Home Agenda Centrist agenda for BBM: institutionalize real political parties

Centrist agenda for BBM: institutionalize real political parties


Last of 3 parts

LAST week’s article discussed, among other things, revisions to Cory’s 1987 Constitution toward parliamentary government. A case was presented briefly differentiating between our current presidential and parliamentary systems, also known as political party government. Empirical evidence suggests that parliamentary systems do better for citizens economically than presidential systems. In fact, 60-70% of the economically and politically successful countries in the world have parliamentary governments – arguably the most superior system. Presidential systems, like that of the Philippines, rank among the poorest and least developed in the world.

But for parliamentary government to work well, the establishment of real political parties is essential. It is regrettable that such political parties do not exist in the Philippines. But the Center Democrats (CD) have worked with Congress for decades to pass laws to grow political parties. He did not succeed. But we trust that the new BBM government, drawn from statements by Bongbong himself, may succeed in introducing much-needed political reforms. A parliamentary form of government favored by his father was written into the Marcos Constitution of 1973, later replaced by a groundbreaking constitution and later President Cory Aquino’s 1987 Constitution.

Political parties — what we have

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Prior to his rise to power, Ferdinand Marcos, and his regime of martial law, governments were dominated by two political parties – the Liberal and the Nacionalista – different sides of the same coin. These two former groupings were the closest the Philippines had ever had to a two-party system until Marcos, a member of both parties at times, imposed martial law in 1972 and President Cory Aquino, who did not believe political parties and hated everything. Marcos, subsequently authorized the proliferation of a multi-party system in his 1987 Constitution. Since then, subsequent administrations of FVR, Erap, GMA, PNoy and Duterte have been characterized by elected officials jumping from political party to political party. each other in a bizarre game of political musical chairs without flinching on their ideological underpinnings and platform of government, the main consideration being their share of the windfall that flows from the powerful office of the Philippine presidency – the hallmark of our traditional political practices .

This convoluted practice, an almost exclusively Filipino phenomenon, is derided as the “political butterfly” syndrome. In this context, changing political parties is like chameleons changing skin color superficially. It is the description of a lack of ideological perspective and of politicians bereft of a moral compass anchored in patent opportunism. These defections rage on the changing winds of political fortunes and are made purely for political survival. Few politicians have the temerity to remain affiliated by principles and values. They are an endangered species.

Almost all political parties in the Philippines are structured in a way that closely follows the age-old patronage system. The boss (in this case the incumbent president) who provides the resources makes almost all the decisions of the party, in particular with regard to the candidates for elective positions; party central/executive committees are usually composed of presidential allies and subordinates; and there are no real year-round party offices and activities, except during election periods.

Invariably, political parties do not have a single, consistent set of beliefs that distinguishes them from each other; at most they utter maternal slogans and declarations that pass for political doctrines. Their political agenda is, predictably, geared towards preserving the prerogatives of elected members, ensuring the continued accrual of privileges and privileges for themselves, their families, and their allies. Individual programs and family interests necessarily take precedence over the collective assessment of the needs of society by a political party. And once given the privilege to govern, public policies are instituted on the fly emanating from the framework of traditional political practices, their understanding of national issues seen subjectively through the prism of personal and family interests, thus perpetuating the weak existing political institutions. These are our aberrant political parties. They must be transformed into real political parties, heralding a truly functional parliamentary government.

Political parties – what we want

Excerpts from my past columns on the development of political parties:

“In more modern developed countries, political parties are the sine qua non of a vibrant democracy. They are not vehicles for personal electoral survival and the perpetuation in power of dynastic political families. They exist because citizens , the source and final arbiter of political power, have diverse issues and concerns that need to be articulated and amplified in the larger political realm, and political parties need to offer them real choices.

“Political parties are the primary vehicles for gaining political power by engaging in political competitions, primarily elections. Members and their leaders are expected to adhere to a set of principles and strategies written in a single platform to This membership in a governance vision defines the ideological identity of this party – and therefore the electorate must have the right to demonstrably choose – as to who should govern them depending on what the candidates and their respective parties defend”.

President-elect BBM, who is forging a supermajority government, could persuade his allies in both houses of Congress to institute political reforms immediately, alongside constitutional review initiatives. These reforms are achievable through passage of the Political Party Development and Financing Bill (a bill that has been pending in Congress for several years) which:

1. Penalize “turnaround” (or political party switching, “balimbing”, “political butterflying”) and expulsion from elective public office and party membership if their acts are deemed contrary to the principles of the left.

2. Apply transparent mechanisms providing and regulating campaign finance to eliminate corruption and clientelism (corporate and individual contributions).

3. Institute a strict state subsidy that will professionalize political parties by supporting their political education and campaigning initiatives (which is currently being done in European countries).

…Then the constitutional revisions

The four administrations that followed President Cory’s regime took two years each before seeking to initiate changes to the 1987 Constitution. FVR’s Pirma, Erap’s Concord, GMA’s ConCom 2005 and Duterte’s ConCom 2018 were launched late in their administration, giving enemies of change and champions of the status quo time to rally their forces against such endeavors.

FVR was opposed by Cory and Cardinal Sin; Erap was removed from his position before he could rise to power; GMA, plagued by its electoral anomalies and scandals, was openly opposed by its former allies in the Senate; idem Duterte, encouraging him to “drop” constitutional revisions and political reforms.

It might be different this time with BBM. Armed with a new mandate of a majority vote not seen since the election of his father Makoy in 1969, and heir to the elder Ferdinand’s legacy of parliamentary government aborted by Cory in the People Power Revolution of EDSA, it makes sense for the son to come full circle — repeal the 1987 Cory Constitution, the fertile soil upon which our nation’s many systemic ills have arisen. Perhaps Ferdinand Makoy’s vision of a new society will come true after all thanks to the ascendancy of the son.

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