• ‘Philippinization’ a new ‘disease’ of Third-World political parties

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    Our parties have become negative models of political disintegration
    Our dysfunctional political system has achieved a distinction of sorts. Political scientists are apparently beginning to recognize a phenomenon among political parties that they identify as “Philippinization.”

    A political party infected with “Philippinization” is both extremely fractionalized and weakly institutionalized. These two traits—weak organic linkages and the inability to develop stable norms and practices—have become so pronounced in Philippine parties that they have come to typify a new species of political “disease” fit for academic study.

    In a pioneering paper, a German academic, Andreas Ufen, looked into the condition of political parties in post-authoritarian Indonesia—and found them to be “weakly rooted and at the brink of ‘Philippinization’.”

    Being afflicted with Philippinization is apparently no small matter. The consolidation of democratic practices is most difficult to carry out in political systems of this sort. Such systems are also the most vulnerable to political collapse and state failure.

    From parties to factions
    Institutionalization is the conventional goal of political organizations; but party systems are breaking up almost everywhere. The communications revolution is making it remarkably easy for charismatic politicians to reach out directly to the volatile mass electorate over the heads of the party functionaries.

    As we might expect, the most successful of these new-type politicians are film-TV stars, champion athletes and other media celebrities—all personalities practised at projecting their affinity with everyday people.

    One such personality, Jakarta’s governor—fondly known as “Joko” Widodo—has just become Indonesia’s first President drawn from outside the political-military-bureaucratic elite. Joko lives and functions in the style of the Indonesian Everyman. Since he is without any experience in national politics, his partisans anxiously await his first test at governance—deciding on Indonesia’s increasingly burdensome energy subsidies.

    The role of ideological politics
    While the political role of ideology is declining in the new states, it is regaining its passion in Western politics.

    The American “Tea Party” faction’s split from the mainstream Republicans has been more acrimonious than the historical rift between the GOP and its Democratic Party rival.

    Even the established parties of Western Europe have not been exempt from this return of ideological politics. They’re losing ground to right-wing party factions raging against non-white migrants and the costs of integrating into a bureaucratic European Union.

    Meanwhile, Third-World parties are degenerating into competing factions held together only by personalist ties of reciprocity, loyalty—and the pork barrel.

    Many of them have lost the ideological edge that had given them their sense of purpose. Even our Communist parties, once models of party discipline, have broken up into quarrelsome—and sometimes murderous—factions.

    The moral cost of faction
    Factionalism also has a moral cost. Parties—in the opinion of the British conservative Edmund Burke (1729-97)—are formed to promote a view of the national interest on some shared principle. But factions are by nature self-interested; they concern themselves with nothing more than “the mean and interested struggle for place and emolument.”

    The overwhelming influence of corporate contributions on party financing has heightened the corruption and deceit associated with “money politics.”

    In Indonesia, critics accuse the multiparty coalitions contesting seats in Parliament of being more interested in sharing the spoils of office than in building competing parties, and of operating as “Kartel Politik,” or political cartels.

    In some new countries, the struggle for power among these contending factions has become so intense it has induced disillusion and despair among electorates—paralysis in governments—and even state collapse.

    Most recently, 15 years of parliamentary deadlock between the Bangkok royalist and business elite and the populist billionaire Thaksin Shinawatra’s “Thais Love Thais” party has set off yet another episode of authoritarian rule in our close neighbor, Thailand.

    Democracy’s need for parties
    Populism is the new political mode; and it has attracted even the Catholic Church of the first Latin-American pontiff. Pope Francis is trying to invigorate Rome’s populist “preferential option for the Poor” in its effort to compete with pentecostal and charismatic breakaway faiths in the Third World.

    In India and the Philippines, the corruption and ineffectuality of established parties have revived interest in the concept of “partyless democracy” that Gandhi and Quezon espoused in the 1930s.

