THE WORM’S EYEVIEW: Without formal parties, it’s just ukay-ukay politics

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/19 September) — It’s still early for the 2016 presidential elections to be heating up but quite late for establishing the necessary conditions for a decent electoral exercise as befits the first democracy established in all of Asia. That same year the new Bangsamoro regional government also hopes to hold its first elections.

How nice all of this would be if all the action could take place with a sense of structure or of process—meaning, at least a modicum of formality in qualifying or screening candidates.

But no one even talks of evolving a credible mechanism for nominating anyone for any office. What we call a political system isn’t really a system; there’s just no system—none for national office, none for Mindanao, none for Bangsamoro!

And those that claim to be real parties don’t sound like they know what they’re talking about; nor do they act like they know the role or function of a party in a democracy.

Look closely and see if they even have the most basic thing that characterizes a party—a group organized with real people as members, with a common set of principles binding them, and a platform that commits them to turn into reality once in power.

It doesn’t help that we have a Commission on Elections that readily accredits any group claiming to be a party—without bothering to ascertain the validity of such claim or indeed whether it has members.

What in fact is a political party? It’s an association of leaders and responsible citizens who wish to establish a government according to a set of ideals, principles, or platforms by fielding a slate of candidates dedicated to the realization of same.

Its role is akin to that of a seminary or a madrasah in the life of Christians or Muslims: each one is to the Church as a political party is to the State. Just as a seminary or madrasah trains acolytes to be priests, imams, or evangelizers to preach and promote the faith, so does a political party train its members to advance democracy and the interests of the Republic through good governance.

Note how political parties in mature democracies maintain an institute or training center for members and candidates alike—complete with faculty, classrooms, library, party literature, and assorted courses of both the theoretical and the applied variety.

In our case, while it’s not absolutely necessary to establish a Party Institute, there has to be a political education program—through seminars, workshops, or teach-ins—to train and develop a cadre of the party faithful, to recruit members, to organize chapters, to nominate candidates, to carry or propagate the Party’s message, and to fight for its causes.

Unfortunately, our so-called parties aren’t particular about principles or platforms. They don’t even bother with requirements for membership except—in most cases—financial capability and willingness to spend big for elections. Does any so-called party member even bother to cite any party stand or platform as basis for proposing, supporting, or rejecting a policy or proposal?

And look if they have members or chapters; if any, they’re vested interest, either incumbents or previous losers wanting to get back in; and no plain citizens, whom they don’t bother recruiting.

In fact, a party will usually be organized to operate at every level of the electorate: barangay, municipal, provincial, national—each chapter geared to address issues or needs of its level: barangay tends to its neighborhoods and the empowerment of its residents; municipal to its barangays, provincial to its municipalities, national to the regions and provinces. All this in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity.

A party would define its short, medium, and long term objectives for the level of development it purports to bring about. And it would have a process for recruiting, qualifying, or screening candidates that aspire to carry them through.

Not least, it would have a formal nominating process—usually by holding a convention of delegates—and a proclamation of both the chosen candidates and the convention-ratified platform.

Vice President Jejomar Binay has been talking of forming a new party; what’s taking him so long? Is he pondering the foregoing requirements and rationale for his new party? How will it nominate him and the rest of his team?

The absence of such protocols at present betrays the fakery of the alleged parties—which are largely financed and controlled by entrenched traditional politicians.

That being the case, one wonders how the nation’s destiny will unfold as we sail into the waters of the ASEAN Economic Integration.

Manny is former UNESCO regional director for Asia-Pacific; secretary-general, Southeast Asia Publishers Association; director, development academy of Philippines; member, Philippine Mission to the UN; vice chair, Local Government Academy; member, Cory Govt’s Peace Panel; awardee, PPI-UNICEF outstanding columnist. He is president/national convenor, Gising Barangay Movement Inc.