On the Committee on Electoral Reforms and Peoples Participation Hearing


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Opening Statement

January 25, 2017

We would like to thank and acknowledge the presence of our resource persons present today who took the time out to help us craft this important legislative measure that seeks to develop, strengthen and empower political parties.

There is no debate that to this date there is no law that clearly provides for the exact nature and character of political parties in our country. That is a major gap considering that there is no law in the country, not even the Constitution, that specifies the how political parties become the stable foundations of a popular democracy that runs on the ideals and principles of collective groups, and which in turn guide and motivate the members of these groups to capture political power for the implementation of a program of government that is distinct from that of the other groups. There is also a major gap as to who is ultimately responsible for the development and strengthening of political parties because the Commission on Elections is only mandated to register political parties and, to some extent, monitor them.[1]

For party members, a party’s immediate function is to take care of the registration requirements when its members run for public office. What existing provisions of the Commission on Elections provide are those pertaining to how parties are registered and which also imply the operational roles that the political parties must assume during elections. There is however no law that defines the relationship of political parties with that of the government and that of the State.

In 1900, the Federal Party was established. It was the first Philippine political party that was organized.. Through the years, a multitude of political parties have come and gone in Philippine political history. Yet, party institutionalization in the country remained weak and underdeveloped. The current Filipino party system is largely composed of “transient parties” or those political parties that “are not founded on some distal source, like political cleavage, issue or ideology”.[2] Indeed, there is some truth to the observation that “political clans are the real political parties in the Philippines.”[3] Perhaps it is due to the fact that political parties in the Philippines are personality-based organizations largely organized around dominant local political clans and warlords; and anchored on clientelistic, parochial, and personal inducements rather than on issues, ideologies, and party platforms.

Politicians switch parties depending on who won the last election. We are witnesses to how fast members of certain political parties jump to “ruling” political parties or to whoever won in a concluded elections. In fact, these politicians are aptly called political butterflies or political turncoats. They are fittingly described as those who lack the backbone to stand behind their political party. They easily change to whatever party is most convenient to them, or which gives them the most benefits at a particular time. This is usually the party whose candidate for President has won in the elections and thus controls the purse strings of government.

We find that there are common provisions in the proposed legislative measures for deliberations today. First and foremost is the intent to prevent and impose restrictions and on political turncoats by making turncoatism a criminal offense. Second is campaign financing . The third is the State Subsidy Fund for national political parties. On the proposed State Subsidy Fund, the proposed measures hope to empower political parties by professionalizing and enhancing their operations and consequently prevent politicians from being beholden to campaign contributors through the allotment of funds political parties’ direct and exclusive use for party development and campaign expenditures.

By participating in our election processes, political parties offer citizens a choice in governance. If they happen to be in the opposition, political parties can hold governments accountable. It is therefore high time that we make our political parties work for democracy by making them live up to the modern standards of party systems all over the world. In this public hearing and the succeeding ones, we shall attempt to come out with a common proposed measure that shall strengthen political parties.

Thank you very much.

[1] Aceron, Joy; Friedrich Ebert Stiftung; http://library.fes.de/pdf-files/bueros/philippinen/07131.pdf
[2] Manacsa and Tan 2005: 748
[3] Simbulan 2007:33

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