A rather interesting exchange has developed in the editorial pages of Today. Manuel Buencamino in an op-ed entitled An open letter to Joma brought to task the erstwhile chairman of the NDF for being a little too touchy about the US State Department's tagging the CPP-NDF as terrorist. In the course of the open letter, Buencamino marshals some nasty things to say about Sison, among which was the latter's apparent need for a makeover (Paging: Queer Eye for the Revolutionary Guy). But what drew sharp rebuttal was Buencamino's comments on Sison's use of the English language:
...you [Sison} should stop using laborious phrases like “U.S. imperialism and its die-hard puppets.” They date you, because no one talks that way anymore. If you were to appear in a televised interview, subtitles would be needed.The very next day Dean Luis Teodoro came up with a rejoinder column bitingly entitled To whom it may concern, defending Sison and his language:
It’s true no one talks like that anymore -- at least not in the respectable, albeit “radical” circles of Philippine NGOs.... Academics favor indirection, subtlety, obscure phrases. Unfortunately, again as Daroy noted, Sison doesn’t write for academics but for the many who actually make history
Teodoro further adds that Sison's prose of "brutal, sometimes awkward directness" is explained by Sison's interest in "naming things for what they really were" and "communicating to the legions of the poor."
Was Buencamino really being "academic" in his taking to task Sison's language ? This is funny because, I don't know if it is just me, but I have always thought of Sison as the professorial, academic type, more like Karl Marx than Lenin.
I, however, can totally understand where Buencamino was coming from. There is really something jarring in the image of Sison presented to us by TV clips: the revolutionary in a business suit, going about the peace negotiations like a Makati Business Club executive going over the day's acquisitions. Truth be told, Sison has no charm whatsoever for the cellphone-holding, cono-aspiring collegiates. He inspires not even an iota of curiousity outside social science and national democratic circles. If, for example, the undergraduates at, say, UP were to be quizzed on Sison and the movement he led, the campus would bleed red--for the failing marks, that is. Even among the more progressive Philippine campuses, the national democratic youth are now seen by the majority as nothing more than a campus curiousity. I was told by a friend that if Sison only knew the now reactionary politics of the journalists' guild he founded at the UP College of Mass Communications, he would desist his correspondence to the organization at once.
Sison is, in many ways, the most divisive figure today in Philippine politics, more divisive than Imelda Marcos, for in the latter, no matter how we may loathe or love the Marcos regime, we can always agree on the charm of its first lady. In the case of Joma , there seems to be an invisible hand directing one to either love or hate him.
What is undeniable though is that no matter how people may hate him for the great expectations he unleashed but never quite led to political fruition, Sison was the revolutionary who midwifed the birth of the vibrant civil society we have today. Scratch the resume of any NGO worker or, just about anybody with a genuine interest in Philippine politics (save the dynastic political families, of course) and you will find national democratic roots.
The last decade has spawned many nemeses of Sison even in the Philippine Left. Some have been disenchanted, others took a break and raised families, still others were turned off by the Stalinist purges. Yet one thing is clear: Sison is the Alpha of the Philippine civil society; what is stilll in doubt is whether he too will be its Omega. Probably not. But who can tell? The wheel is still in spin,as Bob Dylan put it, and history, pace Francis Fukuyama, has no ending--at least, not just yet.