Tuesday, August 21, 2007

is the political party an essential ingredient in philippine politics?

I came of age in an era where Politicians switch parties all the time. As much as I'd like to imagine that before Marcos, switching was frown upon, I can't reconcile in my mind that history is a universe different from our era. I do not know that np-lp feeling. Perhaps, "the mess" political parties are today in is a result of legalizing the multiparty system. On another hand, perhaps it is our assumption that is wrong and that we should rethink the current crop of "political parties" as parties in paper and not fact and that in reality our Politics is the politics of the individual.

Why do I say this?

Every "party" that has existed in the last 40 years has virtually been a party created by the dominant political name of the day. Of our past five presidents, four have created their own political parties--- Marcos, Ramos, Estrada, and Arroyo. Cory Aquino as President was an independent. Of those four political parties, Ramos' Lakas is strongest and I say this because, years after he is no longer president, it continues and it thrives as it sleeps with Arroyo's Kampi. Marcos' KBL is a shadow of its former self, Estrada's party has since dissolved, though it can be argued that it simply changed names so many times, we forget what it is. And Arroyo's Kampi, would it stand the test of time beyond her Presidency?

Sure the NP and LP exist, shadows of their former selves and at least they are doing far better than Marcos' KBL. There are also other parties in existence in various places. The Communist Party of the Philippines likewise exists, though I believe they are banned. We can also say that the minorities, the lobbies that exist as part of the "Party List" system are also political parties, can't we?

A quick wiki search says that "a political party is a political organization that seeks to attain political power within a government, usually by participating in electoral campaigns". It goes on to say that "Parties often espouse a certain ideology and vision, but may also represent a coalition among disparate interests". Another "noteworthy" characteristic of a political party is that "funding" is derived from their members, just like any other organization. do our "political parties" fail the part about having "ideology and vision"? then again, the word "often," means not always, doesn't it? and as our current crop of political parties are made up of politicians and political families, do their funds derive from those members?

According to the same wiki, George Washington and the early US Congress were nonpartisan. And it cites that only the state of Nabraska is nonpartisan. In the Philippines, our Barangay politics is nonpartisan, but you can't help but wonder that if such is really the smartest way to go about it. after all, don't Mayors and other local officials and the whole political tree enlist the aide of Barangay Captains during their election campaigns?

Today, nobody cares whether a politician is with what party. I don't think anybody knows exactly who is with whom anymore. It is a field where politicians fund their own campaigns, organize their own troops. It is a universe where it is "every man for himself" and will support whoever on the basis of their personal choices and personal strategic need. There is no ideology for any voter to gravitate to. There is no vision for any voter to dream of, to support. How different is this political landscape from the medieval age where barons and earls and dukes supported the crown or whoever? Can we say we exist in a political landscape that has no need for political parties and thus "nonpartisan"? 

The national campaign for the Senate has been largely an individual effort. Even when candidates played with their fellows--- it was done at arm's length because even within your own coalition, your fellow coalition members would dump you at a moment's notice, if it meant securing their seat. I know that's a terrible way at looking at our politics, but isn't it also largely true? Another fact is that campaign Villar has done, wasn't that largely on his own merit? And years before,  with de Castro's Senate bid, was that not executed as an independent? Wasn't Lacson's Presidential run years ago also netted him at least 3 million votes? Is it such a stretch of the imagination that political parties by far, are not essential to winning an election and thus, if not negate the need for true political parties?

I yearn for political parties that are ideologically-based and inclusive because it may raise the bar of discourse and action. Does it matter if it was a two party system or a multi-party one? Many democracies in the world have multi-party systems that have been largely good--- like Canda and the UK having powerful two parties but having smaller ones. The difference between all those democracies and ours is that their parties are ideologically based and often ideologically broad. Equally important, those parties are inclusive, meaning that receptionist you just walked passed going to the office could just as well be a card carrying member of your party, just as that marketing executive two cubicles down or for that matter that cab driver who drove you to the mall. People like teachers' union, or other "minority" hoping for representation supports one party. They may actually be part of that party and have a stake in the future of politics. And in such context, what then do we need a "party-list" system? 

It also doesn't matter to me that there be just one dominant party. hey, Singapore has done all right with one, hasn't it? The difference between Singapore and ours is that at the very beginning their founding fathers had a vision of what their country should be. They focused all their energy and all that talent towards that one goal. Can we really say we have a similar vision? If we did, we would be building infrastructure that benefits every Filipino like better weather sensing. for the same reason, some people would stop spray painting every public wall, writing all sorts of complaint and likewise, we'd be better at properly disposing our garbage. Then again, in the same way, in a perfect world, we wouldn't need partisan politics.

Democracy is always about building institutions everyday. Our democracy is poised to become better, if we want it. it always has been. If political parties are part of that equation, great. Anyway, the question isn't whether political parties are essential or relevant.  I don't like rehashing things but as we build democracy everyday, i'd still like to ask these questions for every Filipino: Have you given a thought to the kind of society that you might prefer? Have you considered the aspirations, the dreams, the hope of the people? In your imaginings, do you see the shape of the nation, which you seek? Is your eye upon the power or is your eye upon the subtle uses of power and its myriad perils?


sparks said...

i'm with you here. frankly, i don't know what parties are for. when i learned about how they were supposed to work in polsci 11, i thought, well....i don't see that happening in my country.

i prefer a society that at least answers basic needs - enough food and shelter for everyone. a society that is able to generate enough wealth to provide these. i'm not particular on the kind of governance we have to get there. is that doable in our lifetime?

Cocoy said...

no one knows what the world will be in 5 years. is it doable in our lifetime? hope springs eternal. more than that... Sg, HK, Thailand, Vietnam and many other places have turned or are turning around. i'm not saying those places are perfect neither am i saying it is a pipe dream... but wouldn't it be an amazing run to give it a go?

seriously, it isn't all that bad... it is far from perfect, heck, far from good, but it ain't too bad. wasn't it hans rosling who said that our current economy is the same as the US during WW1?

hope springs eternal and i think it would be an amazing thing to give it a shot and if we stumble a few times, give it another go.

chikasci said...

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