Bringing activism to the Philippine Senate


I confirm that I am mulling running for a seat in  the Senate. Vice President Jejomar Binay has offered me a slot in the United Nationalist Alliance slate and I told him that I am seriously considering his offer.

I am contemplating a run for the Senate for the following reasons:

1. After 35 years of being an activist, I believe the Philippines remains the same: the poor are getting poorer and the rich are getting richer. I still remember the time when we rallied in front of the Liwasang Bonifacio against the Education Act of 1982, which sadly privatized our educational system. I can still vividly remember how we were violently dispersed by the Marcos riot police with sticks and water cannons. Regrettably, the same issues concerning Philippine education still hound our country. Also, the Philippines remains  dependent on the United States, and the traditional elite has remained in power in Congress and in the Executive branch. Clearly, our efforts as activists have  not been effective in changing the economic and political structure of the country. Perhaps, my participation in the policy making branch of government will make more of an impact in effecting change in our society.

2.  We need more qualified people in the Senate. Not only have I been a lawyer-activist for the past 25 years, I have also been teaching Constitutional and International Law for the past 15 years at the University of the Philippines, Philippine Judicial Academy, and American University. My role as a public interest lawyer and as a professor has taught me how to use existing tools towards the building of a more egalitarian and an open society. Certainly, my background will assist me in crafting laws for the same ends. I also want to bring back the Senate to its original purpose: to craft laws to fight poverty and to advance national development.

3. Third, because I want to prove that common citizens, including law professors and human rights advocates, can   be elected by the people to the Senate. If Jovito Salonga and Miriam Defensor-Santiago did it, I see no reason why I cannot do the same. I want to inspire ordinary Filipinos – foremost of whom are our teachers – just like myself, that they can be elected to the Philippine Senate on the strength of the Filipino people and with a vision for the people.

4. I want to make activism not only as a tool of the parliament of the street, but as the main weapon in crafting legislation to fight poverty. I want to bring activism to the chambers of the Philippine Senate, and live out the idea that every senator of the Philippines should be a continuing activist for human rights, for education, for women’s rights, for freedom of speech, for the environment, and ultimately for Philippine development.

Despite the foregoing, I am aware of the many challenges in winning a seat in the Senate. To begin with, the post will require funding of at least P300 million since the Supreme Court recently declared as unconstitutional limits on campaign advertisement spending on radio and television. There, too, is the Herculean task of building an organization that will result in at least 13.5 million votes – the minimum required for a Senate seat.

These are the reasons why I told VP Binay that I would go around with him until September but would decide with finality by October of this year. Meanwhile, I welcome the chance to see as many of our islands and meet as many of our people in the coming four months.

Anent VP Binay, I believe he is entitled to his human right of presumption of innocence, particularly in an election year. I  also believe that his background as a lawyer, a human rights advocate, and as a local executive of the country’s premier city makes him the best choice for President in 2016.

On a personal note, VP Binay has actually experienced how it is to be looked down upon and to struggle beyond one’s poverty. As I have written before, VP Binay was a former student of my mother in her geometry class. He was then bullied because of his dark skin tone and shabby clothes. My mother somehow treated the young Binay as like a son. I believe that this personal experience of VP Binay has greatly influenced his vision to help our poor and downtrodden citizens. And this has influenced me to seriously consider VP Binay’s offer to be included in UNA’s Senate slate.

Still, I know that it is the Filipino people who will ultimately influence my decision on whether to seek a Senate seat. And in that note, I will continue on to travel the country and listen to the voice of the people. And I am confident that whatever I discern from the Filipino people, I will still continue to be an activist-lawyer for them.

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2 comments on “Bringing activism to the Philippine Senate

  1. Jose V. Abueva says:

    Harry. I will campaign for you as much as possible. You should be in the Senate and help transform our policies and political institutions. Mabuhay ang U.P., U of M, and ating Pilipinas! Ka Pepe

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