The analysis of what Philippine political parties stand for, the principles they swear by, has to start with the party that leads the ruling coalition, the Liberal Party. We all can readily declare that it is a party with a history, way back from the first republic. Manuel A. Roxas, the president sworn-in after the republic was formally inaugurated , was the first public face of the LP. And the first from the LP to be president.
A party with an outsized, all-too- important role in shaping the early years of the republic and still leads the country at this stage in the 21st century is automatically vested (rightly or wrongly) with many things, foremost of which are the gravitas of its leaders and the party’s capacity to evolve on its basic programs and advocacies. You would think the LP, Philippine context, is just like the other famous LP, the one now ascendant in Canada led by Justin Trudeau. No, and tragically, it is not.
The LP in Canada is truly of the 21st century. Feminist, unmindful of hijab-wearers, scornful of budgetary austerity and hard market types, wary of wars and interventions, open-minded and truly liberal. It is sworn to reverse the conservatism of the Harper government. Trudeau, in his youth, worked as a bouncer and substitute teacher and got himself a tattoo. He is a legacy politician, sure, but his actions and his words offer no hint that a life of entitlement got into him.
What about the NO-RO (Aquino-Roxas) bros who now lead our version of the LP? Frankly, describing their ideas and policies, and personalities, is like going through a root canal. It is worth repeating that the standard bearer of the LP in next year’s presidential election is Mar Roxas, grandson of the republic’s first president.
The Philippine version of the LP belongs to a bygone era, the years of the leaders sworn to uphold the Washington Consensus. Markets in everything, balance-the-budget addicts, growth-at-all-cost promoters, big is beautiful advocates. While the global conversation is about the great economic divide that is deeply-rooted even in the most advanced economies, the Philippines is still stuck in the growth and credit upgrade paradigms.
With these policies come a brutal result – lack of concern for the vulnerable as they have been declared, early on, as invisible to government. The pursuit of the NO-RO bros is not at all a just, fair and egalitarian society but growth rates and credit upgrades (and competitiveness rankings) which may and may not lift miserable human lives.
The governing doctrine of the LP is empty sloganeering – daang matuwid – which has built an economy in which 60 percent of the GDP and much of the country’s income gains take, literally, a straight path to the Top 1 percent.
The 20th century ideas that guide the LP do not mean that the other parties are any better.
PDP-Laban’s Digong Duterte is a law-and-order type with a still-nebulous economic agenda. He is clear about one thing, what he would do with criminals in case he wins the presidency. These are:
• Jail the criminals
• Maim the criminals
• Eliminate the criminals with extreme prejudice
His grand platform of shifting to a federal form of government is both implausible and improbable. It can’t simply be done without rewriting the Constitution, which is a no-no in the country. You want everyone, the most indifferent ones included, to march on the streets ? Try proposing Charter change.
Grace Poe’s “Puso” party borrows from Hillary Clinton’s rhetoric from time to time, especially on focusing on the needs of the vulnerable. Her party’s stand on an efficient mass transport and the strong indictment of Mr. Roxas plan to dismantle the bus franchise system in Metro Manila in favor of a single (monopoly) operator are laudable. But while Hillary Clinton wants to realistically “change laws” and “not hearts,” Ms. Poe is not clear on how she would break through the stasis of policy-making to be a real, effective and strong leader.
There is no place for “puso” in Philippine politics. To be an effective leader, a president has to exert a serious, almost-pugilistic effort to get things done. And except in the area of urban mass transport, the new coalition of Ms. Poe is a tabula rasa. Where does she stand on the great divide? How does she intend to correct the human lives-agnostic, growth-at-all-cost policies of Mr. Aquino.
The party of Ms. Poe cannot run on empty.
Mr. Binay’s UNA coalition boasts of transforming the whole country into a Makati City once in power. It has superficial appeal but is not built on common sense. Much of the archipelago, including some parts of Metro Manila, are not as strategically situated as Makati. Mr. Binay’s city is a shining city on the financial hill with the most awesome revenue-generating capacity.
Most parts of the country are a Slough of Despond, with grime and blight in the urban slums and massive poverty in the rural, farming areas. They cannot be Makati-lites, not even in a hundred years.
Political scientists are on the mark. Philippine political parties are an assembly of power-seeking men and women, pliable on their loyalties and beliefs, interested in power and the perks of power and not much else.
They are groups that start off as tragedies, and later, end up as farce.