THE WORM’S EYEVIEW: Good parties assure good governance

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CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/30 December) — There’s talk already of a Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Party a-forming. Let’s hope they’re going about it properly, that it’s going to be a real honest-to-goodness political party.

By that I mean a party with real members, dues-paying members, not money-grubbing partisans, not-subsidy-seeking followers, and certainly not blood-thirsty campaigners who don’t accept election defeat as a possible outcome of a campaign. There’s been too much of these in Moroland.

By party I also mean a free and open association of Bangsamoro citizens—with democratic governing principles and platforms and programs, and appropriate mechanisms and processes that affirm equality, build consensus and solidarity, and not divide and conquer, nor dominate and rule, nor shut anyone out arbitrarily.

Otherwise, what difference can it make for the new region? Might as well keep the status quo and save the trouble of even trying to organize one.

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Meanwhile, the 2016 national elections are due about 17 months from now. But all we see are the same tiresome faces and posturing personalities who think and act as if they have exclusive rights to politics.

There’s one in Davao with an emerging following but he thinks he can rule alone, along with his dynasty of course, and be the good dictator that Marcos never was.

If we had genuine political parties, our choices wouldn’t be so dismal. The prospects wouldn’t be so bleak; especially now with 100 Million Filipinos to choose from.

If we had real parties, at about this time there would already be caucuses and initiatives aimed at consolidating, activating, or expanding party rank and file, as well as allow quality leaders to enter the playing field.

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At about this time also, aspiring party members would be vying for support in getting themselves nominated by a convention of their peers and fellow party members. There would be more choices.

Unfortunately, we don’t have genuine political parties. And so there are no activities or processes, local or national, that widen the field of choice, or that ferret out still-unknown but promising prospects.

What little activity is taking place today is initiated (and financed) by alleged leaders of make-believe parties. They simulate party activity, mouth appropriate-sounding words, and have press releases issued by paid hacks. Some even hire ghost writers to produce books bearing their name.

Our tolerance of such fakery in politics has encouraged pretentious people to pollute the political environment and bastardize the electoral playing field. People like these give politics a bad name, turning off sensible people, making cynics out of idealists.

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Still, no one does anything about it, not even the Commission on Elections. No one rids the system of this political pollution. Instead, the Comelec accredits them, licensing them to infest the system.

So we just grin and bear it. We don’t even know what norms or standards Comelec has for accrediting them, if any. Does it require meaningful proof of bona fide status when accrediting such groups? Membership claims, for example: are they verified or ascertained? Are the required to show earnest on efforts to promote their alleged advocacy?

Because of the absence of real political parties, we don’t hear about any plans or schedules for selecting their standard bearers. What qualifies one to be an official candidate? When do they hold a convention?

If they have criteria or standards for candidate selection, people would talk about the ideas, programs, or platforms they intend to sponsor or implement if they win the election; it wouldn’t be just about pretentious personalities.

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It is through such activities and processes that political parties contribute to civic education. They draw voters’ attention to social, economic, and political issues and provoke people to think of the relative merits of ideas, platforms, or programs of government.

Out of such consideration of issues, political education and information exchanges take place. It makes democracy vibrant and participative.

Not only are these processes informative, they help voters decide what’s good or beneficial for the common good. It enables them to make intelligent judgments and wiser insights and opinions—which they can feed the party’s local operatives.

That’s how parties serve the purposes of civic education and good governance. Exposure or involvement in their activities helps people forge intelligent opinions about government acts and decisions.

Not only do political parties give people a chance to influence the substance of public administration, they empower people. Because knowledge is power! Let’s wish the MILF Party builders success!

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. [email protected]

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