Thursday, July 28, 2005

IBON Research as a Paradigm for Social Sciences Research

The talks of Antonio Tujan and Sonny Africa were characteristic of a research mincing no words nor data nor analyses on the current economic and political crisis besieging the nation. The papers focused on topics that mattered the most to the people – rising prices of oil and basic commodities, unemployment, debt servicing vis-à-vis social services, national patrimony, political repression as the backdrop of the issue of the day – the political isolation and illegitimization of the Arroyo regime from the great majority of toiling masses and democratic forces of Philippine society.

It showed IBON Foundation’s amazing penchant of using government data, sugarcoated as they are, in further exposing the Arroyo government’s blatant abandonment of its duty to serve its people, as they were able to calculate and analyze sharply, for example, the deception brought about by the continuous insinuation of the state that GNP/GDP growth is the primary barometer for economic development, notwithstanding the fact that there were big cuts in the amount of real social services spending in education, health and housing. The papers were able to throw back the sweetened garbage of statistical data back to the state that proliferates a perception of a sunny economic environment amidst the exponential rise in unemployment and hunger among the people.

The papers sought to be as comprehensive as possible in presenting the facts and analyses on why the current regime’s back is terribly pushed against the wall. But again, papers can only say so much as even if researchers try to encompass all there is to an unsound economic policies and political posturings, it will inevitably fall short still of elaborating on a lot of matters. For example, the papers focused more on people’s issues rather than sectoral socio-economic issues as these are the social bases of a protracted struggle against the regime. But then again, this limitation is well understood, as it is better for the sectors themselves to be the ones to conduct their own fora, publish their own pamphlets and research to further expound their causes and indictments against the regime.

The target audience of the papers is quite clear – the silent middle forces looking for an intellectual and rational explanation behind the current political impasse. Though there were audiences from the basic sectors, the forum and the papers were basically geared at the academe, professionals and businessmen, as Peter Wallace of the Wallace Business Forum was even present there! Symposia like these give intellectual legitimacy to the current mass movement to oust the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, as the snowballing protests will not only be seen as a catharsis of the great unwashed of people ala EDSA III but backed by rational socio-economic premises as presented by progressive intellectuals. The papers’ role in the current fight for truth and justice is the broadening of the mass movement to include the ranks of the seemingly frustrated petty-bourgeois and the negative-spending national bourgeois to be as potent a force to topple the president as it had been during the ouster of Erap. It is quite ironic even, that these middle forces, who should be more akin to a sociological imagination are the ones who dilly-dally in espousing for social change than the hungry masses whose primary concern should have been to put food on their plates instead of fighting for another struggle that has no definite promise. Reading these papers would most likely lead to a reassessment of values and stands on issues of the middle class in its role in the current social milieu.

But the defining characteristic of the IBON papers is this – it is a well-crafted intellectual repackaging of the national democratic analysis and program, suited for the tastes of a broader audience, particularly the middle forces in order to rouse them to rethink and partake, hopefully, in the struggle for the ouster of the sitting president and fight for a national democratic alternative. To be able to do such a research and elevating the struggle of the people to the level of intellectual acrobats such as the middle class without diluting the essential substance of the analysis and program is an academic and an intellectual that is truly rooted in the needs, hopes and aspirations of a struggling people. It does not end at simply analyzing the ills and pains of the economic and political system but leaves a challenge and call to its audience and readers to be aroused, organized and mobilized.

This paradigm should always be at the core of social science researches, especially in developing nations such as ours – research that does not bind nor enslave, but empowers and liberates. As Marx always said, “the point, however, is to change it!”

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