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IN the coming days, midterm election matters will dominate center stage and out goes federalism from the airwaves, the mass and social media. This election will be a referendum on President Duterte. Corruption, human rights violations, drug killings, the incompetence of his men and even the unstable persona of the President himself will be exploited by the opposition to pummel the Deegong and his allies. Except that in our byzantine politics, alliances, friends and foes are intermingled and therefore many are at a loss as to their standing with the President.

Take the unelected DDS and Fist Pumpers whose loyalty to the President may have touched shaky ground lately as a result of his consigning federalism to the back-burner. They may have to reinsert themselves into the political conversation while pining for presidential attention. It seems that those left behind, although grudgingly supportive of him but not rewarded with government sinecures, may now have to extract their pound of flesh before being persuaded to campaign for the president’s choices. The Senate posts are particularly sensitive as the next fight for Charter revisions will be in that chamber, if ever the President still has the audacity to push through with it. DU30’s intermittent histrionics, however —“I’m tired…I want to resign” — weaken his supporters’ resolve and embolden the Yellow army and its allies. One begins to wonder where his vaunted “political will” is parked.

The ascendancy of GMA and pragmatic political maneuverings have begun to plague the President’s motley alliance. PDP Laban, DU30’s nominal party is seen to be fragmenting. The eclipse of its two top lieutenants, Koko Pimentel and Bebot Alvarez, occurred without the President lifting a finger. And the tolerated appearance of the splinter Davao-Mindanao PDP Laban in the political scene, challenging the legitimacy of the Pimentel-Alvarez leadership, has dealt a major though not fatal blow to the ruling party. Headed by Bik Bik Garcia, an original party stalwart and a colleague of Nene Pimentel — oppositionists both in the defunct Marcos Interim Batasan Pambansa (IBP) — they may have a legitimate complaint. The indiscriminate wholesale recruitment of “trapos” from other political parties run counter to the ideological precepts that the original PDP Laban hold dear. The true believers were shunted aside in the running of the political party, now dominated by the remnants and discards of LP, LDP, LAKAS-NUCD-CMD-KAMPI, UNA and assorted political mercenaries.

But what could be fatal is the ascendancy of Mayor Sara to prominence as head of the original local political party of the father. The President’s spokesman, Harry Roque Jr. declared that “Hugpong (ng Pagbabago), not PDP-Laban, is the President’s party. Hugpong had always been his political party ever since he ran for mayor of Davao City 23 years ago.” (Philippine Daily Inquirer, August 7, 2018) The cat is now out of the bag!

The 100 or so PDP Laban congressmen may have begun to abandon ship and secure their lifeboats with Hugpong. And a cloud of fear and insecurity may be descending on the PDP Laban nominees in government sinecures and the bureaucracy — Usecs, Asecs, department heads and government corporate boards.

But the Deegong seems not to be overwhelmed by these developments. His disciples attribute these to his political genius insisting that he may in fact be the puppeteer using his surrogates — GMA at the HOR and daughter Sara at Hugpong now working an alliance with Imee Marcos of KBL. But the ominous elevation of the Marcoses within DU30’s circle could signal the degradation of PDP Laban, as this party’s pedigree can be traced back to the darkest period of the dictatorship. The sycophants of course will dismiss this as mere conjecture.

In any case, in a unitary-presidential system, nurturing this traditional political climate, elections are merely opportunities for power players and their oligarchic allies to consolidate their forces and unscrupulous politicians to sell their loyalty to the highest bidder.

Senator Lacson has intimated that there are billions of pesos worth of “pork barrel” inserted into this year’s budget. In an election where a congressional seat would cost from P100-P200 million and a Senate seat at least P500 million, the Deegong has most of the chips while holding winning hands.

This is the system that causes legislators to flock to the party of the President, expecting entitlements, weakening the party system, systemic evils the Centrist Democrats have been agitating to reform all along as preconditions to a shift from the unitary to parliamentary federal system.

To encapsulate the issues, I will quote a PR practitioner and a political technocrat, Malou Tiquia: “In the past six years, no political reform has been successfully introduced in the country. Various measures are pending in congress, from political party to campaign finance reform to banning turncoats, etc. The effort to achieve reform in our politics has not taken root. This is the problem we have as we move towards federalism…”

I quote from one of my old blogs: “Political parties are key actors and the backbone of democracy in modern societies. They are organizations that aggregate the interests and sources behind policies. They gain power and authority by engaging in elections.

They serve as a linking and leading mechanism in politics being a means of mobilization of the masses as well as the socialization of leaders. Furthermore, political parties are a channel of control, without which citizens are not represented in governing institutions, cannot control power and participate in decision-making. Thus — in the long term — they cannot prevent the abuse of power.

A party must write a unique platform or vision of governance with a set of principles and strategies. This vision defines the ideological identity of that party; and members are expected to go by these platforms as political parties offer the direction of government. Voters must be given a choice as to who must govern them based on what candidates and their parties stand for.”

Unfortunately, we do not have such parties in our country. Ours are funded by self-proclaimed candidates, party bigwigs and oligarchs. They dictate what programs and platforms, if any, to present to voters and who would run for public office. Patronage politics is the reason behind the massive exodus of members from one political party to another. Political manna constantly flows from the incumbent regime and produces a condition where politicians are PDP Laban today, LP the past regime, Lakas-NUCD before that and KBL during the dictatorship. Tomorrow, they may flock toward Hugpong.000
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