Strengthening the Country's Political Parties

Manila Bulletin, June 1, 2013 | Go to article overview

Strengthening the Country's Political Parties


Lately, at least among the politically literate, there has been a renewed interest in pushing for the Political Party Development Act which was approved in the Lower House in 2012, but failed to get enacted into law. The Act sought to institutionalize campaign finance reforms, public subsidies, ban party switching, and strengthen citizen-party linkages. Advocates had hoped that political parties could change the "rules of the game." Among these "rules" would be a shift from a personality-oriented politics to focus on issues and the evolution of parties so that they would begin to "exercise power on behalf of the general public" (Lawson, 1989). In other words, the hope was that a "party becomes a real party" - that it would play the role of nurturing future political candidates, take responsibility in selecting and nominating candidates for office, and monitor the performance of public officials. Instead of the political clan, it would be the political party that would provide the future leaders of the country. We are well aware that even if some of our political parties are more than six decades old, they have little to show in terms of ideological principles that distinguish one from theother. Whatever differences there are would be more in form than in substance.

With the passing of this law, many hope that we can finally turn away from practices such as "turncoatism" (it appears that we are the only country with a political system characterized as such), that "political butterflies" would eventually flutter away, and that political parties would undergo transformation so that they would no longer be a "temporary political alliance" or a "fans club of politicians" (Aceron). And that they would be instrumental in inculcating ideological commitment among their members instead of merely being used as vehicles in political campaigns.

The campaign for a political party development act started way back as 2001, with Senators Pangilinan, Angara, Osmena, Gordon, Legarda, and Jinggoy Eastrada, and Speaker De Venecia, among others, as principal advocates. Over the years, and almost every Congress, bills would be consolidated and debated upon, but with little success until 2012 when HB 6651 was passed. …

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