PhilippinesPoliticalChameloensThere was a time when Philippine presidential elections were much simpler.

The two major political parties chose their candidates, with the administration party fielding the sitting president in what is called the “equity of the incumbent”, and if the president is not running for reelection, usually the next highest-ranking party member is chosen as the official candidate in a convention. The opposition party holds its own convention where its official candidate is chosen.

It was much easier for the voters to decide whom to vote. If the party in power performed well during the president’s term, they reelect the president or the ruling party’s candidate. If they were not satisfied with the incumbent’s performance, they elect the opposition candidate.

Of course, there were voters who would cast their ballots blindly because of cash or consideration they got on Election Day. But generally, elections were won on performance or promise of performance.

The two-party system in the country died in 1972 with the declaration of martial law by President Marcos, and for 14 years, his Kilusang Bagong Lipunan became the sole political party. The two-party system was resurrected briefly in 1986 when Cory Aquino of the opposition PDP-Laban challenged KBL’s Marcos in a snap election.

The snap election was the last presidential contest where issues were clear to the electorate. The issues then were simple: Did you want dictatorship or democracy? Those who were happy with the dictatorship voted for Marcos. Those who wanted a new era of freedom voted for Aquino. Those who couldn’t care less voted for the person who gave them money.

The election, of course, was a fraud and was held only to legitimize the overstaying Marcos government. Marcos won in the Comelec tally, while the National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) gave Cory the victory. Elected vice president was former Senate President and Foreign Affairs Secretary Arturo M. Tolentino who beat UNIDO’s Salvador Laurel.

A little more than two weeks later, the EDSA People Power revolt forced Marcos into exile and Cory Aquino was sworn in as president. A year later, the 1987 Constitution took effect and effectively obliterated the two-party system.

Since then, political parties have become temporary refuge for traditional politicians seeking campaign support in terms of political machinery and campaign funds, and after the elections, a share of the spoils of victory, such as the pork barrel and important government posts for them or their supporters.

We don’t have to mention the names of politicians who were avid apologists and allies of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in the Lakas-CMD who towards the end of her term suddenly became Liberal Party stalwarts and now enjoying the fruits of their treachery.

You can almost be sure that members of the coalition that brought Benigno S. Aquino III to victory in 2010 are as early as now dealing with other parties to form their own coalition to boost their chance of victory in the 2016 elections.

In 1991, Danding Cojuangco formed the Partido Pilipino (Nationalist People’s Coalition) to support his presidential bid in 1992, the year six other candidates – with their own political parties – contested the presidency. The other candidates were Ramon Mitra of Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP), Fidel Ramos (People Power Movement), Miriam Defensor Santiago (Reformist Party), Imelda Marcos (KBL), and two other candidates with their own parties.

Ramos won the election by a narrow margin (23.6%) over Santiago (19.4%), with Joseph Estrada, who ran with Cojuangco, winning the vice presidency by a landslide. The Partido Pilipino branched into two parties: Cojuangco’s National People’s Coalition (NPC) amd Estrada’s Partido ng Masang Pilipino (PMP).

In 1998, after Joseph Estrada won over 10 other presidential candidates, the political parties made realignments for political exigency, with Estrada’s Partido ng Masang Pilipino (PMP), Danding Cojuangco’s Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), Nene Pimentel’s PDP-Laban, Edgardo Angara’s LDP, and Miriam Defensor Santiago’s Reformist Party formed the ruling coalition, and Joe De Venecia’s Lakas-NUCD, Raul Roco’s Aksyon Demokratiko, Lito Osmena’s Promdi, Renato De Villa’s Reforma, and Alfredo Lim’s Liberal Party coalesced as the opposition.

When Estrada was ousted by People Power II, the two coalitions switched roles, but suddenly, Cojuangco’s NPC became a member of the administration coalition. As the 2004 presidential election neared, the parties began to realign again. Reforma, Promdo and Aksyon Demokratiko bolted the coalition and supported Roco’s candidacy. The NPC stayed on for a while as Cojuangco made some deals with Arroyo, but after the Davide impeachment fizzled out, Cojuangco’s NPC made known its desire to field its own presidential candidate, who obviously was actor Fernando Poe Jr.

In the 2004 presidential elections, there were at least three coalitions that contested the presidency — the LDP-NPC-PMP-PDP Laban-Reformist coalition or the Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) with actor Fernando Poe Jr. as standard bearer, the Lakas-NUCD coalition (Arroyo), and the Aksyon-Reforma-Promdi coalition (Raul Roco). The Liberal Party joined Arroyo’s coalition (Lakas-NUCD). At least two other candidates ran as virtual independents — Sen. Ping Lacson and Bro. Eddie Villanueva of the Jesus is Lord Movement, which spearheaded the Bangon Pilipinas, a political group but not really a coalition.

In the 2013 senatorial elections, parties realigned again into new coalitions, led by the Team P-Noy (LP,NP, NPC, LDP, Akbayan and NUP) and the United Nationalist Alliance (PDP-Laban and PMP). Team P-Noy won nine seats and UNA won three seats.

The instability of these political coalitions reflects, and contributes to, the instability of the country’s political system. Because these parties were formed primarily for the vested interests of its founders and leaders, they are devoid of ideology and platform of government. The parties change stands on issues, and shift loyalties as often as political exigency demands. They change color as they wish like the chameleons.
Because they are based on the self-serving agenda of the leaders, parties tend to change platforms depending on what can win them votes at the time, or what can be advantageous to their own objectives.

The needs of the people that they are supposed to serve are often overlooked. And because the members join the parties not because of the party’s ideals and principles, there is no loyalty on their part and they become political butterflies, moving from one party to another in the same manner that parties move from one coalition to another.

If the parties and the party members cannot be loyal to their own ideals or their own parties, how can they be expected to be loyal to the people?

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