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As expected, the migration of congressmen and other officials to the incoming administration party and coalition has begun. Over a dozen members of the Liberal Party (LP) from the Visayas have signed a declaration of support for a speaker of the House of Representatives from the PDP-Laban party of winning presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte.
Days earlier, the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), the second biggest political party in the country (after the LP), joined the same Coalition for Change set up by Duterte’s party. Already in the coalition are the Nacionalista Party (NP), the Lakas-CMD, and the Partylist Coalition. It was iust a coalition for the speakership, but in the coming months and years, we can expect the PDP-Laban party itself will attract more members to its fold.
In the early years of the Philippine Republic after 1946, the nation’s political leaders were mostly in two parties – the Nacionalistas and the Liberal Party (LP) – with distinct ideologies. Martial law in 1972 destroyed the party system as it did away with Congress and the other institutions of government. President Marcos’ Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL) was the only party that mattered.
When the old democratic institutions were restored after People Power in 1986, the NP and LP no longer had their old following. The new leaders thus formed their own groups which tended to be bound by personal allegiances. President Corazon Aquino had her Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP), President Fidel Ramos had Lakas-CMD, President Joseph Estrada had Puwersa ng Masang Pilipino, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo had Lakas-Kampi, then President Aquino had the new LP. The ruling president’s party, whoever he was, tended to attract new members, only to lose them at the end of his administration.
It had been hoped that this cycle of personal parties would end when the Constitution of 1987 was drawn up. A multiple-party system was approved, suitable for a parliamentary system of government, but at the final voting for form of government, the presidential system won. Now we have a president, as in the Unied States, but we do not have its stable two-party system. We have instead the multiple-party system of the parliamentary governments of Europe and many other countries today.
This is the institutional reason for our mixed-up political system. Party loyalty is meager if not non-existent.
There are no strong ideologies, no strong principles of government that bind party members. Congressmen tend to think of their constituencies and their needs. And so they gravitate towards the center of power, who also holds the purse strings.
Thus the ongoing migration of political leaders. In time perhaps, we can have a real party system with firm principles and firm loyalties, which the people can support. But that may yet be in the future.