Political Parties as Instruments of Change

Article excerpt

Byline: Edgardo J. Angara

THERE is an ongoing campaign across Asia to promote a system of rules for political parties as public institutions. This is a conscious effort among present-day politicians to shield political parties from the influence of vested interest groups to quell corruption and make them accountable only to the people who voted for them.

As president of Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino and member of the Senate, I was invited to keynote the second conference on political party reform in Asia last Thursday, August 14, 2003 in Bangkok, Thailand.

The event coincided with the publicly-aired Senate hearing on the Oakwood mutiny. And I sorely missed this domestic activity because I had so many important questions to ask for both the soldiers and members of the government panel.

But then the activity in Bangkok also showed that corruption is not just a Philippine problem; it is a regional and even global menace. This is the second in the series of meetings initiated by the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) and the Council for Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD) to come up with a regional system of rules for the growth and development of political parties.

The initial activity in March 2001 dealt on the topic Political Party Strategies to Combat Corruption. Involved in the discussions are different political parties in Asia: from the oldest, such as the Koumintang of Taiwan, to the newest, such as the Pati Keadilan of Malaysia.

Agreed upon in the deliberations are the following:

* Enhancing accountability by installing modern financial management systems;

* Improving financial transparency through public disclosure of their accounts;

* Involving the electorate in decision-making and candidate selection process through public opinion polls and,

* Continuing outreach at the grassroots level. There was also a consensus that parties must veer away from informal, patronage-based organizations to become more professional and rule-based institutions.

These four matters are crucial to us. Ten months from now, we shall again troop to the polls to vote for the President down to town councilors. …