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Political party system needs overhaul


It is that time of year again when Philippine politicians prepare to position themselves for the coming political exercise. Instead of helping strengthen their respective political parties, these politicians line up to be accommodated by another party or join a coalition of political parties that they deem would have better chances in the coming elections.

Political opportunism has defined Philippine politics even before Filipinos started to govern themselves. And political turncoats have dominated the country’s political system for decades, the foremost of which was the late President Ferdinand Marcos who bolted the Liberal Party in 1965 to challenge his party leader, then incumbent President Diosdado Macapagal, for the presidency that he won handily.

Marcos himself abolished the two-party system in the Philippines when he declared martial law and established a one-party system under the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL). With the demise of the two established parties, new political groupings emerged for the snap elections of 1986 and the subsequent elections in the post-Marcos era. The 1987 Constitution failed to reestablish a two-party political mechanism.

Now we have a multitude of political parties that are barely distinguishable from one another in terms of political platform and agenda. This chaotic state of political party system became evident in all the post-Marcos presidential elections when at least seven serious candidates belonging to different parties and coalitions vied in each poll, resulting in the election of four minority presidents, national leaders that were chosen by less than 50 percent of the voters.

Political opportunism has again surfaced the past few weeks with politicians positioning themselves for inclusion in the tickets of major political coalitions. In this kind of political environment, it is not surprising that enemies become friends, and allies become protagonists, at least for the coming elections.

Such is the case with the political coalition that Vice President Jejomar Binay is forming, the United Nationalist Alliance, and for that matter, the coalition that the camp of President Aquino would soon be forming.

Binay’s UNA is considering the following cacophony of personalities: former Sen. Jose Miguel Zubiri, Zambales Rep. Mitos Magsaysay, Cebu Gov. Gwen Garcia, all from Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s Lakas-CMD; San Juan Rep. JV Ejercito of Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP); businessman Joey de Venecia and Cagayan Rep. Jack Enrile, both of PDP-Laban; Sen. Gregorio Honasan, an independent; and possibly, Sen. Koko Pimentel, of PDP=Laban who is reluctant to join Zubiri in UNA.

Zubiri, who was the subject of protest by Pimentel until he resigned last year, has joined former President Joseph Estrada’s Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino while Magsaysay has joined the PDP-Laban.

The Liberal Party is trying to woo Pimentel and some NP members. The Nacionalista Party, according to Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, will field its own senatorial slate next year to include Cayetano, Rep. Cynthia Villar and Rep. Robert Ace Barbers, who clarified that the NP is willing to enter into a coalition with other parties.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said LP is going to field its own candidates, possibly in coalition with other parties.
Seeking reelection next year are Cayetano, Honasan, Pimentel, Loren Legarda, Francis Escudero and Antonio Trillanes IV. Cayetano and Legarda would probably run under NP, Escudero under LP, and Trillanes, unknown as of this writing.

The National Unity Party, which was formed by former Lakas-CMD leaders, said it would coalesce with other parties and possibly field Governor Gwen Garcia, Pasig City Rep. Roman Romulo, and Nueva Ecija Rep. Rodolfo Antonino, the party president.

It will definitely be a clash among multiple coalitions in 2013, as evidenced by the wheeling-and-dealing going on.
But as all coalitions, these are but temporary alliances. As soon as the election is over, expect these same politicians to align themselves with other political parties and coalitions, based on their personal agendas and interests. When the presidential elections come in 2016, expect at least seven political parties vying for the presidential post once again.

The instability of these political coalitions reflects, and contributes to, the instability of the country’s political system. Because these parties were formed primarily for the self-aggrandizement of its founders and leaders, they are devoid of ideology and platform of government.

There lies the problem with not having parties based on ideals or principles. Because they are based on the self-serving agenda of the leaders, parties tend to change platforms depending on what can win them votes at the time, or what can be advantageous to their own objectives. The needs of the people that they are supposed to serve are often overlooked. And because the members join the parties not because of the party’s ideals and principles, there is no loyalty on their part and they become political butterflies, moving from one party to another in the same manner that parties move from one coalition to another.

If the parties and the party members cannot be loyal to their own ideals or their own parties, how can they be expected to be loyal to the people?
To build a more stable political system, the Philippines’ political leaders will have to reassess their stand on important issues and ideologies, organize strong parties based on these ideals and principles, and impose rigid party discipline to strengthen their political foundation. This is what Senate Bill 3214, otherwise known as The Political Party Development Act, filed by Sen. Edgardo Angara, hopes to achieve. This bill seeks to punish political butterflies (turncoats) and at the same time establish a state subsidy fund for accredited political parties.

Hopefully, with parties based on clear platforms and principles, the country’s political system will be stabilized, and the foundation laid for the building of a truly strong republic, one that is cognizant of the general wellbeing of the people.

by Val G. Abelgas

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