The May 2022 presidential season started early, and an overgrown pack of self-nominated candidates seems bent on showing the least of them is more fit than the foul-mouthed and dictatorially inclined outgoing president. But no one has offered any clear idea on how to overcome the Covid-19 pandemic that has already killed thousands, sickened millions, and wrecked the nation’s morale and economy; or the flaming corruption and incompetence that have exposed the government’s feigned concern for the nation’s survival; least of all, the perpetual problem of governing a people that, even in the best of times, have not always been easy to govern.
Where President Rodrigo Duterte has imposed his whims rather than a well thought-out party program upon the official structure of our tripartite system of government, the wannabes now want to impose their own personalities, rather than an alternative party program, on the next government. This is an inversion of the accepted political norm which makes the political parties primarily responsible for providing the raw materials for government—the men and women who will run the state.
The party program, not any individual politician, decides how the government will govern. This is the first cardinal rule of parliamentary government. However, this idea seems completely foreign to us Filipinos, who are creatures of a failed presidential system. Most of us seem to believe that the political parties are unnecessary in winning an election or running a government; that all we need to do is “elect” a president who will do anything he wants, even beyond his limited constitutional powers, so long as one rigged opinion survey says he or she is “popular.”
We are facing the threat of national, if not global extinction. We cannot say whether the criminal excesses of government will extinguish us before Covid-19 and its variants wipe us out. Every day, 24/7, any number of Filipinos invade my privacy through my mobile phone, to dump all sorts of garbage about their favored wannabes, without any mention of what the nation can possibly gain by electing them. Except for one or two relatively unknown groups, none of the better known candidates are taking a party stand on anything. The political parties have no place in the elections at all.
Vice President Leni Robredo is chairperson of the Liberal Party and Sen. Kiko Pangilinan is president of the same. But Leni is running for president as an independent candidate, with Kiko as her vice-presidential candidate. It is not clear though whether Kiko is running as an LP nominee, or like Leni, is also running as an independent. If he is an LP candidate, does it mean the independent presidential candidate is in coalition with the LP vice presidential candidate? If so, what political platform are they presenting to the electorate? The same question, if they are running as independent. From a purely intellectual perspective, this is not easy to take.
Similarly, Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson is running for president under Partido Para sa Demokratikong Reforma (PDR), while his vice-presidential candidate, Senate President Tito Sotto, is running under the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), the late Danding Cojuangco’s political party, under which I won my first Senate seat in 1992. Unless I have not been paying enough attention, I have not heard of any formal coalition between the two parties. Which party platform then will they present to the voters—PDR’s or NPC’s?
Former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., whom many Ilocanos believe was the real winner in the 2016 vice presidential election, is running for president, without a vice-presidential candidate, under Partido Federal ng Pilipinas (PFP), a new party. However, one Jimmy Torres is running for president under the late president Ferdinand Marcos’s Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL), and two other individuals surnamed Marcos—Tiburcio Marcos and Maria Aurora Marcos—are running for president as independent candidates. They will most likely be declared “nuisance candidates.” But if KBL stays in the game, how will Bongbong’s PFP platform differ from that of Torres?
Sen. Manny Pacquiao, the world boxing champion, is running for president with former Manila mayor Lito Atienza for vice president under the PDP-Laban (Pacquiao wing). But the other half of PDP-Laban has Sen. Bato de la Rosa of “Operation Tokhang” running for president and Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go running for vice president under Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi. Now, how is one-half of this once-minuscule party to be distinguished from its other half?
Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso is running for president with Willie Ong, M.D., for vice president under Aksyon Demokratiko (AD). Has Domagoso evolved enough to completely absorb the platform written by AD’s founder, the late former senator Raul Roco?
Former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s erstwhile defense secretary and national security adviser Norberto B. Gonzales is running for president without a vice-presidential candidate under his old party, Partido Demokratiko Sosyalista ng Pilipinas (PDSP). Its platform is shared by kindred spirits in some European and Scandinavian countries. Will enough warm bodies come forward anytime soon to adopt this program to contest the election and run the government?
The Katipunan ng Kamalayang Kayumanggi (KKK) is running Faisal Mangondato for president and Carlos Serapio for vice president, with a well-articulated program of government. Mangondato, a Muslim leader from Mindanao, ran for senator in 2019, and obtained a few million votes. Serapio is a lawyer who used to head the consultants’ pool under Executive Secretary Paquio Ochoa during the administration of B.S. Aquino 3rd.
Former education undersecretary Antonio “Butch” Valdes is running for president with Bienvenido Lorque for vice president under the Katipunan ng Demokratikong Pilipino (KDR), with a well-defined program of government. Valdes is identified with many patriotic causes, and for many years was associated in the Philippines with the worldwide Lyndon La Rouche Movement.
The Philippine Green Republican Party (PGRP) first appeared in 2007. It fielded senatorial candidates that year, and a presidential candidate in 2010, but the Commission on Elections declared them “nuisance candidates.” For 2022, the party is running Laurencio “Jun” Yulaga for president and Alexander Lague for vice president. Will they be allowed to participate?
The list is much longer than this. But the more worthwhile programs of government are identified with the least known parties and personalities, not with the best known of the lot.
This tends to suggest that the May 9, 2022 elections will be waged as a personality or beauty contest, without any serious discussion of how the nation is to be governed, and systemic corruption stamped out. The Filipino voter cannot predict anything after June 30, 2022. And the president-elect who had promised to institute radical change will realize that his powers, under the Constitution, are far too limited to allow such change.
This needs a more elaborate and incisive discussion, but we have not the time or space for it. To cut to the chase, I must say we need a constitutional convention to work on a shift to parliamentary government much more than we need the May elections. However, having boxed ourselves into the scheduled elections, with a failure of elections as our only possible way out, it is too late to think of rearranging the process. But we can perhaps piggyback a referendum on the election and ask the electorate whether or not they approve of a change to parliamentary government. If they do, the new government elected in May 2022 will then be mandated to put together all the necessary structures of the parliamentary government.
This idea is of course subject to further refinement. But for me this is one way of making sure the dangerous tide of political madness sweeping our shores today does not end up sinking all boats.