COMMENT: Third Force: A Futility (2)

Early last month, Senators Edgardo Angara, Manuel Villar, Ralph Recto, Francis Pangilinan and Joker Arroyo were reported to be considering the formation of a Third Force. But the welcome move soon fizzled out.

The group had the potential of a strong Third Force. Angara is president of the second largest political party in the country, the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP); Villar is head of the Nacionalista Party and has money; Pangilinan is a top official of the Liberal Party. Recto and Arroyo are assets to any political group. As the nucleus, they could invite senatorial timbers like themselves.

Disorganized

According to Angara, the move broke up because they could not reconcile their individual interests. That explained the difficulty of striking an alliance primarily for winning the election that, alone, cannot propel any Third Force.

At the same time, the aborted move showed how disorganized political parties had become. The three parties are national parties. Each could have held a national convention to field complete senate, congressional, and local slates.

Had they wanted to coalesce on the national level, they could have agreed on the mode of representation in the common senate slate for each party to select its candidate. That way they would have become a Third Force against the Arroyo and Estrada forces with regional and local support nationwide.

How organized are the national parties? Angara joined the administration’s TEAM Unity on his own; Recto and Arroyo decided to join the same coalition since they had been invited and they had seen nothing wrong joining it.

Villar, while independently running as a Nacionalista, accepted the invitation of the United Opposition of Estrada to join its Grand Coalition. Pangilinan is running as an Independent, although with the full support of the Liberal Party, Drilon Wing. Without his asking, he has been adopted into the Grand Coalition.

The same can be asked of the Lakas-MCD, Kampi and NPC (Nationalist Peoples Coalition) – the main coalescing parties under Arroyo. President Arroyo had the final say, not the parties. Wasn’t it odd that she could not attend the first meeting of TEAM because she was attending the national convention of Kampi, her own party?

Surprisingly, the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan is fielding a senate slate. Last Sunday, eight had already filed their candidacy. Despite their boast and publicity, the KBL candidates will not make any difference.

Still Needed?

Is a Third Force still needed? Where can it come from?

It is needed to put sanity in the May 14 election and set a model for future elections. In the senatorial race, for instance, the candidates are there primarily to win. So, they cluster around Arroyo and Estrada – the first, having the power, and the second, the popularity to assure them votes.

The two coalitions are so composed that they will likely avoid discussing – despite the need – vital national issues, except the legitimacy of President Arroyo. In anticipation of this, only those who have not called for her to resign were chosen for TEAM Unity.

Some of the candidates are principled. But, what principles bind the coalitions?

In TEAM Unity are congressmen who have wanted to abolish the Senate — making their candidacy a great contradiction – and senators who frustrated the administration’s bid to change the form of government from the presidential to the unicameral-parliamentary – thus, saving the Senate? How can TEAM make a stand on Charter change?

In the Grand Coalition are senators or come-backing senators who prosecuted and defended Estrada during his impeachment. On what moral pretensions can they talk about prevailing corruption, misgovernment, and other issues for which Estrada had been impeached?

In like manner, in TEAM Unity are senators who investigated corruption, irregularities and violations of the Constitution under and by President Arroyo and congressmen who defended her. How can they talk about political and moral reforms in government?

Will the May 14 election be another popularity contest for Arroyo’s survival and Estrada’s revival or for the country’s political stability?

Candidates, not only for Senate but also for the House and the local governments, have to be voted upon according to their positions in vital political, economic and moral issues.

Opposing candidates will likely evade the vital issues that will hurt their patrons. Who will discuss them with the electorate so they can elect only those who sincerely care for national, regional and local interests?

Third Force

In the default by the administration, opposition and existing political parties, vital issues must be discussed with the electorate by a third force or forces coming from the people. The same force or forces must confront candidates with such issues. Properly organized and led, concerned electorate can, by themselves, be the Third Force.

Who will initiate the third force or forces? They are legions: the civil societies; professional, religious, trade, civic organizations; people and non-government organizations.

The call of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines for “Free, Credible Polls” last January 28 was a call for the formation of third forces independent of existing political parties, groups and coalitions.

The “CBCP Letter to the Dioceses and Parishes” was a call to the Catholic laity, especially the BECs (Basic Ecclesial Communities) or GKKs (mga Gagmayong Katilingban Kristiyano) to organize third forces.

The call of the Bishops is not an interference of the Church in the affairs of the State for the people who will organize the third forces are elements of the State. Safeguarding their rights and welfare is safeguarding the State.

The third forces must provide the electorate with lists of candidates for local, district and national positions to elect. They should reject candidates who go to them to seek their endorsement or “blessing”. Selection is according to the candidates’ stand on vital issues, not submission or fawning.

Certain religious sects have been anointing candidates who seek their patronage just weeks before election day. This is not the Third Force we need.

The third forces must guard the votes at all levels starting from the precincts.

Only by default of the people will the Third Force be a futility.

("Comment" is Mr. Patricio P. Diaz’ column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. The Titus Brandsma Media Awards recently honored Mr. Diaz with a "Lifetime Achievement Award" for his "commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator and Peace Advocate." You can reach him at [email protected])

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