WORM’S EYEVIEW: Why we need a proper, honest-to-goodness party system

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/20 June) – Democracy needs a proper political party system, not just a semblance of one, and certainly not the make-believe, dishonest variety of parties that run rampant in our society today.

A political party is a public institution that serves multiple tasks for democracy, elections, governance, legitimacy of government, and a host of other responsibilities.

Political parties help organize the democratic order and its rules of engagement in a peaceable way, providing the citizenry a menu of political ideas, proposals, and tasks to choose from: also known as its platform or program of government.

They help systematize the competition for attaining power and exercise control of society’s resources, human and non-human. This they do by taking part in democratic elections, doing so by picking worthy personalities or leaders from among so many possible candidates.

Political parties also make it easier for the electorate to exercise sovereignty and the right of suffrage. They recruit, screen, qualify, and nominate candidates—an exacting task if done properly. Doing so helps unify the citizenry according to their preferences, enabling them to choose whom to support.

A proper political party is a ready ally of a voter or group of voters, bringing together groups, sectors, ideologies, institutions. And they provide moderation in cases of conflict among the groups, having issues debated, and resolving them according to civilized norms.

Parties also help voters decide whom to support or vote for by formulating or providing platforms that purport to reflect people’s concerns, which then becomes a basis for judging whether it deserves to be supported or voted in.

Victory at the polls is the ultimate confirmation of the validity of a party’s platform. It then becomes that party’s task to see that the voters’ preferences or its platform are hammered out into policies, programs, and projects of the government. Ultimately, the extent to which the party succeeds in this task becomes the basis for the citizenry to decide whether it deserves to stay in office or not.

All the foregoing, and more, are at play in a proper, honest-to-goodness party system.

So a question arises: Are the so-called political parties that are rabidly engaged in power games and headline-grabbing today bona fide political parties? Not a by a long shot!

They’re really just make-believe parties. Except for one or two, they have no proper platform or program of government that they make known or abide by. Whatever they have, they don’t even bother to publish, distribute, or propagate. It’s as if they’re trade secrets, not meant to be shared.

A make-believe party is by definition a fraudulent party. It’s more likely a group organized for the personal convenience of a few or even of one power-hungry trapo or man oligarch. It really is a form of scam, foisting upon the public a false claim like a fish-bait to trap naive votes that will catapult an ambitious but undeserving candidate to office.

This explains their lack of credibility or honor. It’s no wonder so many of them are embroiled in scandal and corruption. Lack of credibility in turn accounts for the deep cynicism that has built up among our electorate—spawning a culture of corruption in our society.

In the past, it required a party caucus to decide who shall run for office and under what terms, then present his name for ratification in an open convention.

Does any party today ever hold a caucus among its members? But then, how can they? They don’t have members except a few bankrollers who call the shots!

Integrity, loyalty, or principle are not even factors in anointing candidates today; just money, a well-oiled campaign machinery, popularity, and gimmickry. All this is summarized in one word: winnability; never mind if he’s empty-headed, has a scandalous life-style.

Any grouping that lacks a social contract binding its members to serve and serve honorably is not fit for leadership. There is no guarantee that they have principles, ideas, or proposals for the betterment of society or the nation. Also, one cannot be sure if they’ll perform as promised, or even that they will be faithful and not betray their oath of office.

To support any of these so-called parties therefore is to place the fate of the public’s trust on the block. They should be made to show their mettle, their worth, their relevance.

Let them pronounce themselves on the burning issues of the day and prove that they are bona fide political parties. And if their leaders claim to be authentic—not just dealers of political nonsense—let them cite the process by which they were chosen.

Do they have members, dues-paying members, and chapters? Do they hold caucuses, consultations, nominating conventions? What do they consider as the burning issues facing the nation and what do they propose to do about them?

A real party addresses real issues and states its stand on same. Unless they state their position, no one can rely on them, no way to determine how loyal or devoted they will be to our republic, and there is no telling whether they will betray the public trust. Some of them may already be traitors—as the outcome of the Pork Barrel Scam will show!

Manny is former UNESCO regional director for Asia-Pacifi;, secretary-general, Southeast Asian Publishers Association; director, development academy of 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. valdehuesa@gmail.com