Left-of-center politics and charter change

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DURING the course of the presidential campaign, now President-elect Rodrigo Duterte had repeatedly stated that he was a left-of-center socialist. Although he sympathized with some elements of the ideology of the extreme left, he did not agree to the use of violence as a way to achieve structural reforms in our society, to ensure a more equitable distribution of wealth. Statements like this coming from a major presidential candidate are a fresh and welcome development to the democratic political maturity of our nation. For too long, mainstream national candidates have refrained from directly stating their ideology in the political spectrum. Fearful of alienating segments of the electorate who would not agree or understand their ideology, they would always prefer to talk about simple issues that could easily be digested, and this would always boil down to the issue of corruption. The left-leaning political parties were the only forces that consistently articulated their political ideology.

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The seminal ideas of left-of-center political thought in the country started to germinate after World War II. Inspired by the social teachings of the Catholic Church, a group of young idealists joined the Magsaysay for President Movement, a group independent of the Nacionalista Party (NP), who had adopted Magsaysay as their standard-bearer. After Magsaysay’s election, the group found themselves in the corridors of power. They were instrumental in crafting many of the social justice programs of Magsaysay’s short administration. This development, coupled with crafty military actions, took the wind out of the sails of the violent revolution advocated by the extreme left that was then knocking at the doors of Manila. It was democracy in action.

The press labeled the young group “Magsaysay’s Rah Rah Boys.”

With the untimely death of Magsaysay, the left-of-center group formed a political party, Progressive Party of the Philippines (PPP), in 1957 and the Grand Alliance (GA) in 1959 to challenge the elite dominated NP and Liberal Party (LP) in the national elections. They failed in both attempts. In 1961 they decided to form the United Opposition (UO) with the LP on the condition that the LP adopt a party platform that was designed by the PPP/GA. Diosdado Macapagal won as President representing the LP and Emmanuel Pelaez won as Vice President representing the PPP/GA. Raul Manglapus, Manuel Manahan and Soc Rodrigo, from the PPP/GA, also won as senators. The platform contained political ideas such as decentralization of the powers of the central government and land reform. Conforming with the party platform, The Agricultural Land Reform Code (RA 3844 ) was enacted in 1963, albeit still watered down by an elite-dominated land owning congress.

The alliance did not last long, however, due to major disagreements in the decentralization of powers of the central government, which was being supported by the PPP/GA elements in the legislature but not by the LP administration of President Macapagal. This caused a break-up of the political alliance of the LP and PPP/GA. The left-of-center group then came back in 1965 under the PPP and contested the elections. They were again clobbered by the NP and LP.

It was at this point when the group decided to focus instead on structural reforms as a way in making the political system more responsive to the needs of the people. A Christian Social Movement (CSM) was established and they immediately took the lead in putting together a broad-based movement from all sectors of society to pressure Congress and the Marcos administration to hold a constitutional convention comprised of elected delegates. The 1971 Constitutional Convention was called and the left-of-center delegates, who were elected, controlled the committee on suffrage and electoral reforms. They fought for a multi-party system that would give equal protection to different political ideologies and give the electorate more choices then the elite-dominated NP and LP.

Unfortunately, the declaration of Martial Law in 1972 stunted this important political development. Most of the left-of-center political forces went underground and into exile. In later years, especially after the EDSA revolution, The CSM spawned a number of political parties, the Pilipino Democratic Party (PDP), Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD) and, the latest addition, Centrist Democratic Party (CDP).

After the full return of democracy, the 1987 Constitution adopted many of the recommendations for electoral reform in the 1970 convention. Unfortunately, the Constitution retained the presidential system. This stunted the development of a long-term political party ideological development.

President-elect Duterte was being supported by all classes of society, even the A and B. They are comfortable with his left-of-center socialist ideas, since this was clearly articulated by Duterte during the campaign. This is what makes his election a watershed. The elite of our country are willing to follow the lead of Duterte in his program to provide a more equitable and inclusive type of growth in the pursuit of human dignity.

Long-term planning and implementation are needed for this program to succeed. And with this comes the need for political-party alliances to ensure a national consensus. PDP-Laban is now the party in power. It is on its way to becoming a majority. Did it grow because the majority of legislators are now left-of-center advocates? How long will these alliances last? It all depends on the 2022 elections.

The 1970 Constitution was stunted by the declaration of Martial Law. The 1987 Constitution, while having some good features, was designed not for growth and political grassroots development but to prevent another dictatorial rule and, in some instances, returned the control of the political and economic elite that dominated our society before Martial Law.

Charter change is long overdue. We need a political environment where political-party ideologies become the centerpiece to have a clearer roadmap for economic development. The parliamentary system may be a good start.

Francis Xavier Manglapus is the Philippine representative of EleksDış Tic. A.Ş., one of the Elginkan Group’s companies, since May 2014. He has been chairman of the board of Camiling Land, Inc. for three years. He was a financial consultant at Merrill Lynch from Jan. 1984 to March 1987 and materials manager of Hotel Intercontinental New York from Jan. 1979 to Jan. 1981. He holds a BS degree in Hotel and Restaurant Administration, from Cornell University, in Ithaca, New York.

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2 Comments

  1. Look at Duterte, he slowly but surely is following Marcos management style” I pray that he does not follow the corruption of Marcos. Marcos did something good for our nation but the bad things like killing of activist, looting of our national treasury, sequestering any commercial establishment . The bad things overshadowed the good things. He is a perfect example of a good person turned evil by absolute power corrupts absolutely.

  2. Rudi Miranda on

    Thank you! But, what happened to the Communist Party of the Philippines [CPP]? It is left in the cold.