All that is weak, shifty and treacherous about party alignments and political allegiances in national politics are emerging in the worst way in the run-up to the May elections next year.
Perhaps this is most exemplified by the phenomenon of the guest candidate, who has led a charmed life in our politics without suffering the rebuke of rejection by the electorate.
The presence of guest-candidates in party tickets is emerging as an issue in the 2016 elections because of several recent developments, namely:
1. First, the row that has developed between senatorial candidate Panfilo Lacson and the Liberal Party, which adopted him as a candidate in its ticket and seeks his support for its standard bearer.
2. Second, the open invitation of presidential candidate Miriam Defensor–Santiago to accredited senatorial candidates to run with her under her People’s Reform Party (PRP) ticket, which includes Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr as her vice-presidential candidate.
3. Third, the tender of offers by the United Nationalist Aliance (UNA) and the team of Senators Grace Poe Llamanzares and Francis Escudero of guest candidate slots in their tickets to some senatorial candidates, like Lacson, Dick Gordon and others.
Shiftiness of political loyalties
Ostensibly, the guest-candidate phenomenon suggests that there are certain politicians in our midst who are so desirable that several parties want them to run under their banners, to enhance their appeal to voters.
In fact, guest candidates personify the shiftiness of political loyalties and opportunism in our political culture. Once the senatorial guest candidate is voted to office, he or she is usually the first to become a political butterfly in Congress, moving to wherever he/she can get the most spoils.
In a way, it is good and fortuitous that the agreement between the Liberal Party and Lacson for the latter to run as LP guest candidate has become the subject of dispute. It has served to highlight how pernicious is the guest-candidate practice.
What is the row about anyway?
Candidate Lacson wants to be at liberty to run under three flags in the May 2016 elections: the LP banner, the UNA banner of vice president Jejomar Binay, and the Poe-Chiz banner of Sen.Grace Poe; and perhaps also the PRP banner of Senator Santiago. The more banners, the better for him.
The row started when LP spokesman Rep. Miro Quimbo cautioned LP senatorial bets like Lacson against joining the slates of other political parties, and that they should offer undivided support for LP standard-bearer Manuel Roxas 2nd. Quimbo was overtly referring to Lacson.
Lacson reacted to Quimbo’s statement by revealing that he had talked with Roxas and presidential contenders Poe and Binay on separate occasions regarding their guest candidate invitations, but he did not mention whether he committed support to any of the presidential candidates.
As to why he said yes to three tickets, Lacson rationalized: “I think it is the height of arrogance to decline an invitation to be a guest candidate of any legitimate and serious presidential candidate, not to mention that I consider it a huge privilege to be offered such.”
If the Lacson-LP row appeared overheated, the guest-candidate issue became theatrical when Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago waded into the controversy.
She declared that she would open her ticket to any senatorial candidate who wants to run with her. She set no conditions for her adoption of candidates. She only said that the candidate should be qualified to run and that he/she has not run afoul of the law or been convicted of any crime.
Mar Roxas, Vice President Binay and Senator Grace Poe are more selective, in that they specifically targeted certain candidates for adoption into their tickets.
Dysfunction of Philippine political system
The guest-candidate aberration is of a piece with a larger case of dysfunction in the Philippine political system.
In two incisive articles written for The Manila Times, the noted public intellectual Juan T. Gatbonton has discussed how some political scientists in Europe have begun to recognize a phenomenon called “Philippinization” in politics in the developing world.
By the term “Philippinization,” they sought to describe how our dysfunctonal political system has achieved a distinction of sorts.
To quote Gatbonton: “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 our view, Filipino political butterflies (who change political affiliation at the drop of a hat) and Filipino guest candidates (candidates who run for office under multiple banners) are specific manifestations of the dysfunction of our political system.
Unless we move to root out the dysfunction, we will continue to suffer the ill-effects and opprobrium of “Philippinization.”