    Direct democracy may have sufficed for classical Athens. But once the electorate exceeds the capacity of the marketplace, representative government cannot be anything but party government. Our political problems are in fact rooted in our lack of groupings able to think—and act—coherently in the national interest.

    Our politicians—beyond their obligation to deliver “pork-barrel” benefits to their ward-leaders and constituencies—are individually responsible only to themselves. They can pursue their self-interest without inhibition.

    Rebuilding our party system
    Rebuilding our party system, then, must become our central political task. We will need to re-establish norms and practices as conventions within which our parties can compete.

    Since a party structure is shaped by its funding source, we must face up to the centrality of our party-financing regime. A measure of public financing for mainstream parties must become a central reform—as soon as the Philippine State becomes strong enough to enforce it.

    Because our “parties”are financed by their leaders, they revolve around individual ambitions. As a result, our politics—like our economy—is run by “an anarchy of families.”

    The lack of an accepted financing system also makes our parties vulnerable to corrupt practices and the intervention of special interests.

    We must put our political system on a stable footing; and the Supreme Court has set us on the right path by outlawing every variety of the pork barrel.

    A multitude of parties
    We must also do something about the multitude of “parties” that have formed from the slipshod drafting of the 1987 Charter. We’ve stumbled into a Constitution that mixes features of both the two-party and multiparty systems.

    We’ve lost most every semblance of the relative stability that had resulted from the alternation in power of the Nacionalistas and Liberals in post-Independence politics.

    Our transition to a “free and open party system” has so far resulted only in a series of “minority” presidents—because the 1987 Charter does not even prescribe the usual “run-off elections” to decide on a final winner.

    In my view, we cannot escape doing a great deal of serious and thoughtful constitutional engineering.

    Email jtgat@yahoo.com

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    11 Comments

    1. it’s no longer a disease, it’s an epidemic that has spread all over our country…97% of the seating politicians are corrupt and they should be hanged to set an example to the upcoming politicians that they better set aside their personal ambitions and serve our country the right way…end all political dynasties, prosecute all the Binays as an example in live coverage by all networks…remember Lim Seng, the drug dealer prosecuted during Martial Law…we still have a chance to rehabilitate and turn around this used-to-be richest country in the Far East, (yes, we were even richer than Japan at one time)and be the leader in global leadership, we have the manpower, the rich natural resources, we have it all except visionary and self-sacrificing leaders…let’s stop the pinpointing, the blame game just roll up our sleeves and do a bayanihan for the betterment of our country…enough of these criticisms and just do the work right as being righteous is just spinning our wheels and it won’t lead us to the Promise land…we created people power which globally put us on top of the world…so let’s get those God-fearing, competent, intellectual, etc. individuals on the drivers seat and if they don’t perform, hit the ejection button and put in the next candidate…

    2. Even from my younger days, I have always seen political parties as mere instruments for advancing one’s political desires. At most, it provides groups of politicians distinct ways of going about “governing” our country. They may not go against the constitution, but these groups certainly choose which laws to abide by and which to ignore. As for the country and the people as a whole, I believe political parties just muddle the already muddy issues. If not, then politicians would have more loyalty to them, won’t they?

    3. I agree with the excellent analysis of what’s ailing our society. We have regressed far more than we imagined because we (majority of us did) concentrated more on the personality rather than the ideals and program of our politicians. We equated fame with capabilities. Rebuilding our political system, not just the political parties, is long overdue, but in my view, will take long years before we do so. Economic growth is not sustainable if the foundations of our country are not strong enough. Economic growth is not inclusive if the linkages of public service are not fixed. Political parties are not corporations who should worry about their gains and benefits. They should be like an avenue where like-minded people founded by common values and goals meet and act for the common good of the people they represent.

