FIRST PERSON - Alex Magno - The Philippine Star

This week, it seems, the Liberal Party (LP) woke up from its long slumber.

It is about time it did. As one of the major registered political parties, the LP has certain responsibilities to fulfill. The most urgent of these is to select candidates for next year’s polls.

Party leader Francis Pangilinan announced the LP has made contact with several political personalities considered “electable” for national office. He did not, however, detail the nature of these contacts. They could be as slight as a text message greeting someone “Happy Father’s Day.”

Among the names Pangilinan mentioned as being among those the LP “contacted” are Nancy Binay and Francisco Moreno Domagoso. But Binay had earlier indicated, when her name was announced by 1Sambayan, that she preferred to retire from politics. Domagoso, it what sounded like a rebuke, said he was busy achieving herd immunity for the city he governs.

Until he provides us any more details, we will have to assume Pangilinan alone is doing the networking. He is putting the cart ahead of the horse, however.

The typical process begins with internal consultations within the party – no matter that the party may be as disorganized and demoralized as the LP appears to be. On the basis of those consultations, the party puts out a program of government around which the faithful may rally. On the basis of an adopted program of government, the party canvasses its regional and local leaders to arrive at a list of candidates running under the party’s banner.

That is not hard to do, even for someone like Pangilinan to appears to have freshly emerged from his vegetable farm. But it does require some work.

The first task at hand, one would imagine, is for the LP to update its database of party members. The party has been severely decimated after the inglorious defeats of 2016 and 2019. Some staff must be put to work to check who remains with the organization. No general goes to war without knowing if he still has an army.

Surely, Pangilinan understands that before negotiating with other political personalities and groups, he must have a full accounting of his party’s current disposition. That is his first basis for negotiating. A strong and well-organized party organization makes for a strong negotiating position. Otherwise, he goes to the negotiating table with nothing at hand.

Gearing up for elections is particularly important for the LP. The entire (albeit miniscule) LP contingent at the Senate is due for retirement next year. If they go into electoral battle unprepared, they will lose the few seats they currently hold and with that LP’s standing as a party of national significance.

The LP might not be the last bastion of democratic practice in the Philippines. But our democracy is enlivened by credible electoral contestation. The LP is one of those groups that may provide credible electoral challenge.

Beyond the personal ambitions of some of its members, the party is imbued with duties and responsibilities by our democratic order. We hope the LP leadership appreciates this and go beyond merely scrounging around for names of prominence suitable to hold elected office.

Pangilinan should do the work that must be done and not simply titillate us by dropping namable names.


Should the LP do the work it must do as a proper political party with long historical standing, this will make the 1Samabayan initiative redundant.

When 1Samabayan was announced, Pangilinan did indicate that the LP would follow its own processes in candidate selection. Getting those processes moving is the immediate task at hand.

1Sambayan is a funny initiative to begin with. Led by personalities who never engaged in electoral politics, it has appropriated the exclusive role of candidate-selection. It assumes the standing parties do not exist. It has not even pretended to be working in close coordination with the parties.

In a word, 1Sambayan rests on the assumption the political party system is dead and the choice of candidates to be presented to the people is entirely a process of improvisation. Ad hoc initiatives like 1Sambayan are the anti-thesis of institutionalized political party systems.

Should 1Sambayan get its way, barreling its way into the arena of party politics, this initiative will impoverish rather than revive our electoral democracy. What 1Sambayan gains the parties lose.

The standing political parties therefore have an interest in quashing the 1Sambayan initiative. This cabal of self-important and self-righteous retirees superimposes on our electoral democracy and poses an existential threat to our standing parties.

To their credit, the standing political parties appear to be stirring back to life in time to meet the October deadline for the filing of candidacies.

The PDP-Laban is technically the ruling party. Although it grapples with the stray but persistent Manny Pacquiao, the party has scheduled its national council and national assembly meetings.

The Nationalist People’s Coalition appears to be recruiting new powerbrokers into its fold, the latest being Chavit Singson. This party formation seems animated by the possibility of fielding the tandem of Ping Lacson and Tito Sotto.

Francis Pangilinan, as discussed above, finally reappears as leader of the Liberal Party.

Dick Gordon, the perpetual renegade, sounds like he is ready to announce his candidacy for the top post. He is associated, rather loosely, with the Nacionalista Party (NP).

Then let us not forget the Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HnP), a functioning coalition of provincial and regional parties. This formation draws strength from the sitting municipal and provincial executives determined to assert their power over the metropolitan electoral brokers.

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