Veteran labor leader Leodegario “Ka Leody” De Guzman has been clear from the beginning – he is running on a pro-labor and workers agenda.
Despite his loss in the 2019 senatorial race, De Guzman announced his decision to run for the 2022 presidential election on September 28 last year under Partido Lakas ng Masa.
Since then, he has been known for his strong opinions against some government programs, such as the administration’s war on drugs, political dynasties, and mining. True to his words, his platform includes a Php750-national minimum wage, end sub-contractors, and a “billionaire’s tax” on the 250 wealthiest families in the country.
Characterized by his use of Tagalog during debates and interviews and calm demeanor, Ka Leody has raised the electoral discourse through his progressive takes and staunch criticisms of the elites and neoliberal economic practices.
“Bagong Politika, Bagong Ekonomiya” effectively translates his vision for the Philippines. More than a regime change, he aspires a system change.
“Ang kinakatawan ko bilang kandidato ay ang pamumuno ng masa para kamtin nila ang minimithing tunay at ganap na pagbabago para sa nakararami sa lipunan. Ito ang mas malalim na kahulugan ng aking panawagang ‘Manggagawa Naman,” De Guzman said.
Despite his idealism armed with clear-cut platforms, Ka Leody can noy seem to break the glass ceiling that prevents a regular individual who does not come from a political family from winning a national post.
Ka Leody, a farmers’ son
Before Ka Leody was the chairperson of the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino, a socialist labor center and federation of trade unions, and a presidential candidate championing a progressive and worker-centric platform, he is the seventh child of farmers.
Growing up in Naujan, Oriental Mindoro in their household, he was exposed to the farmers’ and peasants’ struggles early on. After graduating from high school, Ka Leody worked in a leather gloves factory. Juggling both school and work, he finished his bachelor’s degree in Customs and Administration at the Philippine Maritime Institute.
The assassination of Ninoy Aquino, Jr. inspired him to be an activist and join nationwide movements against Marcos’ dictatorship. Since then, the path he forged highlights the struggle of laypeople.
His experiences as a farmers’ son and a laborer helped him create reasonable and informed policies that experts acknowledge.
“Ka Leody can craft very realistic and grounded policies on agriculture because he is one with those in the sector,” Froilan Calilung, an assistant political science professor at the University of Santo Tomas, told BusinessWorld.
“When you know the problems very well, it will be easier to craft solid solutions to these existing predicaments,” he said.
Leody’s platform is definite and comprehensive. On his website kaleody.org, his platform aims for a people’s economy, political and electoral reform, for real social development.
Among the plans for economic reform is the revival of agricultural and manufacturing industries. Ka Leody also planned to help micro, small and medium enterprises by allocating Php125 billion.
“It actually feels good to know that a presidential candidate thinks seriously about the plight of the small businesses since this is one area that our national government has continuously neglected notwithstanding its significant contribution to our national economy,” UST-Department of Political Science Chair Dennis Coronacion commented via BusinessWorld.
He also pushes for the resumption of peace talks with communist rebels, demilitarization of society, and the prosecution of past and present government officials for crimes against the public good, whether through the local justice system or the International Criminal Court.
“Ating gobyerno mismo ay dapat mayroong pagrespeto doon sa ating sariling mamamayan,” he said in the second Commission on Elections presidential debate.
As an anti-Marcos dictatorship, Leody has repeatedly expressed his contempt against the dictator and a future regime under the dictator’s son.
“Hindi pwede na isang kandidato na ayaw magbayad ng buwis at walang pakialam sa mga proseso, na nagsisinungaling at ’yung kasalanan ng kanyang mga magulang ay idine-deny at sumasakay doon sa katwirang na ang kasalanan ng mga magulang ay hindi kasalanan ng anak,” he said in an interview with After the Fact.
Although he could not give a direct answer when asked who he wants to win for president aside from himself, he blatantly said that he does not want Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. to win. One of his platforms include the recovery of Marcos’s ill-gotten wealth.
His support for the legalization of divorce, decriminalization of abortion, and recognition of same-sex marriage is unrelenting, as reflected in his debates and interviews.
Another issue he slams without reservations is mining in the Philippines, calling for the repeal of the 1995 Mining Act.
“Napakaself-serving nito para sa interes ng mga malaking korporasyon ng minahan at winawasak ang ating kapaligiran. Bukod duon, napakaliit ng pakinabang diyan ng ating pamahalaan,” he said during his interview with Ateneo de Davao University (AdDU) Blue Vote’s CANDID DATES 2022: The National Conversations, emphasizing that it only emboldens corporations to depend on contractualization amid a hazardous environment.
Christmas dinner setup and corgi debacle
Ka Leody drew flak after a picture of him and his family was posted with his supposed “lavish” Christmas dinner set up and a corgi.
“PLASTIKERONG MAPAGKUNWARING NASA LAYLAYAN,” a Twitter comment said.
“His house is beautiful! Like a hotel! May everyone afford a split-type AC,” another user commented, as cited in the Inquirer.
On the other hand, Ka Leody emphasized that they worked hard for what they have and quashed all claims of him using a workers-centric platform for theatrics.
“Para bang ‘pag tinawag na manggagawa dapat dugyot, dapat ay naghahalo ka ng semento, parang ganoon ba. Wala kang karapatan na ‘yung iyong mga anak ay maggayak nang ganyan.
Para bang ‘pag ikaw ay labor leader, dapat pagbabawalan mo ‘yung iyong anak na. ‘Anak, huwag mong tatanggapin ‘yang oportunidad na ‘yan kasi malaki ang sweldo niyan sa cruise ship, eh ako’y labor leader’. ‘Misis, darling, may promotion ka, huwag mong tanggapin kasi tataas ang sweldo mo, magkakaroon ka ng benepisyo eh ako’y labor leader’. Parang, ganoon ba,” he told ANC.
Unfazed amid survey results
Despite his drop to the ninth spot for the presidential race in the Pulse Asia survey, Ka Leody remains determined in running for the people he and his political party represent.
“Hangga’t ang aming mga karibal ay patuloy sa pagsusulong ng kanilang plataporma na papakinabangan lamang ng mga bilyonaryo’t mga dinastiya, walang panlipunang pwersa ang makakapigil sa lumalaban na manggagawa,” he told reporters.
He continuously hopes that the “silent majority” will be on his side.
“Yan ang pag-asa ko, yung silent majority –‘yung mga manggagawa at itong mga taong unti-unti nang namumulat sa ‘trapo’(traditional politicians) at elitistang pulitika na wala namang ginagawa kundi magpayaman ng magpayaman, nakawin ang pera ng bayan at pinapabayaan ang sambayanan,” he said.
The article was previously published in the Election Issue 2022 of Atenews. Read it here: tinyurl.com/AtenewsElex2022