Tragi-comic state of Philippine politics
BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - July 26, 2018 - 12:00am

It’s difficult to describe exactly what happened in the esteemed hall of the Batasang Pambansa. Some have called it a comedy; while others have said it was a tragedy. Perhaps, the best description is to call the whole event a tragicomedy that truly reflects the state of Philippine politics. 

Why would a former President still want to remain in politics as a Speaker of the House? But then again, why would another President want to run again as a city mayor? It is hard to imagine that, at their age, and after the tribulations they have been through, they are still yearning to becoming President once again. But then in the same breath, why would Manny Pacquiao want to continue fighting after winning all those championships? Surely he knows that his day as the greatest fighter in the world is over.

As we review the events, the most persistent question is why it happened. There is Pantaleon Alvarez, once considered as one of the most powerful politicians in the country. He has been going around the country swearing in a lot of new members for the PDP-LABAN, supposedly President Duterte’s political party.

Was he deposed for ideological reasons? Had he suddenly turned opposition? The next question was why GMA? Did she share the same ideology as the majority of the House members? In the United Kingdom, Prime Minister May is facing possible ouster because of her policies on BREXIT which has split her party.  So was there a split in public policy on federalism, charter change or economics? 

In a television interview, a leading GMA supporter clarified that GMA was the choice of the majority because she was “ motherly.” We are entrusting the leadership of one of the most powerful institutions in the country that will be heavily involved in drafting a new Constitution in the hands of a person whose principal asset is that she is “motherly.”

For political junkies, this recent upheaval in Congress is food for a lot of speculations about the future direction of this country. On the assumption that there will still be elections next year, the political alignments seem volatile at this point. Let us consider the coming Senate elections.

The opposition seem to be consolidating under the leadership of Leni Robredo. While I am not privy to any confidential information, I notice that several names have been floated as possible Senate contenders in the opposition ticket – re-electionist Bam Aquino, former VP Mar Roxas, actress Agot Isidro, former CJ Lourdes Sereno, DLSU Law Dean Jose Diokno, Magdalo Representative Alejano, Congressman Tañada. Let me repeat that these names are those I have read in social media and certain newspaper columns. I have no inside information.

Prior to last Monday’s tragicomedy, it was widely assumed that the administration ticket would be the one fielded by PDP-LABAN. However, the two main leaders of the party – Koko Pimentel and Pantaleon Alvarez – have both lost their positions of power. Pimentel was replaced by Tito Sotto as Senate President while Alvarez was unceremoniously deposed by GMA. Sotto belongs to the Nationalist People’s Coalition ( NPC) and I have no idea what the political party of GMA is.  I do know that once upon a time she was a member of the Liberal Party.  In fact, her father Diosdado Macapagal ran and won the presidency as the standard bearer for the Liberal Party. 

Until early this year, it was widely assumed that the formation of the administration Senate ticket would be mainly in the hands of Pimentel and Alvarez. In fact, a tentative PDP-LABAN ticket had already been floated around. The list included a number of re-electionists.

If political tradition is followed, Sotto and GMA will now have a major say on who will be in the Senate ticket of the administration. This development will be interesting to watch. Senator Grace Poe is a reelectionist; and, she has made it publicly clear that she will never accept the leadership of GMA.  Most politicians will now await the decision of President Duterte as to which political faction will finally get his endorsement.

However, between now and the end of the year, there will definitely be many more political developments. For example, this new Tapang at Malasakit movement bears watching. It is led by three women who come from three powerful political families – Duterte, Belmonte, Cayetano. It has been launched as a citizens’ movement; but, it could easily transform itself into a political force if the three founders decide to launch a political party. 

The political theatrics that we have witnessed again calls into question the purpose of political parties. At present, parties seem to be nothing more than alliances of political feudal families or dynasties. Patronage seems to be the main attraction of political parties. Perhaps, we need to seriously consider a proposal in the Draft Charter under Article V Suffrage and Political Rights with the following proposal: 

Section 7.The Federal Republic shall ensure strong and cohesive political parties. 

(a)   Members of any political party elected to public office are prohibited from changing political parties within their term of office. 

(b)   Candidates and officials of any political party are prohibited from changing political party two years after the election and two years before the next election.

As we watched the political thriller unfold last Monday, the question I ask is – how is this benefiting the Filipino people? 

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Young Writers’ Hangout on August 4 & 18, September 1 & 15 (1:30pm-3pm; stand-alone sessions) at Fully Booked BGC.  For details and registration contact 0945-2273216 or

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