CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/21 June)–Our political parties don’t have focus on their role in a democracy or discipline in their participation in government.
It’s appalling that party politics remain primitive after all the years they have participated in electoral exercises since the country’s independence.
Efforts at reform, even the idea of a Third Party, were tried but none succeeded. If at all, they hardly succeeded in setting the course of national or local policy, or governance. Nor have they developed sophistication and relevance.
For instance, what differentiates the Liberals and Nacionalistas and the rest of the groups that make up the alphabet soup that claim to be parties?
They’re all the same, all consisting of traditional politicians. Trapos with dubious provenance. No coherent platform, no nominating procedure, no qualifications on which to base a nomination, no convention to choose decent standard bearers.
To this day, party welfare yields to personal convenience. They make politics candidate-centered and bastardize governance. So the party’s collective impact or influence is minimal.
If the party wins, it’s the head honcho who’s celebrated and reaps the spoils of victory. It’s why they’re filthy rich and why the rest of the country is dirt-poor.
Since it’s the candidate and not the party that decides, organizes, or finances the campaign, it’s a highly personal system. The party relies on the godfather-financier personally, officially, and organizationally for its existence and support.
As a result, chances are nil that Philippine politics will ever revolve around ideas or platforms anytime soon. It will remain a captive of political entrepreneurs—wealthy people who invest in politics in hopes of reaping big pay-offs.
Unfortunately, this also means our society is not likely to see real statesmen represent it at home or abroad in the foreseeable future.
We are condemned to suffer the rule of charlatans and martinets who confuse governance with play-acting, grandstanding, even spectacular boxing. President Pacquiao?
We are bound to have more ineffectual slogans like Matuwid na Daan. And inane party labels like Kabalikat ng Bayan sa Kaunlaran Party (Kabaka) or Puwersa ng Masa (PMP). They’ll vie for public office but signify nothing except greed and ambition, and do nothing except wallow in graft and corruption.
That they have adherents and supporters who don’t even bother to learn what their ersatz “party” believes in or stands for is a measure of their substance or relevance and lack of either.
More’s the pity that, unlike political parties elsewhere, especially in Europe, the Filipino’s highly personalistic and dynastic system won’t serve an educational purpose, not even to educate or edify their largely undereducated adherents.
In the U.S. and Europe, they have party institutes for members, even non-members, with educational programs on politics, governance, statecraft. They have platform committees, eliciting from members as well as non-members inputs or suggestions for inclusion in the official party platform. Then they debate and approve the proffered platforms and programs either in caucuses or conventions—and publish them. It is a measure of their sense of relevance and intent to make their mark on society.
But all this is lost on our own politicians in their narrow-minded, candidate-centered ways. They don’t seem to know that a party is meant to serve society, that party members are supposed to act according to their party’s wishes, or speak out according to its tenets, principles, or platforms, to observe discipline and parliamentary decorum.
So they don’t bother with party organizing or build-up. They have no members at the grassroots; anyone can run under the party’s label; no one bothers about formalities or party discipline.
Such standard practices are not taken seriously—the result of having no internal discipline or group loyalty. They just come and go at will or even violate the laws with impunity.
No wonder they have scofflaws even at the highest levels. Where in the world would or can a senator escape charges and arrest by decamping, disappearing from the scene for a year, then return and resume his seat in Congress without being asked to explain or justify his absence-without-leave? Ask Ping.
And where else can a military officer train his state-provided weapons against government and his superiors, threaten the president, mount an unsuccessful rebellion—and then be rewarded with a senate seat? Ask Gringo or Sonny!
Is there any party around that has a policy against supporting coup plotters who challenge civilian supremacy?
Fact is, our politicos seem clueless about civilized standards of governance. They seem unaware that a political party provides quality-control for the task of staffing of government and of moderating their conduct as officials.
But what do they do? They pollute the bureaucracy with venal grafters, thieves, and scofflaws!
In other words, they are a disgrace. They are liabilities and a menace to our republic. As such they are virtually useless—barriers instead of enablers of democracy and good governance!
Let’s hope the MILF or the Bangsamoro don’t emulate them in organizing their own party!
(Manny is former UNESCO regional director for Asia-Pacific; secretary-general, Southeast Asian Publishers Association; director, Development Academy of the Philippines; member, Permanent Mission to the United Nations; vice chair, Local Government Academy; member, Cory Govt’s Peace Panel; and PPI-UNICEF awardee for outstanding columnist. firstname.lastname@example.org)