The new PDP-Laban: A revival of sorts

The new PDP-Laban: A revival of sorts Featured

Third of a series

(Cont'd excerpts from A Fragmented Political Opposition):

"IN the 1995 elections, PDP-Laban went into a coalition with President FVR's Lakas-NUCD, but Nene Pimentel lost in the infamous 'dagdag-bawas.'

"Around this time, one of the few PDP Laban groups that operated was in Makati City, where Mayor Jejomar 'Jojo' Binay reigned supreme. He started a weekly meeting at the mayor's office where we planned out the revival of the party. For a time, the mayor enlisted some of us, which included Elfren Cruz, the first of Binay's series of secretaries-general. The PDP-Laban brand was still very strong, but the structures nationwide were in shambles. The roster of membership was almost nonexistent. Makati seemed to be the exception as Binay understood the need for sustainable political machinery. Himself in the mold of a traditional politico, Binay came from the masses and civil society, active in the 'parliament of the streets' during martial law. He personified the new breed of PDP-Laban politician, politically savvy while retaining the language of its ideology. His grasp of local party politics is superior, propelling him to establish a political dynasty that includes a senator, a congresswoman, a mayor and a vice president.


"The PDP-Laban now reached a crossroad. The original concept may have been too advanced for its time. It was born in the midst of political and social turmoil forged under the intense heat of a repressive regime. The times are different but the political truths that propelled the creation of PDP-Laban then, exist now. They are universal. PDP-Laban must exist to aggregate the hopes and aspirations not only of its membership but a greater segment of the population it seeks to serve. To do this, it must strive for political power anchored on a set of principles clearly manifested in its platform of governance. The party must guarantee that these are to be translated into policies and mechanisms that must hew close to their beliefs - once they are gifted the privilege to govern.

"One road leads to winning the prize using the same methods used by countless traditional leaders since the time we became a Republic, using the same formula that would benefit the populace and those that wield the power only for the duration of their tenure and maybe for a little bit more. This path had been traversed countless times, well-trodden, safe and comfortable.

"The other avenue requires the reinvention of the party bringing it back to its roots examining why it was created in the first place and for whom it was intended. These three decades of its history needed to be assessed as this will provide valuable lessons for those presently in control of its mechanisms. For one, who now owns this party? Who are its current stakeholders and what are their claims to their ownership? A subsidiary question may be forwarded: why are the personalities who brought its perversion back at its helm?

"The more important queries perhaps bore deep into our core beliefs: Were the principles we believed in at the outset still valid; and are they the basis of our actions today and part of our strategy for governance in the future?

"Simply put, should we leave behind the PDP-Laban as our legacy?"

Author's note. This was written after 1995, when after a debacle PDP-Laban lost many adherents who migrated to the ruling party - Lakas Tao-NUCD. But PDP-Laban was still intact. With Nene Pimentel having lost a Senate seat, formal leadership passed on to the mayor of Makati, Jejomar Binay. These musings were and are part of the soul-searching that propelled the party to reinvent itself.

In some peculiar way, 2021 is a near reenactment of 1995-2010 but with fatal and final consequences. While it was a smooth transition from a defeated senator to a city mayor who won the vice presidency in the 2010 elections, with PDP-Laban in coalition with President Estrada's Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP), it is different today. July 2021 marks the end of the founder Pimentel's era, and his vision of a political party attaining political power driven by the ideals and principles of Christian socialism - the soul of the party borne out of the centuries of sociopolitical struggle blending Christian doctrines and societal responsibilities depicted in the Catholic encyclicals.

From left of center to the center

Over the years, even before he became senator, Nene Pimentel - and by inference the party - ideologically had begun to drift toward the center beginning to identify itself with Christian democracy. Even concepts of stewardship and public ownership of the modes of production gave way to appreciating private ownership with social responsibility. In the mid-1980s when Pimentel and I visited countries in Europe, particularly Germany, we were exposed to European practices adopting concepts of market economy with heavy social components. Social market economy (SOME), long practiced in European countries, became more attractive as the PDP-Laban's economic philosophy for the Philippines in contrast to our original socialist leanings. It helped too that PDP-Laban was enrolled in the Christian Democratic International (CDI) when we were both invited by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) to attend the CDI Conference in Bonn, Germany in 1985 - meeting with Prime Minister Helmuth Kohl - and Pimentel addressing the gathering. (Details are treated exhaustively in the book.)

It is unfortunate that the PDP-Laban literature and documentation did not keep pace with this ideological development as Pimentel and the party were hurled into turbulence encompassing the country in the aftermath of 1986 EDSA Revolution.

Currently, the PDP-Laban in the hands of the party chairman, the country's president, is no longer occupied with the nuances of ideology. Government and the leadership are driven toward pragmatics - eliminating illegal drugs (at all costs), corruption in the bureaucracy, poverty alleviation, economic infrastructures, and pandemic mitigation, among others - all worthwhile concerns. But Duterte's parameters are now the PDP-Laban's and labels like Christian socialists or Christian democrats are irrelevant.

Even Sen. Koko Pimentel, disinherited heir, an accomplished politician in his own right, may no longer lay claim to the ideological soul of PDP-Laban. It lost its soul long ago once it allowed the tradpols entry. And like the Buddhist belief, is reincarnated into a lesser life.

The Pimentel-Mindanao PDP-Laban borne out of the turmoil of the 1970s and 1980s is condemned to simply draw on a baggage of nostalgia and the narratives of dying old comrades. But nostalgia and the hankering for past glories are a poor launching pad for electoral victory and eventual capture of political power. The old PDP-Laban went that route and it failed. Pragmatic political considerations are now in the hands of President Duterte and the traditional politicians whom the Pimentel pere et fils opened the party doors for. History will still have to judge the rectitude of this act.

But PDP-Laban will only exist until after the patron is gone. Perhaps by that time, PDP Laban will regain its ideological footing. Perhaps!

Next week, Aug. 18, 2021: The birthing of an ideological political party000
Read 831 times Last modified on Wednesday, 11 August 2021 13:42
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