The gathering storm

The gathering storm Featured

THIS column was meant to start a series on the serious wannabe presidentiables from Ping, Bongbong, Isko, Manny to Leni — and their impact on the body politic. But I am awaiting the finale of the "pa coy-coy" or "hele-hele bago quiere" frontrunner, the very same tactic used by the father in 2016. But I respect our mayor too much to dare offer unsolicited advice. Don't run! The next president will most likely fail in the next six years, what with the pandemic, its resultant economic breakdown, and the massive rent-seeking and bureaucratic incompetence contributing to the interminable amounts of debts burying the country. The next president will be rendered inutile putting out fires. Sara should bide her time, ripen well, run our city effectively and create her own legacy not her father's. Her moment will come in 2028.

Our convoluted presidential politics

Meantime I am dumbfounded by the stupid expedient "oido strategy" employed by the compliant and pathetic Cusi faction of the PDP-Laban soon after their puerile plans to conscript Bong Go/Duterte fell flat on their faces with the President unceremoniously revoking his vice-presidential candidacy when polls showed it was a ludicrous idea, consequently demoting "their best presidential candidate" to vice president. I sympathize with Bong Go's castration. I truly like this man, who rose from being a flunky to senator. He will come into his own someday out of the shadows of his puppeteer. But this faction's subsequent singular act to scour the bottom of the barrel to elevate a buffoon to a presidentiable, takes the cake. With his assertion, "Do I look like a mockery to you? Eighteen million Filipinos voted for me," Sen. Bato dela Rosa registers this phrase into the lexicon of inane aphorisms with his name forever etched in this ridiculous genre equivalent to "The problem with political jokes is they get elected."

Foreigners looking in

But this column devotes space for cursory discussions on our presidential politics viewed by foreign observers particularly the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC). The JBIC provides policy-based loans to the Philippine government. The Japanese companies doing business in the Philippines are no doubt concerned about political stability impacting business and governance — underscored by the oft-repeated cliché "leveling the playing field."

Their questions show unfamiliarity with our political processes but somehow reveal an innocent indictment of our convoluted system:

1. "KBL nominated the younger Marcos as its standard bearer, while PDP-Laban now has two candidates. ... What is the process of a political party in endorsing their candidates for elections? Is there a standard procedure? Is it acceptable for one party to have two candidates, or [does] the other candidate [need] to set up a new party? Does a presidential candidate need to choose a candidate for vice president, and vice versa, is it a precondition to run for president?"

2. Roque said it will be the Comelec that will decide which PDP Laban faction is legitimate. "If there are only five requirements stipulated in the Constitution in order to run for public office...what is the purpose and significance of Comelec's role in determining the legitimacy of two factions within one political party? If one party is recognized by Comelec, what will happen to the other party's candidates... Does this candidate need to set up a new party so he/she can go ahead with his/her candidacy?"

Responding to the first question, the Philippine political situation is fluid and changes from day to day. I surmise the young Marcos (BBM) trying to shed his family's martial law bloodline by being nominated by the Partido Federal — not the vilified KBL. This is obviously a play on federalism — the popular slogan of Duterte who idolized Bongbong's father, Ferdinand. As of this writing Bongbong Marcos (BBM) has no VP in tandem and barely a few "neo-Marcos" slate for senators. Such configuration is not crucial in Philippine presidential elections as voters split the ticket. These happened with Duterte/Robredo in 2016, Aquino/Binay in 2010, GMA/de Castro in 2004, Estrada/GMA in 1998, etc.

Arbitrary selection process

The party selection process as to who runs as president, vice president and senators is arbitrary at best. As in Pimentel's PDP-Laban faction where no VP compliments Manny Pacquiao, every wannabe starts with the personal — "I want to run" — and awaits the endorsement of whoever has the logistics and the money, in particular the oligarchy and the political dynasties. These decisions are core to our perverted party system. There is no vetting process similar to the system in politically mature countries, like the preliminaries and caucuses in America. It could be equivalent to Japan's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) choices done in "smoke-filled rooms."

There are no real sustainable political parties in the Philippines. They appear intermittently during election season. The closest could have been PDP-Laban until the Pimentel father struck "a Faustian pact" in 2016. The declared candidate can claim, create, is invited to, or revive moribund ones, irrespective of the ideological profile. Isko Moreno for one found shelter in Raul Roco's Aksyon Demokratiko. Even Pacquiao has run the gamut of memberships: LP before 2007, KMP in 2007, NP in 2009, UNO in 2012, PDP-Laban in 2016 and now Promdi. Our candidates shamelessly change political parties like discarding dirty underwear.

On the second question. The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will decide which faction is legitimate. It should be obvious that the Cusi faction, backed by the President, will be accorded legitimacy with all the privileges accruing to them, particularly allowing election watchers in polling places and an authenticated copy of precinct results. But irrespective of legitimacy, both factions will still field their own candidates with mostly incomplete slates.

Sara-centrism, near-term scenario

All these are symptoms of the bankruptcy of our political party system. All are on an ad hoc basis awaiting developments like speculations on Senator Bato's warming the seat for Sara on a sudden change of heart. Waiting in the wings are the Marcoses that may adopt Sara with BBM sliding down to VP. This Sara-centrism will only be resolved after next week's Comelec's final proscriptions on substitutions. Sara's registering for a mayoralty run this week has thrown off-balance presidential conjectures.

This could precipitate a reenactment of a BBM vs Leni Robredo 2016 clash — Marcos/KBL against Leni/PNoy's "Dilawan." Nothing can evoke old enmities than the Marcos/Aquino names. We could even witness the DDS/Marcos break-up, or the PDP-Laban complete disintegration, a house divided upon itself. But the field has widened with the Lacson/Sotto old guards, and the new kid on the block, Isko Moreno.

In past discussions (The Manila Times, June 3-July 21, 2021), among others, "...what is wrong with Philippine politics are traditional patronage politics as practiced for decades. This has been ingrained in our political culture permeating the very sinews of a good part of our political life. Our political system itself is a perversion and this travesty has been embedded in our Constitution."

These have skewered our concepts of democracy and electoral politics Unless these are remedied by political reforms, this country will forever remain a backward Third World one. Whoever sits at the head of the table!
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