Centrist agenda for BBM: Institutionalize real political parties

Centrist agenda for BBM: Institutionalize real political parties Featured

Last of 3 parts

LAST week's article touched upon the revisions of the 1987 Cory Constitution toward a parliamentary government, among others. A case was made briefly differentiating between our current presidential versus parliamentary systems, also known as political party government. Empirical data suggests parliamentary systems do better for the citizenry economically than presidential ones. In fact, 60 percent to 70 percent of the economically and politically successful countries in the world are parliamentary governments — arguably the more superior system. Presidential systems, like that of the Philippines, rank among the poorest and less developed in the world.

But for parliamentary government to work well, putting in place real political parties is a must. It is unfortunate that such political parties do not exist in the Philippines. But the Centrist Democrats (CD) have been working with the Congress for decades to pass laws to develop political parties. It has not succeeded. But we are counting that the new BBM government, gleaned from the pronouncements of the Bongbong himself, may be successful in introducing much needed political reforms. A parliamentary form of government preferred by his father was written in the 1973 Marcos Constitution, before it was replaced by a revolutionary constitution and later, the 1987 Constitution of President Cory Aquino.

Political parties — what we have

Prior to his ascent to power, Ferdinand Marcos, and his martial law regime, governments had been dominated by two political parties — the Liberal and Nacionalista — different faces of the same coin. These two old groupings were the closest the Philippines ever had to a two-party system until Marcos, a member of both parties at certain times, imposed martial law in 1972 and President Cory Aquino, who did not believe in political parties, and detested everything Marcos, subsequently allowed the proliferation of a multiparty system in her 1987 Constitution. Since then, the subsequent administrations of FVR, Erap, GMA, PNoy and Duterte were characterized by elective officials jumping from one political party to another in a bizarre game of political musical chairs unflinching of their ideological underpinnings and platform of government, the primary consideration being their share of manna that flows down from the powerful office of the Philippine presidency — the hallmark of our traditional political practices.

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

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 resources makes almost all of the party decisions, especially with regard to those slated to run for elective positions; the party central/executive committees are usually manned by presidential 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 the 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 interests, thus perpetuating the existing flawed political institutions. These are our aberrant political parties. They need to be transformed into real political parties as a harbinger of a truly working parliamentary government.

Political parties — what we want

Excerpts of my past columns on political party development:

"In more modern developed countries, political parties are the 'sine qua non' of a vibrant democracy. They are not vessels for personal electoral survival and perpetuation in power of dynastic political families. They exist because the citizenry, the wellspring and final arbiter of political power, have diverse issues and concerns that need to be articulated and amplified to a wider political domain. Political parties must provide them with real choices.

"Political parties are the primary vehicles to gain political power by engaging themselves in political contests, primarily elections. The members and their leadership are expected to adhere to a set of principles and strategies written in a platform unique to that party. This espousal of a vision of governance defines the ideological identity of that party — and therefore, the electorate must be permitted a patent choice — as to who must govern them based on what the candidates and their respective parties stand for."

President-elect BBM who is hammering out a supermajority government could persuade his allies in both houses of Congress to institute political reforms immediately, in parallel with constitutional revision initiatives. These reforms are achievable through the passing of the proposed Political Party Development and Financing Act (a bill that has been pending in Congress for several years) which will:

1. Penalize "turncoatism" (or the switching of political parties, "balimbing," "political butterfly") and expulsion from elective public offices and party membership if their acts are deemed inimical to party principles.

2. Enforce transparent mechanisms providing and regulating campaign financing to eliminate corruption and patronage (corporate and individual contributions).

3. Institute strict state subsidy that will professionalize political parties by supporting their political education and campaign initiatives (currently done in European countries).

...Then constitutional revisions

The four administrations following the President Cory regime took two years each before seeking to initiate changes in the 1987 Constitution. FVR's Pirma, Erap's Concord, GMA's 2005 ConCom and Duterte's 2018 ConCom were initiated late in their administration giving the enemies of change and champions of the status quo time to marshal their forces against such enterprises.

FVR's was opposed by Cory and Cardinal Sin; Erap was taken out of office before he could mount a momentum; GMA, beset with her election anomalies and scandals, was openly opposed by her erstwhile allies in the Senate; ditto Duterte, prompting him to "drop the ball" for constitutional revisions and political reforms.

It could be different this time with BBM. Armed with a fresh mandate of a majority vote never before seen since his father Makoy's 1969 election, and inheritor of the elder Ferdinand's legacy of a parliamentary government aborted by Cory through the EDSA People Power Revolution, it is logical for the son to go full circle — abrogate the 1987 Cory Constitution, the fertile soil upon which the many systemic ills of our country sprung forth. Perhaps Ferdinand Makoy's vision of a New Society will be realized through the son's ascendancy after all.

Read 884 times Last modified on Wednesday, 08 June 2022 11:57
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