Walden Bello runs for senator of the Philippines, pushes reforms in governance
Rep. Walden Bello resigned from Congress on March 19, 2015, because he could no longer support a hypocritical good governance policy under which President Aquino went after his political enemies but protected his corrupt cronies. His resignation was also an act of protest at the president's refusal to accept command responsibility for the Mamasapano tragedy. He felt that his voluntary stepping down was the ethical thing to do since his party Akbayan, of which he was the principal representative in the House of Representatives, maintained its support for Aquino.
He is probably the only person in the legislative history of the Philippines to resign his seat out of principle.
Walden was one of the founders and served as the first chairperson of Akbayan, the Citizens' Action Party.
During his six years in the House of Representatives as representative of Akbayan (2009-2015), Walden was a principal author of many laws and bills promoting the welfare of diverse groups of citizens and the citizenry as a whole, the most important being the Reproductive Health Law, Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (CARPER) law, Amendment to the Overseas Voting Act, Martial Law Human Rights Compensation Law, and the Fair Competition Act. His bill institutionalizing the right of OFWs to full money claims for unfinished contracts was approved by the House and awaits approval in the Senate. He was also one of the foremost champions of the Security of Tenure Bill and the Freedom of Information Bill. Pushing the private sector to respect rights established by law, Walden, together with Rep. Arthur Robes, successfully compelled Mercury Drug to follow the law and give a 20 per cent discount on medicines purchased by people with disabilities.
He served as chairman of the Committee on Overseas Workers' Affairs, in which capacity he participated in the rescue of OFWs from war zones in Syria, investigated and pushed for the prosecution of government officials engaged in sexual exploitation and trafficking of women workers, relentlessly criticized countries such as Saudi Arabia for their toleration of abuses of OFWs, and led missions to investigate labor trafficking and labor conditions of OFWs in the United States, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Hong Kong.
Concerned about the country's foreign relations, Walden authored the House resolution renaming the South China Sea the West Philippines Sea, an initiative that was supported and adopted by the Department of Foreign Affairs and, eventually Malacanang. He also assembled a legislators' mission that made the first visit by a civilian airplane to Pag-Asa Island in the Spratlys, an initiative bitterly condemned by China. At the same time, Walden has strongly criticized the Aquino administration's opening up of the Philippines to the large-scale and uncontrolled entry of US troops via the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, ostensibly to counter China. He has twice co-authored a joint resolution seeking abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement with Senator Miriam Santiago. Because of his advocacy for a policy independent of the superpowers, President Aquino criticized him as "mas oposisyon kaysa sa oposisyon."
Prior to serving in Congress, Walden led a life of consistent activism. Upon completion of his PhD in sociology in Princeton University in the early seventies, he gave up an academic career to become, over the next decade, one of the leaders of the anti-dictatorship movement in the United States in the 1970's and 1980's. Granted political asylum during the Reagan administration, he founded the Washington-based Congress Task Force of the Philippine Solidarity Network and was active in the Anti-Martial Law Coalition, Friends of the Filipino People, and Union of Democratic Filipinos (KDP). Together with his associates, Walden broke into the World Bank in Washington, DC, and stole over 3000 pages of confidential documents, which provided the raw material for the expose Development Debacle: the World Bank in the Philippines that, many say, contributed to the downfall of the Marcos regime.
Walden was arrested several times for civil disobedience by US police, his first arrest being for obstructing the operations of the Institute for Defense Analysis of Princeton University during Richard Nixon's invasion of Cambodia in 1970. He led the takeover of Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School during Nixon's invasion of Laos in 1972. He was also later arrested for acts of civil disobedience against the Marcos regime, the International Monetary Fund, and World Bank. Among these acts was the disruption of a concert at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC, in 1980 to protest the presence of Imelda Marcos. He was incarcerated in the San Francisco County Jail for leading the non-violent takeover of the Philippine Consulate General in San Francisco in 1978, an act of protest that was brutally repressed by the city's SWAT team. Walden spearheaded a week-long hunger strike that led to the release of the protesters from jail.
During the collapse of the Marcos regime in Feb 1986, Walden led the occupation of the Philippine Embassy in Washington in the name of the Filipino people, dismissed the personnel of the defunct dictatorship, and handed the building to the representatives of the new government.
One of the leading global activists present during the historic mass protest that triggered the collapse of the Third Ministerial Meeting of the World Trade Organization in Seattle in Dec 1998, Walden was beaten up by police, though he was not resisting arrest. Owing to his arrest record for progressive causes during his years in the US, Walden was for a long time subjected to secondary screening by immigration officials every time he landed on American soil.
Activist against Corporate-driven Globalization
Walden has not only been concerned with conditions in the Philippines; he has also written studies, books, and hundreds of articles on the impact of globalization and US imperial hegemony in Chile, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, China, Japan, the Middle East, and Europe. Seeking to understand and throw light on the dynamics of the global economy, Walden served as Executive Director of the Institute for Food and Development Policy (Food First), based in the San Francisco Bay Area, from 1990 to 1994. He also co-founded the Bangkok-based research and advocacy think-tank Focus on the Global South and served as its executive director from 1995 to 2007. Currently, he is an associate of the Amsterdam-based Transnational Institute, where he is looking into global financial reform.
A leading global peace activist, Walden assembled an Asian parliamentary mission to Iraq in May 2003 to express opposition to the coming US invasion. The mission, which included then Rep Etta Rosales, left Baghdad barely a few hours before the American invasion. He later led a peace delegation to Beirut in 2006 even as the Israelis were bombing that city to express solidarity with the people of that country against the Israeli invasion.
