Tatak Kalamay’s priority

For the people of the sugar industry, it is understandable that they should consider their interest first, foremost and last. This clannish consciousness is common to businessmen and politicians and, perhaps to all mankind, therefore we should not begrudge self-interest in their campaign for a select few among the senatorial candidates that they believe will protect their interest.

However, there are concerns that go beyond and above the narrow, vested or constricted interest. For instance, the interest of family, community and of the nation must surrender or supersede over the individual or group concern. Indeed there are interests that must subordinate to the greater welfare.

Self-survival or the preservation of self is the first law of nature but self can be elevated to the sublime and in this sense we produce martyrs to the faith and heroes to the nation. As with people so it is with business and political interests.

Tatak Kalamay chose seven candidates for senator on the premise that these people have helped the industry and will be in higher position to help them face what they claim the inevitable “collapse” of the industry in the event the Duterte administration opens the gates to liberalization for sugar imports. The President has already approved the liberal importation of rice, the country’s most basic food. The sugar industry fears that the President will implement such move as his economic advisers had proposed.

The choice of seven candidates is a precautionary move that with their collective advice the President will relent and abandon the threat of liberalized trading. In a way, Tatak Kalamay’s choice was made under this belief, a sort of pressure politics. Their choice was not a free one. Of course the President may not have pressured them and this is their free choice.

The candidates they chose to support have helped them and they are merely returning the favor, particularly to Senator Cynthia Villar who authored the Senate version of the Sugar Industry Development Act.

My point is not to say they are wrong but why did they reject the candidates from Negros as if they will not support the industry? Not one of the seven in the Tatak Kalamay is from Negros and yet there are twelve slots to be filled. There is therefore a more sinister plot here than using the sugar industry as an excuse.

As I wrote last week, if sugar be the criterion, then why was Rafael Alunan excluded when he has also been included in the President’s line-up?

His inclusion in the administration ticket by direct suggestion of the President clearly shows that he has the President’s confidence. More so, Alunan has served two cabinet posts, an honor that only two from Negros, the late Alfredo Montelibano, Sr. and Jose Locsin, can claim.

Alunan and Neri Colmenares, another senatorial candidate from Negros, will surely support the industry and much more as other concerns of the province. If they are in the Senate, will they not be conscious of their roots and support all for the welfare of their province? Will it harm the interest of the anointed candidates if Alunan and Colmenares were included? Will not two more added to the seven Tatak Kalamaybe better for the sugar industry?

Of the 12 that the voters will choose for the Senate, Tatak Kalamay has identified only seven as the possible defenders of the sugar industry. The choice is apparently based on their assumption that these seven have the best chance to win as shown by the surveys. Tatak Kalamay is being practical by hitching on the winners. 

Clearly the choice is based on this belief, not regional or industry affinity. It is a gambler’s instinct – bet on the winner. Being from Negros is of little value, not even on President Duterte’s choice as Alunan. It is the winning that matters.

There is historical precedence in preferring the business than the nation. In 1898, the Negros leaders supported the Americans against the nascent Philippine Republic so they could enter the US after the European market was lost. The Americans won but US sugar interests blocked our sugar and the industry collapsed, bankrupting most landowners. Thousands of hectares were foreclosed and ten towns were reduced to barrios. It took 15 years for Negros to recover with new capitalists and only because World War I broke out in Europe.

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