The birthing - an ideological political party Featured

Fourth of a series

THE previous columns of this series were devoted to the ups and downs of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) from its traumatic birth during the dark days of martial law, midwifed by Aquilino "Nene" Pimentel; its maturation as part of former president Cory Aquino's coalition government; to its hiatus after the debacle of 1992 Liberal-PDP-Laban coalition; the revival, relapse and split former mayor Jejomar "Jojo" Binay's tutelage; and the younger Pimentel's reacquisition of the party, riding on the coattails of the Rodrigo "the Deegong" Duterte to the Philippine presidency.

The latter marked its apex and the complete takeover of the once ideologically driven party by traditional politics, culminating in last month's split between the factions of President Rodrigo Duterte with Secretary Alfonso Cusi on one side and Senators Aquilino "Koko" Pimientel 3rd and Emmanuel "Manny" Pacquiao on the other. It is worthwhile recalling that the latter group kicked out Cusi from his PDP-Laban executive position and subsequent instant retaliation by booting out Pacquiao from the party presidency. Both sides displayed a cartoonish, slapstick and childish behavior worthy of the classic bumbling Keystone Cops. The Deegong now owns the party and will do whatever he pleases with it.

Many of the original founding members anticipated this eventuality after traditional politicians were allowed in earlier. In the late 1990s, Rey Teves, my political twin, and I reluctantly left Nene Pimentel's political biosphere, but with his acquiescence and blessings. He was now a respected senator and at one time a Senate president. Rey Teves concentrated on the Mindanao-based Tacdrup and Kusog Mindanao and other nongovernmental organizations. After my Harvard stint, I took a further sabbatical to work on rebuilding my finances in the "dog-eat-dog" world of business, particularly in government power contracts, real estate and the financial markets.

Political struggle - our antecedents

But the call of political technocracy was a compelling one and we were drawn to the unfinished confrontations we were part of even prior to the martial law years. Political endeavors were inexorably woven with our daily lives. It is part of our DNA. We were captives of our own historicity.

To recall, as part of our nostalgic baggage, our serious political initiation started with an almost forgotten man in Philippine politics, Raul Manglapus, our original mentor who took us into the Christian Social Movement (CSM).

CSM-1967 (excerpts)

"Raul Manglapus was one of the leading political figures of the 60s having been elected to the Senate at the age of 42. He was a fresh face in the political scene and endowed with genius, making him attractive to the children of the era. It was logical that we rushed to his side when he ran for the Philippine presidency. It was also a first hard lesson for us, the young idealists, that we were no match for the organized traditional political machinery that propelled his opponent, Ferdinand Marcos, to power.

"Raul's role in our understanding and appreciation of the principles of Christian Democracy was made no less compelling by our exposure to the seminars and leadership formation of the Konrad-Adenauer Foundation (KAS). Our association with this German foundation has been fruitful and reinforced over the years by warm friendship with its country representatives interrupted only during the years of Martial Law."

Author's note: In some ways, Nene Pimentel, Rey Teves and many of us in the CSM imbued with the principles of Christian Socialism and Christian Democracy had to continue the political fight with the formation of the PDP-Laban (see parts 1 to 3 of this series, The Manila Times) while CSM was in hibernation with Manglapus exiled in the US (he went on to establish the NUCD, that won the presidency with FVR).

Successor generation

After an interval of two decades, since the CSM dormancy in the 1980s and a decade after the PDP-Laban debacle in the late 1990s, the remnants of the Christian Democrats (CD), which include many who left PDP-Laban, were scattered all over the political topography; their frustrations driving them to either lodge themselves with the extreme left or allow themselves to be co-opted by regimes in need of their political skills.

A few of us in the southern part of the country, after having been in the political struggle since the late 1960s, going through the fourth quarter storm, through the turmoil of the martial law years, our disillusionment with the Cory government in ushering in her concept of "democracy" and our frustrations with PDP-Laban and faced with our advancing age - perhaps it was time to change gears and train while we could the next generation of the youth who may have to carry on the task of lifting the Filipino from the sociopolitical-economic quagmire we, the older generation, have helped put them in. We were never under any illusion that changes, political or otherwise, would take generations. We saw these young politically astute individuals - "the masters of the universe," those who are burning with passion to spread the ideology of Centrist Democracy and those still imbued with the arrogance of youth that they could indeed change the world. Rey and I both counted on this as the compelling force to mold themselves and emerge as the transformative leaders our country needs. This was the core concept of our successor generation program (SucGen), under the aegis of Tacdrup.

In the course of developing this concept, Rey succumbed to pneumonia in November 2009 and passed away. Enter into the scene, Peter Koeppinger, the new Konrad-Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) country representative. A member of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the party in power in Germany and our partners since Manglapus' time, he understood the necessity of forming a political party. This led to the founding of the Centrist Democratic Movement (CDM) - composed of young professionals who must first understand the uses, misuses, abuses and even nonuse of political power.

Berlin protocol

Peter Koeppinger just died a week ago. I wrote this obituary:

"It is a measure of Peter's determination and strength of character that he single-handedly moved the Konrad Adenauer Foundation to support our initiatives. Thus, the CDM was born with thousands of young professionals undergoing seminars and training toward party building. And in 2011, in Berlin, Germany, CDM officials and members enacted the "Berlin Protocol" - the document for the creation of a political party. The Centrist Democratic Party (CDP), ang partido ng tunay na Pilipino, was born."

The CDP managed to field in 2013 a nationwide roster of 68 candidates winning 14 elective positions for a respectable 20 percent, a fairly decent number for a maverick political party. It is difficult to win if we cling on to principles in an environment ruled by money and power play. But since we have the best of intentions, the innocence of the just and the impudence to beat the odds, we gained the favor of the gods!

But oddly the CDP began to fray at the edges in its subsequent support for the Deegong in 2016. That same year, CDP went into a torpid state.

Next week: Will an ideological political party ever flourish?000
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