Tuesday, July 10, 2007

the Romantic and the Practical

The Senate by tradition is an august body. When telling tales about its glorious past, can one begin, like all legend and myth shrouded by the dark veil of time, with the phrase, "a long time ago..."?

Forgive my cheekiness sprinkled with a bit of bitterness-- my generation can only dream of, can only imagine what it must have been like way back when. Perhaps, when the older generation speak of that age--- like all legend and myth, something has been added to make that era to be far greater than it actually was. Perhaps, we mistake it for another era, not of our own because when one looks at the state of our politics today, could that era of statesmanship have ever existed in these islands?

With the stakes high: the Office of the President of the Republic of the Philippines, no less, must it come to be such a surprise that battle lines have been drawn so blatantly? The fact is, the recent election was simply a scheduled stop in a road that leads only to 2010.

Perhaps, holding on to hope our officials can aspire to higher moral character is a fool's errand. This romantic notion after all is just that. These sharks smell blood. They are positioning themselves, not unlike pieces in a board. The practicalities of our age is that war is brewing, and the assumption remain to hold true that the Macapagal-Arroyo Epoch is finally coming to an end in 2010.

If history is to be our guide, of the past five presidents, three have had years in the Senate. Marcos, Estrada and Macapagal-Arroyo have been hardened veterans before being asked to live in the Palace. Fact is, the Senate is a breeding ground for that ever coveted top spot.

Villar and Pangilinan both ran as independents in the last election, spending and raising their own war chest. Though both are members of political parties, respectively The Nationalista (Nationalists) and the Liberal Party, Villar and Pangilinan are known to be allies, bound by friendly partnership, camaraderie and clique: the so called "Wednesday Group," together with Senator Joker Arroyo, former Sentor Recto and Vice President de Castro. So, having won and ran independently can one safely assume they are now the respective architects of their own destiny? Can we also assume that their recent Senatorial campaign is a practice run for that coveted top spot?

Pangilinan is the current Liberal Party Chairman. Running independently in the last election, isn't that kind of like raising a finger at his party? Winning and now, what looks like a strengthening a strategic-personal alliance with Villar is cementing that fact and if one really cares about semantics--- this is a clear and ominous sign that political parties are at best, paper tigers and hold no real meaning in Philippine Politics. The success of both Villar and Pangilinan bode ill to any resurgence of true political parties and political ideology in the Philippines.

For Villar, he seem to be in control of his people--- the Nationalists in the Senate are falling in line, is a testimony to his leadership and ability to command. You can look at Pangilinan the other way around, while you say that the Liberal Party's bid for resurgence is questionable. After all, he's party chairman and his troops have not supported him in the last election and neither are they supporting his preferred Senate President. What good is a party or for that matter a party member, if he or they don't fall in line?

If the Nationalistas in the Senate support Villar--- it begs the question, why didn't he run as one, rather than as Independent? Is it really a stretch of the mind, given the fact that running for Senator of this Republic is fairly another way of saying: "every man for himself"?

The honest and romantic road for the Liberal Party and Pangilinan is to break all ties, even if they have to kick him out or the latter doing the preemptive strike. With the former closing ranks in their bid to get Mar Roxas elected as president, what does Pangilinan need his party for? Does he even have a place anymore in that plan? Likewise, the honest and romantic road for the "Wednesday Group" is to form ranks and ideally consolidate with the Nationalista Party.

What of Laban, what of the so called "genuine opposition" and the so called "Team Unity"? Again, the honest and romantic way for the former is to consolidate their waring factions, and for the latter two--- to call a spade, a spade.

The irony of our existing political climate is that only Lakas has the political and monetary clout and can honestly call itself a Party.

What is all this rumbling about anyway? Long romantic story short: the proper and ideal way to inject civility and order into our political life is to have strong political parties. Our politicians have their own alliances and they should call a spade, a spade. Doing so will bring some sense of understanding and raise the bar of conversation in our politics and change the perception of the public that they each are out for their own power-and-money-hungry-ends, albeit a minor and cosmetic one in the short term. There is also that fringe hope that by banding together people of like minds, they'll actually get along and form an ideology based on belief rather than temporary alliances and for their own end.

However, the practical reality is that each politician is governed by this intrinsic truth: elections is what they live for and it takes money and organization to win one.

Given that allegiance and fealty to powers-greater-than-your-own can be guaranteed by victory and/or an alliance by name (i.e. the so called "Genuine Opposition" and "Team Unity"), and given the success of individual campaigns and organizations of de Castro, Lacson, Villar, Pangilinan (and to the lesser degree, of local candidates) running as independent, if you can raise your own money and organize your own troops, why the heck would you need political parties?

So we see this drawn out in the battle for the Senate Presidency, and it's innate certainty of consolidating under the banner of the strongest and personal alliances. Yet, what is all the hoopla about? Of the past five presidents, only Marcos was Senate President. Presidency in the Senate, if history is to be followed is not an assurance of victory. Being Senator can however, move you forward.

This fragmentation in the Senate from a public relations point of view--- is bad for the chamber and bad for the "opposition". It shows how the latter is not really an organization but a banding of "it's us versus Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo". It further crystalizes the perception that they are in it for power for power's sake--- no different from the other camp.

The reality is that Philippine Senators, by the very nature of their job and how they're elected, must be egocentric. Given first and foremost, the lack of organization by Political Parties, given the need for sound campaign financing and more so, electoral reforms, all this is simply a romantic notion that remain on top of a wish list: that politicians behave as statesmen and perform and that there be true Political Parties with comprehensible beliefs or ideology.

The lesson of our era, among others is that making war is easy. it's what you do after the enemy has been conquered that is difficult. Just look at Iraq, our own EDSA, and every election in this country in the past 20 years. That said: de Castro, Escudero, Lacson, Legarda, Pangilinan, Roxas, Trillanes, Villar and others--- depending on how they perform in the next 18 months have a chance to become president and plan for what happens next, after 2010.

If they don't perform? If they don't see what's next or know where we're going, if they don't even for a moment raise the bar or at least give us a taste of what could be better times, what then? How many veterans were thrown out of office in the last election? How many aspirants were not elected? how many people voted, especially those of my generation? would you forget and destroy the hand that feeds you?

What is happening today is very much expected. In spite of the romantic wish we all might have. The hard reality is, plainly, romantic just isn't so and could improbably be so. In Philippine Politics, without ideology to form ties, it is every man for himself.

We shouldn't stop hoping for that romanticized order of things, though we see with practical eyes. We can only hope that decades down the line when the story starts with "a long time ago..." people of that epoch will fondly remember the leaders of a generation that not only gave our people hope, but raised their condition in life instead of taking advantage of them. Results matter in this day and age. Romantic notion or not, our politicians must not forget the ominous lesson of May 2007: we the people are watching and waiting, and like you, we know 2010 is just down the road: perform.


toots said...

excellent post! performance/content will prevail and those who want a "romantic" projection grounded on nothing but egotistical airs will be found out in the end. political parties can and do matter. it is the rich candidates who think they can buy everyone and everything anyway that makes our party system a fluke.

Cocoy said...

thanks! :D