By the time you read this, the US mid-term elections should be under way and the Americans should now have a picture of the composition of its Congress. Much clamor on whether the “Blue Wave” will be taking over the US House of Representatives or if it will instead hit a “Red Wall,” as some people are hoping for. All this talk on voting “blue” or “red” has got me thinking on how the Philippine mid-term elections will turn out in May next year, given the vibrant political landscape we’ve always had.
Political turncoatism is not uncommon in the Philippines. It is, in fact, ingrained in our history, with known political figures (i.e., Paterno, Marcos.) having done the same during their times, with political survival as justification. Now, we have countless political parties whose members either spike or spiral down depending on who is in power. It is a ritual for politicians to align themselves with the ruling party to be within the inner circle, given key positions and receive other favors this writer would dare not say.
This has not always been the case: In the 1973 Constitution, there existed a provision that prohibits political turncoatism. Article XII-C thereof provides “Section 10. No elective public officer may change his political party affiliation during his term of office and no candidate for any elective public office may change his political party affiliation within six months immediately preceding or following an election.” A similar provision was introduced in the draft Constitution prepared by the Constitutional Commission on Constitutional Amendments, chaired by retired Chief Justice Reynato Puno.
The pending House version of the revised Constitution, introduced by House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and House Committee on Justice chairman Rep. Vicente Veloso, also has a similar provision that is brought up a notch — a politician in violation shall suffer the harsh penalty of forfeiture of his position. Another key difference is that Congress must first enact a law on the two-party system and that the first two dominant parties that garners the most of the electoral seats in the first national elections shall be the official parties that will represent under two-party system.
Last Monday, 5 November, it was announced that President Rodrigo Duterte issued Memorandum Circular 52, forming the Federalism Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF), to be chaired by DILG Officer-in-Charge Eduardo Año, to harmonize all efforts in constitutional reform. Considering that this prohibition on turncoatism appears to be consistent in all drafts and discussions, we should expect it to be retained by the IATF.
In the US, there are two major parties — Republican and Democrats — plus a few smaller ones. Voters on election day may be issued a ballot depending on their party membership or as an independent voter. In certain States, the voter would be issued a specific ballot depending on said declaration.
In the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), this writer met several members from the Republican and Democratic Parties at formal meetings and casual ones over a few bottles of local craft beers. We spent time in so-called “Blue States” and “Red States” and we even met Independents as well as someone from the lesser known Libertarian Party. It is evident that the political parties were formed based on members’ ideologies and principles, not on the political personas behind each party. It was less about “who” is running, but on “what” is the platform of the candidate and how it is consistent with the party’s philosophy.
Further, we were able to speak with Republicans who are not in favor of President Donald Trump, yet support the Republican Party and Democrats who are not fond of former President Barack Obama but remain to be hardcore Democrats. Apparently, there is such a thing as a conservative left-wing and even a liberal right. This writer often reads and watches these on the media but it is highly different when you engage these fellows in conversations.
At one meeting, chairmen of the Republican and Democratic Parties in Nebraska met us together at one meeting. I was speechless for most of it, scared to ask any question, as they might beat each other up. I remarked that this sort of meeting would not happen in the Philippines unless they had a dozen bodyguards each. They commented that the Philippines may have a long way to go and reminded me of the year 1968 or 50 years ago, when US was in deep turmoil, riots everywhere, there being two political assassinations (Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy) — the last of its kind — and how the US has moved on since then. Maybe 50 years from now, elections might be less violent in the Philippines.
But is the two-party system really for our country? We have to take note of our culture. In fact, not all Americans are too keen on the two-party system, particularly the younger ones. This may explain why more millennials decide to be independent voters.
The consequence of our tolerance of turncoatism has brought about the tendency of jumping to other political parties towards the end of the incumbent President’s term or immediately thereafter. As such, we find the President to be ganged upon after his/her term, probably explanatory of why we’ve had past Presidents charged and convicted. This writer is of the opinion that the prohibition on political turncoatism will reach its maximum effect if an anti-political dynasty law is likewise enacted, since it is also not uncommon for members of different political families to be members of different political parties. But then again, we are who we vote for and political dynasties are for a different conversation (and column) altogether.