Political realignments non-ideological, simply utilitarian

Political realignments non-ideological, simply utilitarian Featured

First of a series

LAST week, candidates started campaigning for 18,000 local elective positions. The Commission on Elections (Comelec) came out with some interesting tidbits. Eight hundred forty-five (4.7 percent) are running unopposed. But at the Congress, three-fourths of whom are members of political dynasties, 39 (15 percent) of 253 seats are unchallenged. This is a measure of how traditional politics permeate our system of governance. In the presidential derby, political realignments are currently volatile and disquieting.

First off, PRRD's PDP-Laban faction finally endorsed Marcos as "the candidate whose vision of governance is most aligned with the party's 11-point agenda...." Sen. Manny Pacquiao, presidential standard-bearer of the PDP-Laban Pimentel faction retorted, "...PDP-Laban members backing Marcos are stupid trapos... this party was formed to fight the rule of Ferdinand Marcos...." Here is a kettle calling the pot black — as Manny himself was a member of six or seven other political parties before being drafted into PDP-Laban. Manny is also fixated on the Marcos père — perfunctorily visiting onto the son the sins of the father. Speculation is rife that Duterte himself will eventually endorse BBM, which could really be awkward as he has been labeling BBM and the Marcoses as "mga kawatan."

Lately, the political circus is building up toward fever pitch with dancing beasts and clowns front and center. A consortia of family members, sycophants and political hacks bound purely by prurient interest that pass for political parties are now scouting for the next patron they can suck up to once the lame duck President Duterte exits the scene.


To understand the Philippines' convoluted politics, a brief description on how our unitary-presidential system breeds and nurtures tradpols impacting on our political party system. In this system, the president runs supreme where manna flows for the next six years. Presidential elections are merely opportunities for these unscrupulous politicians, power players and their oligarchic allies to sell their souls to the eventual winner. Political parties gamble on the most probable victor — in this case, BBM or Leni. Whoever wins, the early bird gets to partake of the early worms — political gravy galore. This system causes candidates and future legislators to flock to the party of the president, expecting entitlements contravening the role of political parties as institutions for legitimate political reforms.

Almost all of the political parties in the Philippines are structured in a manner that hew close to the centuries-old patronage system, with few exceptions. The top dog, customarily the funder, calls the shots. Allies and subalterns man critical committees. Party platforms are simply lifted from Wikipedia, passing them off as strategy for governance.

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 — googled political doctrines. Their agenda is predictably directed toward the preservation of elective members' prerogatives, ensuring the continued accumulation of pelf and privilege 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 interest, thus perpetuating the existing flawed political institutions.

Ingenious party realignments

The National Unity Party (NUP) was a breakaway of the Lakas-Kampi CMD of President GMA in 2010 at the twilight of her patronage. NUP subsequently joined PNoy's coalition in the 2013 elections while other members allied themselves with the other leading party — the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), founded by Vice President Jojo Binay, its standard-bearer. By 2016, the NUP became part of the PDP Laban-led Duterte coalition. Today, a lame duck Duterte simply awaits the next padrino anointed come May 9. The NUP, believed to be funded by oligarch Ricky Razon, is now betting on BBM-Sara.

Partido Reporma's recent decision to drop their chairman and presidential standard bearer, Ping Lacson, could be seen as a tragic turn of events but really just reflects the state of our politics and pseudo-political parties. The real power is former House speaker Pantaleon "Bebot" Alvarez who wiped out Sara Duterte's regional political party Hugpong ng Pagbabago in Davao del Norte and Davao de Oro, along with her compatriots, Tony Boy Floirendo of the oligarchic clan and the del Rosarios who owned the governorship of Davao del Norte for decades. No love lost between Sara and Bebot, whom the former caused the latter's loss of the speakership, replacing him with GMA — there was no way Bebot could support the BBM-Sara ticket. As they say — all politics are local. And dirty and duplicitous!

But Alvarez's statements twisting the knife on Ping Lacson needs to be read in full as a classic nauseating example not only of his person, his political party but also reflecting what is wrong with politics in the country. "Partido Reporma has always sought to represent the better ideals in politics, mindful of the limitations imposed by a far from perfect world, but faithful to the aim of attaining good governance — through reform — as its constant guiding north star. xxx... There is no doubt that, after a thorough search, we found a once in a generation candidate, a rare gem (Lacson) who devoted his entire life to exceptional public service, risked life, and limb for his countrymen, cleaned the ranks of the police force when he led that institution, fought against corruption, and advocated consistently and credibly for good governance." Now he speaks with forked tongue and sings hosannas to Leni whom he once described as "dumb and a traitor," calling for her impeachment.

There are other political parties waiting on the sidelines trying to divine whom the political gods will favor. One of the older ones is the Nacionalista Party (NP), funded by the real estate magnate Manny Villar who propelled wife Cynthia to number one winning senator in the elections of 2013, with his son conveniently ensconced as secretary of the Department of Public Works (DPWH) and Highways in 2016 — now also running for senator.

Another oligarch-funded party is the Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC). It was founded as a breakaway of the NP adopting Danding Cojuangco for his presidential run in 1992. Danding's protegee and now head of his own conglomerate, Ramon Ang, funds NPC. They have not indicated their preference yet but like the Iglesia ni Kristo (INK), they make a last-minute endorsement on the winning candidate.

All these political parties decide on supporting the patron that best serves their own self-interest with nary a consideration for the welfare of the citizenry. They may be partisans on candidates running for office. But once the victor emerges, they flock to his banner — thus continuing the traditional political practices in the country. Unless this dysfunctional system is changed, the country will not move forward. But there are political parties that may prove to be different from the herd. These are those that go through the pain of their decision-making process and thus take responsibility for their choices.

Next week: The Centrist Democratic Party (CDP), et al.

Read 601 times Last modified on Wednesday, 30 March 2022 11:33
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