'Focus on issues': Leody De Guzman 'no comment' after family Christmas photo draws flak

Josiah Antonio, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 27 2021 02:52 PM

Photo from Leody De Guzman's Twitter account.
Photo from Leody De Guzman's Twitter account.

MANILA — Presidential aspirant Leody De Guzman has no comment yet after drawing flak online for his family photo on Christmas Day.

A number of netizens criticized the labor leader for the photo showing the labor leader with his family and a purebred dog in an apparent comfortable house, seemingly inconsistent with his image as someone representing the downtrodden. 

“No comment as of now. (Ka Leody) prefers to comment on the burning issues of the Filipino people,” De Guzman’s media relations officer Chad Sadorra told reporters.

Partido Lakas ng Masa vice-presidential aspirant Walden Bello defended his running mate, saying workers deserve to have a decent life. 

"A Christmas photo in a comfortable setting subjects Leody De Guzman's family to online abuse by those who think they should be living in a hovel. What an ugly display of middle class prejudice. Working people deserve respect," he said in a series of tweets.

"The middle class hates it when poor people get up in the world and begin to enjoy things they feel only they and the rich deserve. That's the kind of hypocrisy that is fueling the resentment of the masses, driving some of them to support the Marcos-Duterte axis of evil."

Sociologist Herbert Docena, a vocal supporter of De Guzman, explained that people should realize that an activist's life is hard, and support from their families is vital so they can pursue their advocacies. 

"So this pic apparently got so much hate from partisans of a certain candidate on Twitter--and on Christmas Day no less. The gist: fake or ipokrito daw si (hypocrite) Ka Leody De Guzman because he's 'burgis' naman pala--look at that corgi! look at those dinner plates! There's so much to say about that charge, but I'm thinking now not of the plates or the dog but of the other people in this picture," Docena said in a Facebook post
 
"What many people don't quite understand about the life of activists--something I also only started learning in recent years-- is the degree to which their activism can only be sustained by the enduring love and support of their families and friends," he added.

Docena said it is important for activists to have a family who supports what they fight for in life.

"The truth is that, as a leader of perennially cash-strapped organizations, Ka Leody has had no regular source of income for the past 3 decades now. He also has no 14th month pay, no rice allowance, no bonus--literally nothing substantial to bring to the table every day, especially Christmas Day. He's turning 65 soon but, not being a government or NGO employee, he has no generous multi-million peso retirement package to look forward to--nothing to pass on to his wife and children should something bad happen to him," Docena said.

"And yet, through all these decades, Ka Leody's wife and children have stayed by his side. As others have pointed out: they're really the ones who have worked so hard, as full-time employees and small entrepreneurs, so that their household can have those nice dinner plates and that adorable corgi," he added.

Families are supposed to be activists' support system, and that's what De Guzman's family is doing right now as he aspires to be the next president of the Philippines, he reiterated. 

"But much more basic than that, they're really the ones who have ensured that, in all these years, Ka Leody would have the food, the water, the house, the basic material necessities--not to mention the emotional support--he needs to function as a full-time activist at all. I imagine that the past few months have been extremely difficult for them," Docena said. 

"Ka Leody has become the butt of jokes on Facebook, the target of so much hate from people who think the presidency should be reserved for the middle and upper classes, who have nothing but contempt for workers, and whose horizons have been so narrowed by the experience of subordination. 

"And yet, Marie, Lei, Dex, Ash, and Gucci are still there, staying by the side not just of Ka Leody but the (so-far) estimated 200,000+ people who have signified, according to the latest survey, that they believe in and will vote for Ka Leody despite the great odds stacked against him."

Docena said that some of the victories of the Filipino people led by activists would not be possible without the support of their families.

"Today, prompted by this picture and the controversy it has sparked, I am thinking of so many other wives, husbands, partners, parents, children, friends of so many other activists who have sacrificed so much to support their activist husbands, partners, parents, and so on. I am thinking also of Aimee and Ramya and Ninon and Cheyenne and Taj," he said.

"And of course, though there is no equivalence between them and those who support other activists who have contributed so much more to the movement than me, I am also thinking of my own parents, family, and friends and the great sacrifices I have been asking from if not imposing on them. Past and future victories of this movement could only have been possible and could only be possible because of all of them. They have our love and gratitude."

De Guzman lost in the 2019 midterm senatorial elections, placing 38th overall with 888,458 votes. He promised then to end job contractualization, among others.

He is the chairperson of labor group Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino and founding member of party-list Partido Manggagawa.

A longtime labor rights activist, he is the country's representative to the International Council of the International Center for Labor Solidarity.

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