Political parties - what we have Philippine Star

Political parties - what we have

Third of a series

THE Partido Federalista (Federal Party) was the first Philippine political party allowed by our colonials in the 1900, which pushed for our annexation as a US state. The Nacionalista Party was founded shortly after to advocate for the opposite view - immediate Philippine independence. Several iterations of these advocacies emerged over the years until the liberal wing of the Nacionalista broke away and formed the Liberal Party. These two old groupings were the closest the Philippines had to a two-party system until President Ferdinand Marcos, a member of both parties at certain times, imposed martial law in 1972 and President Corazon "Cory" Aquino,, who did not believe in political parties, allowed the proliferation of the multiparty system in the 1987 Constitution.

Midterm elections

National elections are always a referendum on the current occupant of Malacañang. Last midterm, the Otso Diretso opposition, a motley group of Liberal, Akbayan, Magdalo party-list and Aksyon Demokratiko political parties were obliterated. The Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP) catapulted four PDP-Laban partymates, two of whom were political neophytes and Duterte's underlings - Bong Go and Ronald dela Rosa - to the Senate, capturing the third and fifth places. In total, HNP won nine of the 12 seats with one seat each for the veteran senators with their own personal political base: the ex-movie actor Lito Lapid of NPC and two other reelectionists, Nancy Binay of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) and Mary Grace Poe, an independent.

This triumph was attributed more to the charisma of Duterte rather than to the PDP-Laban and perhaps the bankruptcy of the moral ascendancy of the opposition. More importantly, this evokes a truism in Philippine patronage politics: that the patron's influence, in this case, the sitting president is all-pervasive in wielding power without compunction using the entire government resources at its disposal running over the political opposition any which way.

HNP is a regional political alliance formed by the President's daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, to support the father's candidacy - a personal vehicle simply for the purpose of winning elections with no pretenses to ideological fervor except PRRD's nebulous concept of federalism, emancipation from "Imperial Manila" and war on drugs, issues that resonated with the periphery. On these credentials as a federalist and an outsider, he was enticed to assume the presidency of the PDP-Laban - an anti-martial law party that originally occupied the left-of-center space in the political spectrum. Federalism was a major tenet of the party until Duterte dropped this advocacy in 2019 leaving the PDP-Laban and adherents high and dry. Currently, he is party chairman while Sen. Emmanuel "Manny" Pacquaio, his erstwhile sycophant turned adversary, holds the presidency.

Pacquiao ran under his personal People's Champ Movement (PCM) solely on his boxing creds in coalition with UNA. He was also allied or a member of the Liberal, Kampi-Lakas-CMD (Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats), and Nacionalista parties at certain times. Duterte himself ran under several political groupings, once joining the Nacionalista, won as congressman under the Laban ng Makabayang Masang Coalition and as city chairman of the Liberal Party in 2009.

Convoluted political parties

This phenomenon, almost exclusively Filipino, is known as the "political butterfly" syndrome. In this context, switching political parties is akin to chameleons changing their skin color perfunctorily. Politicians with the temerity to stay affiliated out of principles and values are rare. They are an endangered species. This is descriptive of a paucity of ideological perspectives and politicians bereft of moral compass anchored on patent expediency. These defections are rampant on the shifting winds of political fortunes and purely done for political survival.

Almost all of the political parties in the Philippines are structured in a manner that hew closely to the centuries-old patronage system. The patron (in this case the sitting president) who provides the funds makes almost all of the party decisions, especially with regard to those slated to run for elective positions; the central/executive committees are usually manned by their allies and subalterns; and there are no real offices and party activities year-round except during election periods.

Invariably, political parties do not have a uniquely consistent set of beliefs that distinguishes one from the other; at most they proffer slogans and motherhood statements that pass for political doctrines. Their political agenda is predictably directed toward the preservation of elective members' prerogatives, ensuring the continued accumulation of pelf and privileges for themselves, their families and their allies. Individual programs and family interest, perforce, have precedence over that of a political party's collective appreciation of society's needs. And once they are gifted the privilege to govern, public policies are instituted on the fly emanating from the framework of traditional political practices, their comprehension of national issues seen subjectively through the prism of personal and family interests, thus perpetuating the existing flawed political institutions.

PDP-Laban's disintegration

From Duterte's ascendancy, the PDP Laban sheltered within the halo of Duterte's influence, exuberant in this new regime of political clout conducted an indiscriminate wholesale recruitment of "trapos" from other political parties whose ideological precepts run counter to that which the original PDP-Laban holds dear. This was ostensibly advantageous - following the precepts of "politics is addition" - as its agenda has found advocacy in the two houses of Congress, provided they don't run in conflict with the vested interests of the senators, congressmen, their respective political dynasties and their allies in the oligarchy. This is double-edged as the originals and intelligentsia of the party - derisively described as "unelected and unelectable true-believers" by the trapos are invariably shunted aside - except for those gifted with sinecures in the cabinet, the bureaucracies, appointed undersecretaries and assistant secretaries and government board seats. Unwittingly their interests have become aligned with those of the new political power brokers - worse, these "political butterflies" crafting an agenda inimical to the PDP-Laban's purported left-of-center profile are now lording over it. These "true believers" backbone of the party at its inception and growth possessing no political power are reduced to a pathetic few, their political carcasses left strewn all over the place.

The PDP-Laban has splintered. The "unelected president," Pacquiao, questioned by the original members for usurping the party presidency, has his eye on the Philippine's presidency. It seems that Manny hasn't undergone "Basic Orientation Seminar" (BOS) for party membership but was offered the presidency by the past president Sen. Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel 3rd, whose own presidency was likewise questioned by the "originals," accused of having illegally assumed the post after VP Binay (the past party president) left in 2009. Apparently, Koko never called a national council meeting as the party constitution required to affirm his presidency. Eventually the PDP-Laban national assembly met in July 2018 and former MP (Congressman) Rogelio "Bik-Bik" Garcia, an original, was elected president. A rump national assembly was recently called by another personality appearing out of the woodwork - Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, presumably with the Deegong's imprimatur calling for Duterte to run in 2020 as VP, with whoever PDP-Laban chooses as its presidential candidate.

Where is the Deegong in all of these? Recalling presidential spokesman Harry Roque's declaration, ages ago: "Hugpong ng Pagbabago, not PDP-Laban, is the President's party. Hugpong has always been his political party ever since he ran for mayor of Davao City 23 years ago."

Next week, July 21, 2021: Political parties - what we want

Read 1063 times Last modified on Wednesday, 14 July 2021 12:13
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