Tuesday, May 26, 2009


In Philippine politics, political parties routinely sprout, align, merge, combine or coalesce. Really, there is nothing extraordinary or dynamic about this. It has been the norm in the current political landscape. Rather than serving as platforms for advancing a set ideas of governance political parties are nothing but mere vehicles to propel candidates to public office.

It is no wonder then that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's Kampi party will seal its merger with Fidel Ramos's Lakas on Thursday in preparation for the coming 2010 presidential election. The merger will undoubtedly be seamless as, save for the choice of party standard bearers, there are no substantial differences to hammer out. Except for the personalities that constitute each party, there is really nothing that distinguishes one from the other. In fact one may even argue that the people behind these parties are the same old pols whose only interest is to perpetuate themselves in power.

Edmund Burke, the father of conservatism, defines a party as a group of men united to promote the common good in accordance with agreed principles. The Philippines, however, has evolved its own definition of a party as a political instrument to secure government positions for its members. To be sure, the varied political parties playing major roles in Philippine politics have drawn up their respective platforms of government, but these are less ideological than rhetorical. The principles to which Burke refers to are not to be found. For as soon as elections are over, politicians gravitate from one party to another - depending on which party offers the most security for reelection or one that can dispense government largesse.

Party loyalty is largely an illusory characteristic. Because of the lack of an ideological tie to their parties - which do not offer one, in the first place - party members or politicians have no qualms about jumping from one party to another or forming a party of their own to suit their personal interests under the guise of advancing the greater good. In 1991, for example, former President Fidel V. Ramos left the LDP to form his own Lakas party when he lost the presidential nomination to the late Ramon Mitra. Even as early as now, defense secretary Gilbert Teodoro's wife, Tarlac Representative Monica Louise Prieto-Teodoro, is already sending signals that in the event Gilbert Teodoro, who has just left the NPC to join the administration party, is not nominated as the presidential standard bearer of the merged Kampi-Lakas party there is a possibility that Teodoro will still pursue his presidential ambition. Her statement that there are many very powerful people who are backing the secretary's presidential bid and that if he is not anointed by the party they will go behind him are strong statements conveying this message.

It is interesting to note that as a result of the Kampi-Lakas merger former House Speaker Jose De Venecia, Jr. has tendered his resignation as Lakas's president emeritus and expressed his intention not to join the merged party. His reason is that "it is no longer of our original vision." What the erstwhile speaker is really saying is that the merged party will no longer serve his political career as did the Lakas-NUCD when he was removed as president and lost the speakership.

As the presidential election draws near we will be seeing more party switchings and realignments, all calculated to ensure the actors' success in the electoral stage. This practice will continue post elections, this time to ensure favor from the new holders of power. And the party system will be at their convenience to answer this primal need.

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