Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Capt Dante Langkit: his Future in Politics and his Continuing Dilemma


by Marciano A. Paroy Jr.
Affirming the Magdalo Para sa Pagbabago’s call for genuine reforms in the government – which were all manifested in a series of foiled attempts to demand for President Arroyo’s stepping down from power – Capt. Dante Langkit sustains and intensifies the drumroll for attention to the cause and, more specifically, to his now-widely publicized intent to represent the Kalinga people in Congress.

Not an easy feat to accomplish, considering that he is still being detained at Camp Crame, along with fellow officers implicated in the alleged February 2006 coup plot against the country’s Chief Executive. This constraint had already prevented him from seeking the congressional seat of Kalinga way back in 2007 – as he refused to turn state witness in exchange for his freedom, which would have enabled him to campaign for the post he was eyeing then.

His refusal to seize the above-mentioned offer cost him the opportunity to launch his candidacy in Kalinga. As it can now be recalled, it was his brother Engr. Danzel Langkit, Pinukpuk’s Municipal Administrator, who soldiered on with the aspiration, in effect reflecting a similar vision of “helping our provincemates” – as he told Victor Reyes of Malaya in February 2007, when names of probable Kalinga congressional aspirants were already doing the rounds back here.

In retrospect, the candidacy secured for Engr. Danzel Langkit around 13% of the total votes cast in Kalinga in May 2007, which positioned him in 4th place, after – in descending order – winning Congressman Manuel Agyao (cornering 29% of the votes), close rival James Bejarin (27%), Atty. Macario Duguiang (23%), while former Vice-Governor Joseph Delson landed in 5th place (8%).

“Not bad for a political novice,” Dr. Edgar Naganag, an analyst from the Political Science and Public Administration departments of the Kalinga-Apayao State College, noted. “It caused a considerable dent, thus reducing votes that would have been amassed by the other candidates. Had Engr. Langkit’s candidacy been non-existent, there could have possibly been a different turn of events.”

It is that performance of the Langkit name at the polls in 2007 which seems to serve as the present springboard from which the Langkit brothers and their supporters hope to pick up. This time however, it is Captain Langkit who considers throwing his hat into the political ring, as originally intended.

Same Face, Same Post

“This early, I am re-establishing my wish to be of service to the Kalinga people,” Captain Langkit said in a phone interview with Guru Press. “It is my belief that I can do much more for the lives of my provincemates through a leadership role that could equip me with influence to advance for meaningful change in Kalinga.”

To clearly signify his intent, the army officer sought and obtained permission to come home to Kalinga last May and ascertain his name in the roster of voting residents of Taga, Pinukpuk. Then before being escorted back to the big city, he had a brief talk with members of the local media on the last day of his three-day leave.
It was then that he announced to members of the local media his goal of winning a seat in the Congress – either as the elected representative of the lone district of this province, or as an occupant of a congressional seat by way of the party list system, if Samahang Magdalo merits accreditation as a genuine party list organization.

This poses quite a problem. First, assuming that Samahang Magdalo will finally be accredited as a party list organization, it still has to win the prescribed percentage of the electorate in order for it to win a seat (or even seats) in the Congress. Second, Captain Langkit has to really triumph over other nominees within SM who are being considered to stand and speak for the group. And yet still, before both of these can be achieved, Samahang Magdalo has to be firmly lodged in the consciousness of the voting public.

Here enters the rigorous awareness-creation activities of the group, currently scattered in the different regions. To clearly draw the lines, Samahang Magdalo is a distinct organization under the controlling sphere of the more popularly known, though ill-famed, Magdalo.

Samahang Magdalo as an offshoot of Magdalo

It is now common knowledge that the original Magdalo has been conceived by a group of officers and men of the AFP as a movement calling for sweeping reforms in government. However, that description delimits their membership only to AFP people who may think alike.

Perhaps recognizing that an expanded membership base which embraces civilians would create a higher degree of sympathy towards their cause, Magdalo came up with Samahang Magdalo, welcoming interested members from all walks of life. With former Marine Captain Gary Alejano as its national president, SM has been unrelenting in recruiting members. In the Cordillera, for instance, Coordinator-at-Large Robert Ocampo has been conducting membership expansion activities round-the-clock – as brandished in the official SM website. Also, in addition to this traditional hard-sell which is carried out via face-to-face enticement of would-be members, SM has been recruiting members online.

Much like an exclusive family corporation which has gone public, SM is capturing the attention of the people. Part of its appeal seems to stem from the fact that never before has there been a similar organization in which civilians can rub elbows with members of the armed forces with a deviating stand on government issues. The actual membership tally, however, remains undisclosed, and it is inaccurate to use as a gauge the steady number of visitors to the official SM website, which is interestingly matched up by a number of un-official sites and blogs – no doubt created and maintained by friends and sympathizers, all designed to recruit members.
These developments point to the apparent direction which the group seems to be taking: crafting the organization as a political arm.

