new organisation. "We have a major agenda that we put forward during our formation, namely the industrialisation of the economy as a solution to unemployment and underdevelopment.

"By this we mean a Philippines-oriented industrialisation as against heavy reliance on foreign investment. For this to succeed, we also believe that simultaneously there should be genuine agrarian reform, with democratisation of land ownership and access to land."

Rivera spoke of the need for a "democratic coalition government" in which the "basic sectors can participate and which guarantees access to the masses and the observance of human rights, gender equality and so on". These demands constitute the basic program of SANLAKAS.

The organisation also has the perspective of campaigning in elections. "The consensus is that we actively support progressive candidates in elections if not fielding candidates ourselves. In the main we will support those candidates who commit themselves to the cause of national freedom."

Rivera emphasised the democratic nature of the SANLAKAS project. "We believe in democratic pluralism. This includes respecting any opposition inside the organisation, namely respecting the rights of the minority to oppose policy and campaign for their views. We will have a great degree of tolerance to opposing views."

As for the differences with the national BAYAN organisation, Rivera stressed: "We are open to collaboration with groups such as BAYAN national. We are ready to unite with them on the basis of principles. It is an organisation that many of us in SANLAKAS have built for many years. It will be a welcome scenario if we can come up with a working relationship in pushing forward a national agenda. Unfortunately, they seem to treat us like enemies. We don't treat them as enemies."

The organisation will be publicly launched at a November 30 rally, a commemoration of Andres Bonifacio, a leader of the 1896 revolution against Spanish rule. The group will put out a newspaper campaigning for its goals.