WHO’LL be the candidate for vice president of Leyte Rep. Martin Ferdinand Romualdez?
Romualdez of Lakas is guest candidate for senator of United Nationalist Alliance that has Sen. Gregorio Honasan as its vice presidential bet. Will he dump his first cousin, Sen. Bongbong Marcos who’s also running for vice president, in favor of Honasan?
This dilemma, if Filipino politicians consider it as such, also besets other guest candidates for senator with no family ties to the candidates for president or vice president of their host parties. Former Sen. Ping Lacson is guest candidate of UNA and the Liberal Party. Will he support UNA’s tandem of Vice President Jejomar Binay and Honasan or the Liberal’s Mar Roxas and Rep. Leni Robredo?
And how about the guest candidates for senator of Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago who are also in the senatorial ticket of other presidential hopefuls?
Members of a ticket are supposed to work collectively for the victory of their slate. They are chosen because they are believed to be of help in strengthening their team. For instance, In the 2004 presidential campaign, candidates of the FPJ-led Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) made a pledge to campaign together to avoid possibility of junking. Oops, I think I gave a wrong example. Sen. Kit Tatad was livid that a fellow KNP candidate had met local leaders secretly without telling others. Kit learned of this violation immediately because it was committed in Bicol, his bailiwick.
Now, if a guest candidate will enjoy the luxury of choosing which presidential or vice presidential candidate to join in the campaign, then he won’t be of any help to the other tickets.
This current practice of fielding guest candidates is a testament to the growing uselessness of political parties. None is strong enough to field a complete ticket. It seems as if the political parties invite guest candidates for senator merely to fill up their ticket. If they have to do the inviting, then they can’t make demands of their guests.
To be sure, guest candidates are not of recent vintage. The late Senators Claro M. Recto and Lorenzo Tanada, both of the Nationalist Citizens Party, were once guest candidates for senator of the Liberal Party. However, this was during a time when the Philippines had a two-party system and there was no problem on which ticket Recto or Tanada would support.
Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago was the last common candidate for senator in the land. This was in 2010 when she was in the tickets of presidential candidates Gibo Teodoro of Lakas, former President Erap Estrada of the Partido ng Masang Pilipino, and Sen. Manny Villar of the Nacionalista Party.
I guess this phenomenon of guest candidates will persist as long as the legislative fails to pass a law strengthening political parties. Senate President Franklin Drilon, former Speaker Jose de Venecia, former Sen. Edgardo J. Angara and former Sen. Dick Gordon (I hope he’ll return to the Senate) pressed for the passage of such a law but to no avail. Today, political parties exist merely to further vested interests. It’s no longer a community of persons with shared beliefs and principles.
Unlike before martial law, party members could no longer have a say, thru a convention, on who should be their candidates. Now, the party head who usually bankrolls party expenses, determines who’s in and who’s out. With this situation, guest candidates are not entirely to blame should they have no full loyalty to all of the political parties that have picked them.
Going back to Congressman Romualdez, he now presents the best chance for Region 8 (Eastern Visayas) to finally have a senator after about 50 years. The last one from the region to run for senator was LP’s Raul Daza. If only the Constitution could be amended to provide for regional representation in the Senate, Eastern Visayas wouldn’t be in such a pitiful political limbo.
Incidentally, Romualdez has the unheard-of title of Independent Minority Leader. There’s no such animal in other legislatures, the same way that there’s no independent majority leader. Oh yes, for the uninitiated, a minority leader is not an officer of the House or of the Senate. The chamber’s officers are only those elected in plenary – the Senate President/Speaker, Senate President Por-tem/Deputy Speaker, Secretary/Secretary General, and Sergeant-at-Arms. The members of the minority, not the plenary, vote for the minority leader.