We ask the wrong questions!
Will it be Grace Poe or Jojo Binay maybe, or Bongbong Marcos or Sara Duterte-Carpio or Isko Moreno? It bothers me tremendously that so early we were asking the wrong question – once again. We should have learned. We should have matured but it doesn’t look like him at all.
I think we should all be talking about what our country needs, the direction it needs to take, the tough choices it needs to make. How do you reconfigure Philippine national life when this pandemic is over – or perhaps, more realistically, with a lingering pandemic? What do we do with the West Philippine Sea and claiming rights that have been declared, through legal processes, like ours? How do we treat the insurgents of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front with whom we have had many stalled peace talks, who continue their marauding and prowling in the countryside? How to tackle the glaring and embarrassing disparity between the stars earned by elite universities in world ranking systems? How do we prevent incompetent people from entering public service?
We should make a decision on these issues and then demand that political parties be more than seasonal tandems of convenience with little more than a common nickname to keep them together. This is of course not a new problem. It has often been pointed out that the party system is practically non-existent in the Philippines. Now, of course, that triggers the chicken and egg problem. Is it because the parties are weak that politics is populist, or is it rather because the parties are weak because we are populist in orientation?
If we believe that parties are a good thing and that there are many reasons why political scientists and theorists will advance, we should encourage the formation of stable parties. But we really are not. Parties are registered but are almost always immediately identified with whoever might be the dominant figure or the chairman of the party. And the parties that exist now advocate one thing, and one thing in common: their election to public office. It is a parody of the party system and makes it a cause – or an indicator – of infantilism in public life.
In Bayanihan’s draft Constitution that the committee of which I was a member submitted under the guidance and guiding principles of retired Chief Justice Reynato Puno, there were very clear abuses against political parties. As institutions of democracy, parties, we believe, should receive public support. Thus, tax deductions were offered to contributors to political parties and a sort of “democracy fund” was envisaged, so that small fringe parties which nevertheless offered a commendable platform could be helped by this fund. We were not going to allow candidates to change parties after being elected to power, otherwise they would be expelled, on the assumption that the people elected the candidate because of the program that their party proposed.
But let’s give the parties something to organize – and think about. And once again, the party mechanism would help in this regard. The nation is overflowing with problems, problems abound, challenges abound. Let the political party think tanks come up with a satisfactory identification of the problems first, then let the members come up with a party solution or a party approach. Those who have nothing else to contribute to the discussion other than preening in front of TV cameras or displaying pearly and white teeth should be shown on the way out.
I think we shouldn’t be looking for an alternative to Digong. We should seek, if it suits us, an alternative to the position that he and his government have taken on vital national concerns, or perhaps the lack of any position. Of course, people will always count, because someone can speak bravely about a national problem but be slow to act, or worse, be totally ignorant in solving it.
However, we always ask ourselves the wrong questions, because overall we can’t wait to see who is in the running without really worrying about what we’re running for!