Convoluted midterm politics in microcosm

Convoluted midterm politics in microcosm Featured

IT takes a political dynasty to vanquish another political dynasty. This certainly is true in Davao City in the case of the families of President Duterte and former House Speaker Prospero “Boy” Nograles. At the start of the DU30 regime, it was widely believed that Congressman Karlo Nograles, who was in his last term, would be replaced by his brother and party-list representative Jerico, in the first district. Karlo would then be included in the senatorial line-up of the President.

Apparently, the speculation fell flat as Paulo “Polong” Duterte, DU30’s eldest son, who resigned as vice mayor to sister Davao City Mayor Sara under questionable circumstances, is vying for the first district congressional seat. And Karlo, with a low rating in the surveys, did not get a slot in the senatorial line-up. He is, however, appeased with a cabinet post, Secretary of the Cabinet. Karlo is more than qualified and will do justice to the position.

Davao City has now Mayor Sara gunning for another term, first termer Baste, DU30’s younger boy as vice mayor and Polong, for first district. President Duterte’s family will be firmly in control of Davao City with his own solid political dynasty — which he created because “he was forced to,” whatever that means.

With this, the President is writing finis to the hopes of the Centrists, other progressively inclined parties and groupings and even the PDP-Laban to ban political dynasties in the revised constitution, if ever, through a self-executory provision. I don’t see political dynasties being divorced from our political system from hereon in, unless we go parliamentary government prior to going federal system.

But the Fed-Parl movement, which was very strong at the start of the Deegong’s regime, seems to be faltering, certainly overtaken by the midterm elections. During the 22nd year of the Kusog Mindanao dialogue in Davao City two weeks ago, federalism was the issue at center stage. Kusog has been the forum for Mindanao issues ranging from the federalism advocacies to the peace and security concerns to the Basic Organic Law (BOL) of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). With representatives from MNLF, MILF, the indigenous communities and other Muslim and Christian stakeholders, the different draft proposals on federalism were discussed: from the crafting of regional/state constitutions, proposed by Mike Mastura; the findings of the 25-man DU30 2018 ConCom, presented by lawyerBong Parcasio; and by this author, championing the Centrist Proposals of Centrist Democratic Party (CDP) and Lakas, based on GMA’s 2005 ConCom.

My own Centrist take is that federalism is dead! Unless political reforms are done first prior to tinkering with the 1987 Constitution; and unless the Deegong manages to pull in at least 18 senators that will cooperate with the House of Representatives to transform Congress into a constituent assembly (ConAss). The valuable inputs of eminent political scientist, UP professor Clarita Carlos put things in perspective shredding the 2018 DU30 ConCom proposals for a complex and inane “presidential-federal system,” a paean to the status quo that even DU30 has not endorsed to Congress.

Kusong Mindanao has always been a venue for disparate positions and contrasting opinions, ably chaired and moderated by Fr. Eliseo “Jun” Mercado. But this is the first time in two decades that “argumentum ad hominem” was thrown out calling one panelist “stupid and ignorant.” This reflects the bankruptcy of arguments, not the storied culture of the organization. Which bring us to the pre-election issues and deterioration of political conversations now plaguing the country.

For one, the party-list system, a feature of the 1987 Constitution that President Cory championed to give voice to the marginalized and underrepresented has now been captured by the elite. To quote former chief justice Artemio Panganiban, “…the rich, the powerful and the dynasties now dominate our mongrelized party-list system, to the chagrin of the poor and powerless…Only a constitutional revision via a constitutional convention, not via a constituent assembly of Congress, may be the answer: Either abolish the party list, which in the first place was just an experiment that has gone berserk, or institute the necessary reforms.” (Sunday Inquirer, Nov. 11, 2018)

This certainly reflects the sorry state of the political party system in the Philippines. There are a handful of major and pseudo political parties fielding candidates in all elective positions for senators, congressmen to governors, mayors and various sanggunian members. But the choices for senators are what occupy the national attention. All major political parties, even the dominant PDP-Laban are unable to field a complete slate for 12 senatorial slots from among its own membership and must have to pick up from a coterie of “political butterflies” and shameless “party turncoats.” But what is incongruous is that the PDP-Laban, the dominant party headed by DU30 together with its ally, Hugpong (HNP) headed by Mayor Sara, the president’s daughter and allied parties, are fielding 14 candidates for 12 slots. And the Deegong has only so far endorsed one candidate, his most loyal subaltern, “Bong” Go, and another candidate, a balladeer, not even included in the slate of 14. It is expected that PRRD will finalize his preferred list in the next few months.

And what makes this midterm election a perversion of sorts is that three of the ex-senators incarcerated for corruption are now vying for the same posts — Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla, the last two being included in Mayor Sara’s list, with Revilla still in prison. To top it all, the slate includes two half-brothers, progenies of a convicted felon.

Capping this tortuous midterm elections, there is no stopping Imelda Marcos from running for governor of Ilocos Norte, replacing daughter Imee who is included in the HNP senatorial slate. Imelda has just been convicted of seven graft cases, facing arrest and a possible sentence of 42 to 77 years. But to quote Randy David “…she will be allowed to post bail. And while the Sandiganbayan’s ruling is on appeal, she will, without any doubt, continue her candidacy, win, and assume the governorship…” (“Public Lives,” Sunday Inquirer, Nov. 11, 2018)

The President still enjoys support from a huge majority of Filipinos. It is therefore important that to deserve and harness their support, the President must show his continuing commitment to the original advocacies that propelled him to the presidency. His anti-illegal drugs and anti-corruption stance still resonate but he has been perceived to have faltered in the all-important political and electoral reforms leading towards a federal-parliamentary system and a liberalized economy.

These are the issues that the president needs to have a handle on in this midterm elections. The Deegong needs a RESET for the second half of his term — and beyond.

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