The vicious cycle in politics

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva - The Philippine Star

The political party system in the Philippines is in a constant state of flux. This has become the situation since our country adopted the 1987 Constitution that provided, among other things, a multi-party system. It led to the sprouting all over the country of so many national and local political parties.

Originally, we followed the two-party system of the United States. But at present, America now also has a multi-party system. The Democratic Party and the Republican Party are the most powerful. Yet other parties, such as the Reform, Libertarian, Socialist, Natural Law, Constitution, and Green Parties promote their own candidates in the US presidential elections.

In the Philippines, we only had before the Nacionalista Party (NP) and the Liberal Party (LP). According to the official record of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), chairman George Garcia noted, there are now 49 political parties registered at the national level; 23 regional parties and 102 local parties, as of Sept. 2021. One new party for the national was registered during last year’s elections, with 12 pending applications.

Only the NP and the LP have the longest history. Despite the emergence in our country of so many other political parties in alphabet soup acronyms, both NP and LP continue to exist and thrive through these years.

NP prides itself as the oldest political party in both the Philippines and in Southeast Asia in general. Since its founding in 1907, it was the ruling party from 1935 to 1946 under Presidents Manuel L. Quezon and Sergio Osmeña Sr. The LP, on the other hand, was founded on Jan. 19, 1946 by Manuel Roxas, the first President of the Third Philippine Republic.

The last time the NP fielded a standard-bearer was in May, 2010 presidential elections. NP chieftain, former Senate president Manuel “Manny” Villar carried the party banner. But he lost to LP presidential candidate, the late president Benigno Simeon Aquino III.

Still the NP chieftain, Villar’s wife, son and daughter are currently the highest elected officials of the party. Wife Cynthia and son Mark are in the Senate while daughter Las Piñas City Congresswoman Camille is one of the House Deputy Speakers. When she guested in our Kapihan sa Manila Bay news forum last Jan. 25, Sen. Cynthia cited, the NP remains the second biggest political party through these past recent years.

This is disputed though by other political parties comprising the present 19th Congress.

The Nationalist Union Party (NUP) headed by Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte has 45 members at the Lower House while the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) led by Rizal Rep. Jack Duavit has about 36. The LP ranks were further decimated to eight incumbent Congressmen.

The Partido ng Demokratiko ng Pilipinas-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) has shrunk to 20 at the Lower House. Until most recently, the PDP-Laban dominated the 18th Congress during the term of former President Rodrigo Duterte.

Back now in the saddle as the ruling administration bloc in the 19th Congress is the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD). House Speaker, Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez leads the 68-man Lakas-CMD in the 316-members of the House of Representatives. He regained the Lakas-CMD originals who jumped to other political parties in the past. The Lakas-CMD was the ruling party during the nine-year administration of former President and now Pampanga Rep.Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. She is again the designated chairperson emeritus of the Lakas-CMD.

On the NP side, Sen.Cynthia noted, they now have 45 members in the Lower Chamber. One of them is PBBM’s eldest son Ilocos Norte Rep. Sandro Marcos. In fact, Sen Cynthia disclosed, Rep. Sandro recently “recruited” two more Congressmen to join the NP. The two were, namely Quezon City Reps. Ralph Tulfo (second district) and actor Arjo Atayde (first district). Tulfo is the son of Sen.Raffy who remains an “independent” from any political party, for now.

Talking about children in politics, First Lady (FL) Lisa Araneta-Marcos at the 123rd anniversary of The Manila Bulletin she attended last Friday night shared amusingly an anecdote about her eldest son Rep. Sandro. FL narrated Rep. Sandro greeted in a brotherly banter youngest sibling, Vinny: “Hello, employee!” Vinny is currently working as “intern” in the office of the Speaker at the Batasan Pambansa in Quezon City,

Speaker Romualdez and Vice President Sara Duterte have “reassumed” their positions as president and chairperson, respectively, after the Lakas-CMD elected last week its new party officers. The Speaker asserted the installation of new Lakas-CMD leaders “will strengthen and reinvigorate” their party in support of the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (PBBM). “We hope to further grow our membership with new recruits who share our ideals, programs and goals, and aspirations for our people and our nation,” the first cousin of PBBM vowed.

That is, if the political butterflies will stop proliferating. Most oftentimes, intramurals within the party lead to break-up or split at the slightest beef among politicians. The common reason when partymates eye the same elective post but none of the contenders would give way to the other. While others opt to become “independent,” eventually though a new political party would crop up, or a nondescript party suddenly is thrust into power.

Especially, if that estranged contender who runs “independent” wins the highest elective post of the land. The political party that carried him or her to victory becomes the new ruling party in power.

An example is PBBM himself. He was a card-bearing member of the NP. He first ran as “independent” after two other NP wannabes also competed against each other for the Vice Presidency during the May, 2016 elections. In last year’s May presidential elections, he again ran as “independent” but won as the standard-bearer of the Partido Federal ng Pilipinas (PFP).

Unless otherwise our country’s political party system matures, this is the vicious cycle in politics that we have to live with.

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