    4. Dominador D. Canastra on

      Mr. Joey De Lao, please be fair to our serious analysts. You didn’t read Mr. Juan Gatbonton’s excellent analysis and made your cynical comment only based on the title of his article. It’s because of people like you who promote non-rational use of our brains and education in analyzing our condition that we the Philippines is a mess. If you had read Mr. Gatbonton’s artcle you would probably be driven to do something abut correcting our pitiful condition.
      But then maybe you are just a hack trying to be as funny as the TV comedians who are leading our country to ruin (except W. Nepomuceno). In that case, you are a tool of the ELITE which is responsible for keeping our country in a septic tank.

    5. Sir, if I may add these thoughts to your excellent essay:
      1. The coining of the term “Philipinization” is welcome because now we have a thought out “scientific” description of what ails our parties.
      2. The German concept of political parties as “instruments for the aggregation of the people’s will” and the requirement of verifiability of the democratic governance of the political parties is a foundational concept, of which ideological parties are an expression.
      3. Based on #2, the German constitution enables the public funding of political party activities, such as campaigns for public office. It considers such funding lawful just as highways are funded – instruments for the public good.
      4. The present Philippine multi-party system can be improved by adopting public funding of democratic political parties.
      5. The Supreme Court’s outlawing of the pork barrel system is an opening for the adoption of public funding of democratic political parties.
      6. We should amend the party list law in order to allow real political parties to compete for seats in Congress. The sectoral concept of the party list law perpetuates divisiveness along sectoral lines. The national interest is by definition realizable only if we act nationally not just by sector. This role of aggregating sectoral and other group’s conflicting interests is meant for real democratic political parties.

      Thank you, sir, for opening up this very urgent and indispensable task ahead of us.

    6. Yes. Our political party system is a system of parties tied to political leaders who are able to pull financing of party activities, and campaigns, through corruption of public funds, and the support of self-interested businessmen. It is not a democratic set-up. The ideal party system is one set-up, and financed, by popular support among party members. In the Phils, today, it is the other way round: a rich family/business interest or a corrupt politician who amassed billions through graft. The 1987 Constitution mandating an “open-party” system where anybody can set up a political [arty led to the rule of minority-elected leaders. Of 5 presidential candidates, the one who gets 21% assumes national leadership, with its awesome power, influence, and command of resources. Almost 8 out of 10 Filipino voters did not elect the president, accounting for weak leadership. We must change the system. That means amending the 1987 constitution which present leadersip does not want. We are on a downward spiral.

    7. o ha, sikat na naman ang pilipinas. may salita na i-ugnay sa klase ng pulitika dito sa atin ng magsimula at nauso ang pork barrel. if i recall corrrectly, the death of the principled party system, if one may call it that, started when makoy declared martial law and enhanced by the cory constitution and said cory admin started the pork barrel system. another one of our invention is the provision in the 2015-2016 gaa which if enacted into law would re-define the meaning of savings, as contrasted to the meaning recognized worldwide, and the RETROACTIVE EFFECT of aquino’s and abad’s pooling of so called savings into dap and disbursing the same at their say so without authority from congress. this latter is really one for the books and should be included in ripley’s believe or not or in the guinness world of records.

    8. Once more, sir Juan Gatbonton, you are giving your fellow Filipinos rich food for thought about the future of our Republic. Thank you very very much.
      It’s an eye-opener for me that international scholars call the wrong application of electoral democracy “Philippinization”!
      My worry is that the wisdom and erudition you are imparting to us who would like to improve our Republic by electing good leaders in a restored two-party system are now useless with the Aquino/Liberal Party/Comelec conspiracy to rule forever by means of the Smartmatic-PCOS Automated Election System.
      May God take pity on us Filipinos.

    9. Party or no party no one should be allowed to seat in power with out gathering 51% vote out of total number of ‘Registered voters”. No more minority official from president, vp, senator and congressman. A minority official does not represent the majority citizens will. Those who did not vote or boycotted the candidates should be counted also as protest vote.

    10. These a typical desintegration of multi party system which has no real system but to selected, not by norms, or standard moral caliber, but just by ruling, comical merry go round party mates. Which has no party standard or allegiance but merely a hoax member hitch to look for better benifits and amass monetary support within the party.