The Political Party Development Bill, Senate Bill 2610

The Political Party Development Bill, Senate Bill No. 2610, sponsored by Senator Edgardo Angara, seeks to establish a Party Development Fund to support accredited political parties for their party development and campaign expenditures.

It also aims to penalize political turncoats—elected officials who switch party affiliations after being elected on a certain ticket.

Angara explained in his sponsorship speech that the country’s political party system was “seriously flawed” because its existence hinged on “moneyed personalities—the people who can finance campaigns and help pay for the party.”

This, he said, prompt the mass exodus of politicians and other candidates toward the winning or ruling party because “the largesse and patronage are there.”

Angara called for deep reforms in the political party system in the light of renewed trust in public officials following the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona.

“Our politics remains very bad, breeding poor governance and corruption that stifles the delivery of public services. This is because the structure of our politics, especially of our political party system, is flawed.” Angara said

The country’s political system truly remains “weak and personality-oriented rather than based on ideology, program and platform.” Thus, turncoats are a common sight especially when election period is nearing.

Angara seeks to impose penalties on political promiscuity.

The penalties of Turncoatism range from disqualification to prevention from:

• Running for office immediately upon change of party affiliation
• Being appointed to any government office within 3 years of the end of his term
• Assuming any position in the new party

Interestingly enough had a similar bill been in effect since liberation, the first penalty would have prevented the election of 4 of the past 13 presidents (starting from Quezon):

• Roxas (1946-1948) bolted from the Nacionalista Party to establish the Liberal Party
• Magsaysay (1953-1957) bolted from Liberal to Nacionalista
• Marcos (1965-1986) bolted from Liberal to Nacionalista
• Ramos (1992-1998), as pointed out by Raissa, bolted from LDP to form Partido Lakas Tao

The term Turncoatism has origins in civil wars when opposing armies wore coats of different colors and renegades changed loyalties. It does not really apply to politics here because the colors of the coats of the mainstream political parties have been monochromatic. There is no betrayal of principles involved, only betrayal of affiliation.

Another point of interest is that the 4 presidents succeeding Marcos have been elected under alliances or coalitions of parties:

• Aquino mere won under Laurel’s UNIDO.
• Ramos won under Lakas-CMD
• Estrada won under LAMMP
• Arroyo won under Lakas Kampi CMD

This fact points to the weakening of parties from the pre-Marcos dichotomy of Nacionalista and Liberal. The weakening itself is symptomatic of the absence of ideologies.

Ironically, the Party List system, which was intended to encourage agenda-based politics, has further fragmented the structure of parties. Rather it has encouraged the formation of an alphabetical soup of parties .

By discouraging turncoatism, the Angara bill should strengthen parties and encourage them to develop comprehensive platforms. Intelligent voters should demand that parties define themselves by agenda which would include:

• Statements of Principles
• Enumeration of issues they consider important to the nation
• Prioritization of these issues
• Specific details of legislation to address those issues

Political parties can then be judged in successive elections by their accountability and fidelity to espoused principles and programs.

If the Bill passes, it will be interesting to see how the parties try to establish ideological distinction. Any federalist platforms, I wonder (akin to American Republicans); or centralized (Democratic). The first party out with a clear platform (statement of principles; issues) will have an advantage, I think.

The Bill penalizes individual politicians for changing affiliations but it does not consider the possibility of parties changing affiliations within coalitions. Not sure if this is an issue but it should be looked at.

This Political Party Development Bill could also be the political joke of the Decade inflicted on Filipino voters.

However, as cynical as it may seem, it will be more credible, the “audacity of hope” if the bill’s title is “Philippine Political Party Rehab Bill Of 2012,” or “Instituting Discipline in Philippine Political Parties” otherwise it can turned out to be the law of fools, by fools and for fools. Anyway, PNoy can always veto the joke, if they over ride, PNoy’s bosses can always over ride the fools vote by voting them out of office.

Reasons?

ONE REASON WILL PROBABLY SUFFICE:

In the animal kingdom, our taxonomy is homo sapiens, but our dominant mutants (to be kind to them) which infest politics belong to the order Lepidoptera.

I sense that the Bill sponsors are genuinely concerned about how to get from personality based, moneyed allegiances for the parties, to dedicated ideals and real platforms. The Bill has to go through an amendment hopper, so until it is done, maybe it is best not to slap the labels “fools” or “joke” on it.

After the language is set, let us read it again and slap whatever label we find appropriate. I find the attitude that the Philippines is screwed up to be tiresome. The past is the past and the future is what we make of it.

We are Homo sapiens. Sapiens is a Latin word for Wise.

As wise men, when there is a problem, we do not accept the status quo. We look for alternatives. We look for solutions.

Lepidoptera encompasses moths and butterflies…… Hence the phrase “political butterfly.”

If the order Lepidoptera infests and rules the current political environment, let the Homo sapiens spray them with insecticide. Otherwise, what are we here for?

We must believe and act as if the impossible were possible.

The Political Party Development Bill will attempt to address the tendencies of political parties in the Philippines to align according to personality, money and favors. It is supposed to wean the political parties away from private funding in favor of public funding. At least Congress is aware of the problem with the current fluid party structure, and recognizes the need for more ideals-based governance, rather than horse or favor trading.

Until we get past third world status economically speaking, I don’t think we can create political parties with clearly defined ideologies and platforms.

Our political elite know this, but they’d rather stick with the status quo since it’s easier to manage and easier to survive.

When majority of your voting population are below middle income (with the corresponding educational attainment) creating political parties with well defined philosophies is just too much. (e.g. in the US, Republican vs Democrat economics are well defined and vastly different. But who has the capacity to formulate that and understand it here? Not many. )

Most Filipinos, until they improve economically, will always look to politicians as convenient sources of immediate support. Their capabilities to govern and implement programs are a secondary criteria.

Our best option is still to choose the best person- using Robredo’s “matino at mahusay” criteria. Tao-tao talaga.

About pinoytekkie

News from the Philippines
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