TURNCOATISM is prohibited under Section 10, Article X11-C, of the 1973 Constitution.
“No candidate for elective public office may change his political party affiliation within six months immediately preceding or following the elections,” Section 10 states.
This prohibition, however, is not found in the 1987 Charter or the Cory Constitution of Corazon Aquino.
Cory, apparently, did not want any congressman or senator to lose face if he decided to abandon his party mates shamelessly and defect to the PDP-Laban, the political party that catapulted her to the presidency in 1986.
The sainted one could have told them to do anything that she wanted as condition for their admission to the PDP-Laban and they would have done her bidding, the doble cara (double-faced) that they were.
To Cory’s discredit, she gave turncoatism or balimbingan (after the fruit balimbing, also known as carambola or star fruit) a good name and the rest is Philippine political history of accommodation and opportunism that is being repeated ahead of the Duterte presidency, which rolls off on July 1.
Again, the PDP-Laban, the political party of incoming President Rodrigo Duterte, is at the receiving end of it, an enviable role that other parties would kill for to play.
Among the first from the House of Representatives to defect to Duterte’s political party were Eric Singson (Second District, Ilocos Sur), Rosemarie Arenas (Third District, Pangasinan), JB Bernos (Abra), Bingbong Crisologo (First District, Quezon City) and Rodolfo “Rudy” Fariñas (First District, Ilocos Norte).
Singson, Arenas and Bernos, according to Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez of Davao del Norte, Speaker of choice of Duterte for the 17th Congress, jumped ship from the Liberal Party (LP) motivated by nothing more than their fervor for their beloved Philippines.
In defense of the three lawmakers, Alvarez said in a newspaper report, “We all know that [Duterte] is for the institution of meaningful change. We need to support him. I am not looking at it [Singson, Arenas and Bernos bolting the LP] as turncoatism but as [a display of]love for the country.”
Such patriotic intention, apparently, was also behind the defection from the LP of Crisologo and Fariñas.
If that were the noble reason for betraying the Liberal Party that built up the political careers of the five lawmakers, then the LP, when it regains power in 2022, should take them back with open arms.
After all, members and leaders of the political party headed by President Benigno Aquino 3rd cannot possibly argue with the nationalistic sons and daughters of Mother Philippines who, unfortunately, had veered away from the daang matuwid (straight path), can they?
Just say that Fariñas and company only took a sabbatical, and the return of the prodigal ones would be more than pardonable.
Alvarez, however, may have opened the window to the turncoats (that is what they really are despite the diplomatese) but he has wisely kept the door only ajar.
Magnanimity aside, the incoming Speaker should make it a little harder for the defectors by making each of them undergo a test for illegal drugs.
During a recent multimedia forum sponsored by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Alvarez said he was “seriously” considering to make his fellow congressmen take a drug test.
“Why not? I will take that suggestion seriously,” he replied to a question asked during the forum.
And what when members of the 17th Congress test positive, some of them anyway?
“There’s rehabilitation,” Alvarez also replied, jokingly.
Duterte, however, takes the issue on illegal drugs also seriously and members of Congress should not make light of his resolve to rid the country of the drug menace in his first six months in office.
In a recent victory party in Cebu, he was quoted in a report as warning drug pushers, “This is why I am very mad, this is why I want to ensure this next generation, this is why I can’t make you [drug pushers]understand, if I can’t ask you [to mend your ways], I will really kill you.”
Isabela Rep. Rodito Albano, Cibac party-list Rep. Sherwin Tugna and Marikina City (Metro Manila) Rep. Miro Quimbo vouched for the drug test.
“The people deserve nothing but the most honest and transparent public servants. We should make the drug test mandatory,” Quimbo said.
He even suggested subjecting the entire government bureaucracy to such test.
Fariñas, who is said to be eyed by Alvarez as House majority leader, seemed lukewarm to the drug test.
“It could not be compulsory as it would violate the rights of the individual members. But I’d be willing to do it myself voluntarily, although it may be misinterpreted as grandstanding on my part,” he was reported to have said in a text message.
Grandstand then, and nobody would be any cleaner than the honorable congressman, as well as the rest of the members of the House of Representatives, if he tested negative.
Besides, voluntary testing is a copout.
Nobody can really have his cake and eat it, too.