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A big task ahead for Liberal Party

WE wish Sen. Francis Pangilinan well on his designation as acting president of the Liberal Party (LP). He and the other party leaders face a task that previous majority parties had sorely neglected – how to survive and maintain their identity as a political force after suffering defeat in an election.

Since martial law destroyed the two-party system in 1972, parties in the country have ceased to be a real force in Philippine politics. Invariably, a winning president gathered around him other political leaders but only in a temporary alliance without the unifying ideology of a party such as those in the United States, in Europe, and other countries in Asia.

Thus, all the presidents after President Ferdinand Marcos had their own groups that existed as the majority parties for only the six years of the president’s term. Today, we no longer hear much of President Corazon C. Aquino’s Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino, President Fidel V. Ramos’ Lakas-CMD, President Joseph Estrada’s Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino, or President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s Lakas-Kampi as active political parties.

After LP candidate Mar Roxas lost this year’s presidential election and President Benigno S. Aquino III’s administration ended last June, the LP promptly broke up into two major groups. One joined the party under which President Duterte ran and won – the PDP-Laban. The other retained its LP identity but became a leading member of President Duterte’s “super-majority” in Congress. For all intents and purposes, the two groups are part of the new administration.

Last week, Senator Pangilinan was named acting LP president and assigned the task of holding an election for members of the LP Directorate not later than March 31, 2017. He acknowledged that because of the weak ideological party system in the Philippines, the LP has lost many of its members to the ruling PDP-Laban. “It is during these challenging times that we can really know those who have strong understanding not only on principles but also on the role of the party that is not in power,” he said.

The role of the party that is not in power – that will be a major concern of the LP as it now moves to reorganize itself. A greater concern should be the LP ideology of liberal government as distinguished from the more conservative ideology of the old Nacionalista Party. The liberal ideology is at the center of the political spectrum, distinguished from political extremes on the left and right.

The Liberal Party was founded by President Manuel A. Roxas, after starting as a “Liberal wing” of the Nacionalista Party led by President Manuel L. Quezon. If Pangilinan and the other party leaders can restore this historic ideology of the LP to the point where it holds the loyalty of like-minded political leaders, it will a big step towards the development of real political parties needed in our democratic system of government.