For his critical work on corporate-driven globalization, Walden received the Right Livelihood Award, also known as the Alternative Nobel Prize, in Stockholm in 2003. He was also named Outstanding Public Scholar by the International Studies Association during its annual conference in San Francisco in 2008.
Distinguished Teacher and Scholar
Walden has also had a distinguished academic career. He was Professor of Sociology at the University of the Philippines at Diliman from 1994 to 2009. He is also an Adjunct Professor at the State University of New York at Binghamton and has served as a visiting professor, fellow, or lecturer at St. Mary's University in Halifax, Canada, UCLA, University of California at Santa Barbara, University of California at Irvine, and University of California at Berkeley. Currently, he is activist-in-residence at the A.E. Havens Center for Social Justice at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
Walden is author or co-author of about 20 books, among which are State of Fragmentation: the Philippines in Transition (Bangkok: Focus on the Global South, 2014), Capitalism's Last Stand? (London; Zed, 2013), Food Wars (London: Verso, 2009), Dilemmas of Domination (New York: Henry Holt, 2005), The Anti-Development State: the Political Economy of Permanent Crisis in the Philippines (Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2004), A Siamese Tragedy (London: Zed, 1998), Dragons in Distress (New York: Penguin, 1990), American Lake: the Nuclear Peril in the Pacific (New York: Penguin, 1988), and Development Debacle: the World Bank in the Philippines (San Francisco: Institute for Food and Development Policy, 1982). His first book, The Logistics of Repression (San Francisco: FFP, 1978) was a landmark expose of US military and economic aid to the Marcos regime.
Walden has a PhD in sociology from Princeton University (1975) and a Bachelor of Arts in the Humanities degree from Ateneo de Manila University (1966). He was also awarded doctoral degrees honoris causa by Murdoch University in Australia (2013) and Panteion University in Athens, Greece (2006).
Walden is married to Suranuch Thongsila Bello, a Thai national. He was born in Cardona, Rizal, in 1945, to Luz Flores Bello and Jesse Bello, two prominent members of the post-World War II art, entertainment, and journalistic communities originally from Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur. He is the nephew of Dr. Buenaventura Bello, of Vigan, Ilocos Sur, the World War II hero bayoneted by the Japanese for refusing to bring down the American flag who was immortalized in the Hollywood movie Back to Bataan.
Statement on filing my candidacy for the Senate of the Republic of the Philippines
By Walden Bello
When I resigned from the House of Representatives last March in protest against President Aquino's double standards in his good governance policy and his refusal to accept command responsibility for the Mamasapano tragedy, I thought I was saying "goodbye to all that." I was looking forward to a quieter life devoted to researching and writing a book on one of my favorite subjects: the current crisis of the global capitalist economy
Over the last three months, however, an ever widening network of groups and individuals has snowballed into a movement to get me to run either for the presidency or the Senate. That draft has proven to be implacable and irresistible.
I have accepted their challenge to run for the Senate.
I am running to promote an electoral insurgency against politics-as-usual, injustice, inequality, and corruption. I am running because people demand a representative with high ethical standards, who'll go to hell for them, and who won't bullshit them like most politicians do. I am running because because I hate power and the only ones you can trust with power are those who hate power.
I am running because I can no longer stand by and allow our people to be constantly fooled, betrayed, and devoured by the very people they elect to public office. I am running because we need to dismantle this awful system of traditional politics in which our people are trapped.
I am running to oppose a foreign policy that makes our poor country hostage to the machinations of aggressive superpowers. I am running to help liberate our economy from neoliberal policies imposed by a global capitalist system that has condemned our people to greater poverty and inequality even as it enriches our greedy elite and foreign corporations. I am running to end the criminal debt slavery, to which our sellout elite is complicit, that turns over 34 per cent of the annual government budget to insatiable foreign and domestic banks and creditors.
I am running on a platform that will, among others, promote security of tenure for workers; complete agrarian reform; promote and protect the rights of women, indigenous peoples, and the LGBT community; protect the rights and advance the interests of our millions of OFWs; create jobs and expand housing for the urban poor; expand educational opportunities for our youth instead of enriching the country's greedy creditors; and provide decent, adequate, and functioning mass transit for commuters victimized by plundering private monopolies and bungling technocrats.
I am running as an independent because I am my own man.
What makes me different from most of the others running for the Senate and the presidency? My record. I have promised and delivered. I have been arrested and imprisoned. I have been consistent in my advocacies. I have called a spade a spade. I have gone to the extent of breaking the law in order to expose and destroy those forces that oppress our people. I have gone after those who sexually exploit and traffic our women. I broke publicly with a hypocritical president who refused to dismiss his corrupt cronies. I resigned from Congress rather than support an administration that had ceased to live up to the reform agenda for which it was voted to office and turned itself into a self-serving college fraternity.
My bid is supported by a broad civil society network, progressive organizations, and individuals, including OFWs, that came together over the last three months to convince me to run. I said I would not run unless I had proof they would go to hell, 24/7, for my candidacy against politics-as-usual. The reason I took so long to decide is I was waiting for proof they were willing to do this. I am now convinced they are. I am confident their their enthusiastic support will infect the electorate and carry this candidacy to victory. The conventional wisdom is that this independent candidacy has little chance of winning. We are out to disprove the conventional wisdom by revolutionizing electoral campaigning in the Philippines. The guiding slogan of our campaign is: "Never, never underestimate the Filipino people."
Upon hearing of my candidacy, a friend from the media said, "May the force be with you." Yes, I will definitely need all the Force I can get from the Filipino people in this uphill struggle against the Darth Vader of money, ambition, and brazen power that is traditional politics. But like Luke Skywalker, I am not one to walk away from a challenge.
To those who today control politics with their money, power, and ambition, this campaign says, "May you rot in hell." We will prevail.
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