I see two reasons why becoming part of the leadership, which includes the President, of such a big and extensive social movement as the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) is specially challenging in this juncture of our history.

The first is that after 22 years of difficult and complicated fight for freedom from debt of our country, we cannot but face up to the truth that we have been up against not only a mistaken policy but a policy that is embedded in an economic system that shackles us to global finance capital and the imperialist might of the lone superpower in the world which supports it.

That we have to go beyond policy change as our objective is what is shown by FDC’s journey from a debt-focused campaign center to that which has taken up public finance and later, oil, power and water, and recently, climate change and now, the formulation and advocacy of a comprehensive new economic policy for economic reconstruction.

Viewed from this systemic perspective, the promise of the new Aquino regime to revitalize the Philippine economy and solve the centuries-old problem of poverty through a corruption-free and transparent governance can only be seen as inadequate, to say the least. We can expect the new regime to use its large electoral mandate and its umbilical cord to the highest levels of the finance, business, land, media, church and security establishments to limit and restrict public engagement and debate to its rather narrow agenda.

FDC should not allow this to happen. As we engage with government policy institutions and the regime’s policy theorists, media spin masters and social engineers within the range of policy issues of their choice, we must steadfastly bring to the frontlines of public discourse, engagements and mass struggles the basic relations which make our poverty, indebtedness and distorted economic development inseparable from the structures of ownership, control, distribution our place in the international division of labor.

This realization however should not lead us to dispense with the need for policy reforms and their appropriate implementation. They are needed to provide relief for our people, raise their morale by tactical victories and more importantly, establish building blocks to empower them on the way to enduring systemic changes.

We must not forget that as we seek to enhance our capability to present our case and debate effectively in the upper reaches of society, the more decisive engagement is at the grassroots from where mass movements will rise that can clinch victory for our causes.

The second challenge concerns us internally as a social movement. After 22 years, we need to revisit our development as a movement in conjunction with other and even larger movements which have inter-acted and inter-sected with ours. Have we taken extensive and deep roots at the ground level? How far have we reached out to and drawn in valuable groups and individuals from the various layers of the major institutions of our society? What is the extent and quality of our solidarity work across the globe? And crucial to our in internal strengthening, how successful have we been in forging genuine solidarity against sectarian and fractious tendencies among different political groups, sectoral organizations, regional chapters, local organizations and individuals comprising our Coalition? Have our accountabilities to each other: the Coalition to its members, the members to the Coalition and the members to each other, been functioning as defined; have they developed as the need of the common struggle requires? How participatory has been our processes of decision-making, planning and implementation?

The answers to these questions will be most illuminating to reinventing our Coalition as a social movement, as we have done in the past, to make it responsive to the imperatives of the present.  

I am confident our Coalition has what it takes to undertake these tasks. Through the long years of dedicated labour and struggles, we have accumulated both human and technical treasures. We have a huge stock of knowledge drawn from domestic and international sources about our advocacies and sustaining coalition movements. We have access to the great theories- secular and faith-based, classical, neo-classical, modernist and post-modern, to enlighten us. We have a broad constituency and good leaders at the ground-level. We have a network of learned and reputable individuals. We have a core staff which combines dedicated activism with professionalism. And we have a stable of national leaders, especially our former presidents, secretaries-general and board members whose wisdom, experience, capacities and constituencies we can always draw from during most needed moments.

My heartfelt thanks to all of you for entrusting me the presidency of our Coalition. I look forward to a close, productive and happy working relationship with our collective leadership – Milo, our secretary-general, our vice-presidents Lidy, Manjette, Mae, Emman and Arze and the rest of our Board Trustees.

The urgencies of the moment and the tasks crying out to be done demand from the new leadership to hit the ground running. Reporting for duty now, comrades and colleagues.

Ricardo “Ric” Reyes

FDC Chapters