THINK TALK: Reviving the Anti-Turncoatism Bill: A Poor Priority

MATALAM, North Cotabato (MindaNews / 5 August) — Former President and now Representative of the 2nd congressional district of Pampanga, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, has filed anew the Anti-Turncoatism bill in the House of Representatives. The bill seeks to prohibit so-called political butterflies or politicians who switch political affiliations before, during, or immediately after elections.

In the bill’s explanatory note, Rep. Arroyo said, “Our history tells us that political parties in the Philippines are normally used only as political vehicles to win an election. Hence, most political aspirants change political parties for convenience rather than because of conviction.”

A similar bill dubbed “Anti-Balimbing” (Senate Bill No. 3214) which was co-authored by the late Sen Edgardo J. Angara and Sen. Jinggoy Estrada has been pending in the Senate since 2012. Sen. Angara expressed the opinion that the present multi-party system is confusing and encourages turncoatism. Since party alliances are allowed it is easy for any politician to switch to the political party in power. As a result, political loyalty or adherence to political ideology and conviction is not the guiding principle of the turncoats but partisan interest.

Both bills seek to impose stiffer penalties for turncoats and to prevent them from running under their new political party in the election immediately succeeding such transfer. They are likewise prohibited from holding public positions under their new party.

Both bills also seek to put up a Political Development Fund (PDF – sounds like PDAF) which will supplement the operating funds of accredited political parties for party development and campaign expenditures. While I have not read the full text of both bills, I am assuming that the PDF shall come from public funds appropriated for the purpose, otherwise, it is not logical to call it supplemental funds to the party’s operating funds if these money come from the same private source either in the form of donations and/or those put up by the individual candidates belonging to the same political party.

This is ridiculous as taxpayers are now duped into financing the political activities of candidates regardless of whether they like the political aspirants or not. This unnecessary spending of public funds for an exercise that is supposed to be private and borne by the candidates is immoral especially at a time that the country is reeling from the aftermath of excessive borrowings intended to curb the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the economy, more particularly, business closures and labor displacement.

What we would like to see now is a Congress that prioritizes the expenditure of public funds on more urgent matters like the passage of priority measures proposed by PBBM (Pres. Bongbong Marcos) during his first State of the Nation Address on July 25, 2022 to support his administration’s development agenda.

Ten of the President’s 19 proposed legislative measures have something to do with economic reforms and expediting the country’s economic recovery. They are: 1) National government right-sizing, 2) Budget modernization, 3) Tax valuation reform, 4) Passive income and financial taxation, 5) Government financial assistance to distress enterprises for economic recovery, 6) Enactment of enabling law for the natural gas industry, 7) Amendment to the Electric Power Industry Reform Act, 8) e-Commerce law, 9) e-Government act, and 10) Amendment to the build-operate-transfer law.

One of the requisites of pump-priming the economy is a sound fiscal management which include, among others, rational spending especially those that give high rate of return at shorter payback period. Political reform, while it may be necessary, is not a high priority at this point in time.

What the country needs now are statesmen who will put country first above self-serving political interests.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Maugan P. Mosaid holds a doctorate degree in rural development. He is a freelance writer, planning consultant, and teaches Statistics and Methods of Research in the graduate school. He can be contacted at mauganmosaid6@gmail.com)