Tatak Kalamay (hati?)

A GROUP claiming to represent the sugar industry has thrown its support for seven senatorial candidates. They are using the “Tatak Kalamay”, sugar brand. Although the disclaimer is that they are not “flexing their muscle” or making a “show of force” but merely exercising their “supreme remedy accorded in a democracy,” we know better.

Playing with words to hide the real intent is actually counterproductive as feedbacks I got from those outside the sugar brand show. No, the observers are not from candidates but civic and business leaders. As I had been saying all along, there are more people who do not support import controls and slogans like these influence them to junk the likes of Tatak Kalamay candidates. Then that would be “kalamay hati”. The Ilonggos understand that; in English that’s “a sticky mess!”

This movement is interesting because at its center is a member of the Sugar Board of the government agency, the Sugar Regulatory Administration. I was waiting for a disclaimer considering that President Rodrigo Duterte has announced that government agencies should not, at least publicly, campaign in this year’s election. He alone, he said will campaign for his bets. Is there an exemption when it concerns to favorite candidates?

The senators being supported performed the duties of their office as expected of them, not excluding their desire to ingratiate themselves with the industry leaders. But, what of Go and de la Rosa? What have they done for the industry? They were included, because “they promised.” Why on a mere promise which is as easy to make for politicians especially during the elections?

We know they are close to the President. Have they already talked to the President who assured the planters through them that he would not support sugar import liberalization if the duo were elected? If they are ever elected and conveniently “forgot” that promise then indeed the industry leaders will reap the “kalamay hati.”

Tatak Kalamay should have secured a firm commitment, not from the two but directly from the President. Even then, promises can be broken when the realities of international trade agreements make it impossible to comply with a promise made during the elections. History is replete with examples why such promises cannot be fulfilled.

From the feedbacks it seems that Tatak Kalamay people are just trying to ingratiate themselves to Duterte through Go and de la Rosa, people whose knowledge and connection with the sugar industry is the sugar they put in their coffee and therefore least deserving when the yardstick is “helping the industry”.

Another interesting feedback is why Rafael or Raffy Alunan was not included when many of those deemed supportive of the industry cannot compare with Alunan. I don’t know him personally, talked or even shook his hands but the question posed to me is why. Indeed, if we use support for the industry as a criterion, why was he excluded?

Does Tatak Kalamay believe that Alunan will not support the industry if he is elected? Or is this the classic “crab mentality” in the industry? Most of those shown in the panel to “represent” the industry pale in comparison with Alunan and his family when it concerns the interest of the industry. Sugar runs in the Alunan blood.

The family is among the sugar gentry of Negros even before the opening of the great plantations in the 1860s. The clan produced an enviable list of public servants and hacendados who nurtured the industry from infancy until today. The history of sugar cannot be written as complete without the Alunan blood in the families who helped built this industry. He no longer lives here, but their properties, still devoted to sugar, are here.

His namesake, Rafael Alunan was the Secretary of Agriculture of President Quezon when the industry was faced with collapse with the restrictions of the American market. He was also President of the Philippine Sugar Association at those critical times.

Raffy Alunan is the only post martial law Negrosanon to serve in two Cabinets in succession: Tourism under Cory Aquino and Interior and Local Government under Fidel Ramos. Who among the “come lately” can compare with those unblemished credentials?

I don’t denigrate anyone but people ask “why was Alunan excluded?” The omission of a Negrosanon has created the backlash that made people decide to vote for him and reject the others.