If there is any evidence to convince us that the party system in this country is practically nonexistent, if not dead, just look at the ridiculous spectacle we are now seeing unfolding for the 2022 election.
As of this writing, I have yet to see the senatorial makeup of former Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Mayor of Manila Francisco Domagoso.
But with the exception of the one proposed by union leader Leodegario de Guzman, what we see emerging from the lists proposed by Vice-President Maria Leonor Robredo and Senators Emmanuel Pacquiao, Panfilo Lacson and Ronald dela Rosa are blatant assaults on all. political parties.
In an ideal, normal, healthy and rational world, political parties are supposed to be aggregators of political interests where political differences take on a face through groups that form around certain political ideologies. These are well-established organizations that recruit and train members for future participation in electoral competitions not only as candidates, but as campaign workers and as voters. In some countries, they have wings in all walks of life, from students to workers and professionals. In the United States, people are allowed and encouraged to register their affiliation with a political party. And in countries where there is a multiparty system, the ideological division among and between parties is still very well articulated, and their location in the ideological spectrum from left to right is well defined.
But not in our beloved Philippines, where political parties are seen as simply labels to be worn conveniently, and therefore can easily be discarded and acquired another. They are not permanent aggregators of public interest, but simply temporary ports for selfish interests alongside.
So what we are getting now is the parody of Robredo as the president of the Liberal Party posing as independent, her party even tolerating him. In places where rational politics exist, she would have been kicked out of her party. We see the spectacle of politicians, from Domagoso to Marcos to Pacquiao, pledging allegiance to their new partisan affiliations with the sole aim of having a banner to carry in the 2022 elections. In countries where political parties are more mature, members are refined and shaped within their parties, where they climb the ranks, before they can dream of being their standard bearers. And then we have the dominant party of an incumbent president who is at the heart of his qualified majority in Congress unable to nominate a serious candidate for the presidency they still have to nominate a candidate who, had he not been sitting senator, would have been the perfect exposure for an unwelcome candidate.
It can no longer be debated. What we have for a party system is just a joke.
And this image is further aggravated by the senatorial formations that are proposed to us.
Lacson’s lineup wins the award for being the most accommodating, except for an election that only has 12 seats up for grabs, he offered us a menu of 14 names. Meanwhile, Pacquiao can only come up with 10 names, while Robredo first gave us 11, ensuring that the 12th unfilled seat is left open to those who represent the sectors she called the “laity”. “or those who are marginalized. In one act, she practically undermined her supporters’ image of her as a protective mother of the marginalized when she granted assured seats to mainstream politicians who represent the elite political classes of society at the time. that it would let those who truly represent the marginalized prove first who among them deserves to be the progressive token. The new survivor of this confrontation is union leader Sonny Matula. It was a fundamental slap in the face of the progressive sector. What made the cut even deeper and fatally injured was former party list representative Neri Colmenares’ claim that he was removed from the list due to opposition from the former senator Antonio Trillanes.
And this is where Robredo’s programming becomes a portrait of contradictions and a perfect example of transactional politics without principles. She and her staunch supporters have sacked Domagoso so as not to be a real opposition, but her lineup includes Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri. And then we see the spectacle of Senator Leila de Lima’s chief executioner in the Senate, Richard Gordon, joining her on the team, as we also see former Vice President Jejomar Binay now part of a lineup that includes prominently the sworn enemy of the latter, Trillane.
It is normal for parties to split up and have internal divisions, like those seen within the Democratic Party in the United States. But these happen because of political positions around issues, and less because of grudges and personal ambitions. And it leaves a bad taste in your mouth that Robredo is willing to have a slate with these nemesis sharing the stage but hasn’t spared Neri Colmenares a siege just because Trillanes would have objected.
And then we have the most palpable atrocity inflicted on the rationality of any political party system. We see this in the overlapping applications, where the applicants are included in more than one Senate formation, that one can easily use them as material for quizzing math students on how to construct a Venn diagram. Political parties are meant to be a stable anchor for ideologically grounded politics that it is unimaginable that one has two. But because our parties are designed for convenience and expediency, and candidacies are no longer contained in a cohesive party system, these alliances and lines of candidates no longer make sense.
This parody only deepens the transactional nature of our politics and inflicts a deep wound on the ability of our political system to evolve and become more mature. With an already personalist and communal political culture, what could have been the role of the parties would have been to provide structure and certainty. Instead, we get a party system that becomes a breeding ground for opportunistic and unscrupulous political butterflies to party.