To this, Lt. Gen. Victor Ibrado told Malaya (in its April 27, 2009 issue) that the formation of a political party by the Magdalo leaders is a welcome idea. “This is a democratic country. Everybody can exercise his political rights.”

Samahang Magdalo in Kalinga

Asked how the recruitment is doing in Kalinga, Engr. Danzel Langkit says “We are still at the stage of creating awareness about the group and part of our plan is to step up the campaign so that we can attract people from as many diverse backgrounds as possible.”

Obviously, this poses financial difficulty for the existing members of the group in Kalinga, if they are to launch and sustain a province-wide recruitment scheme. But Engr. Langkit is quick to interject that “We may have limited resources at present but we do what we can. Our sincerity in reaching out to the people and infusing into them the pro-God, pro-country and pro-people Magdalo principle will eventually win them over to our side.”

Captain Langkit further admits that “Changing the mindset of people does not take place overnight, that’s why we aim to start building people’s confidence about our principles – from below. As an illustration, in Kalinga, people have this notion that one cannot run for a political office without tons of money. We need to correct that. Aiming for a public office needs only to be backed, first and foremost, by a genuine yearning to serve the common good.”

Capt. Dante Langkit: his Turn

The 2007 election year brought Engr. Danzel Langkit to the awareness of the Kalinga voting public – more importantly the residents of Tabuk who were intrigued by the sudden entry of this young Municipal Administrator from Pinukpuk, thus adding another notch to their uncertainty. Voters responded fairly well, although – whether or not the Langkit camp would admit it – their campaign efforts paled in comparison to the highly organized and efficiently managed efforts of the opponents, especially those of the Agyao and Bejarin camps.

Nelda Bulawit, a volunteer for Engr. Danzel in 2007, recollects “I think we did well, given the limited resources that we had then. I especially like the thought that we were volunteers rallying behind a person that we believed in.”
It is this support that Captain Dante hopes to build up on, sort of picking up where his twin brother left off. But what does he have to offer?

“I have always believed in people’s capacity to see through the façade of so-called leaders,” Capatain Langkit emphasizes. “I know that, at the end of the day, our commitment to the general welfare will outweigh the posturing of some politicians. It is this commitment of mine which I wish the people of Kalinga to see – and I hope they would give me the opportunity to put it into action. That is why I am looking at the 2010 elections.”

All things considered, the major drawback, naturally, is his current status as a detained prisoner – a situation which must be resolved the soonest time possible if he is indeed bent on fielding his name into the congressional race.


The Captain Speaks…

The interview with Capt. Dante Langkit produced a wealth of material that gave background and substance to the article written above – which became even thicker with the extensive bulk of available data from various sources. There are a number of responses made by Capt. Langkit that were not spliced into the feature – and we print them below word-for-word:

Marciano Paroy Jr: Your participation in the 2010 elections as a candidate have started doing the rounds here in Kalinga, fueled by your supporters – led by your brother. So… is it final?

Dante Dasayon Langkit: Yes, my mind’s seriously made up about my plan to run. Kalinga has lagged behind other provinces, yet we keep making the same decisions over and over. We need to introduce a fresh alternative for the people of the province. I sincerely and humbly believe that I can be that alternative.

MPJ: Considering your age, and coming from a province where major decisions made by the younger ones are brought to community leaders for what we may call in the Cordillera as a blessing… have you or your group made such a move?

DDL: This is a serious endeavor. As such, we did take the consensus of the elders. Also, this early, we are conducting sectoral consultations prior to the filing of my candidacy this November. I recognize the importance of obtaining the nod from a considerable fraction of the voting populace, as well as other people of authority and influence. Fortunately, the responses we have been receiving are favorable. The only issue being raised which causes a little setback is the availability of ample financial backing to sustain all the campaign and election needs. I do not have millions – but that matter is already being worked out by some benefactors and donors already.

MPJ: But these supporters, benefactors and donors can not also carry out all the actual campaign activities. So this time, what are the chances that u will be able to come home and do the campaign yourself?

DDL: Justice is still elusive – hence the difficulty in assuming that we shall be free by the campaign period, though we continue to hope for the best. Nonetheless, many volunteers are increasingly coming in – with Danzel seeking them out. Much as I want to be physically around during that period and meet our dear kakailian, volunteerism will offset my absence.

MPJ: That goes without saying that you shall still be in detention during that time…

DDL: There is a possibility that we may still be in detention during the campaign, and we are preparing for that. The volunteers have contingency plans to address that situation. As I always say, we are hoping for the best. But as to being in detention after election? No, our case is political, so after the Arroyo administration, we shall be out of jail. Definitely.