Inquirer columnist Manuel L Quezon III (MLQ3) makes much of the old political party conventions to select national candidates. In his piece today “Candidates looking for a reason” he writes about “what the absence of political party conventions tells about the state of our politics not just today, but for the past 40 years.”
We’re familiar with party conventions because of the United States, and our pre-martial law conventions were patterned on those our political leaders attended in the United States because Filipinos would lobby at each party convention for an independence plank to be included in the party platform (we had success with the Democrats but not the Republicans). But even in America, the conventions have become largely ceremonial occasions since 1968, because instead of delegates battling it out, their votes are predetermined through the system of primaries, where candidates compete to win pledged delegates.
Here at home, before the primary system could be copied, martial law killed the old parties. But it is worth reviewing what set our conventions apart from the Americans.
Truth is these were just for show as it was essentially imposed upon by the Americans during the Commonwealth period. But that was also a period of monolithic rule as the party in power was controlled by his adoptive grandfather El Mestizo, Manuel Quezon. It was General Douglas MacArthur who ordered Manuel Roxas to put up the Liberal Party. Collaboration with the Japanese was the major issue then and post-independence politics dictated that the veritable pound of flesh be extracted. Not that Roxas was clean himself. It was just that he was fortunate enough to obtain MacArthur’s anointment. Roxas went on to defeat Sergio Osmeña in the 1946 election. The Americans then had their puppet government in place.
The 1935 Constitution was even hastily-amended to give the Americans parity rights for them to be able to control their business interests in the country. The convention system eventually died and what has been taking place post the regime of former President Ferdinand Marcos is effectively a crowning but without the guarantee of victory. It was only Cory Aquino’s anointed son Noynoy Aquino who won under a cloud of electoral fraud by the thinnest of pluralities. Rodrigo Duterte broke that mold in 2016 by running on his own terms. Proof of this is the announcement last night of the Ping Lacson – Tito Sotto camp that they are running for President and Vice-President respectively.
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If Danding Cojuangco were still alive this would never happen without his explicit approval. But with the passing of the Boss last year and the inability or lack of interest of Ramon Ang to continue the role of Danding, it was inevitable that Tito Sotto would take the reigns of the party as its most senior member. The Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) is the oldest and longest-surviving post-Marcos political party in the country which still has a loyal membership. Political parties have evolved to becoming representative not only of political but economic interest as well. Ramon Ang’s pockets aren’t as deep as Danding’s which is another reason why he didn’t claim the titular leadership of the NPC.
The National Unity Party of Ricky Razon is better financed and they have announced they will stick with the administration. Lacson-Sotto is in the best position to challenge the administration to provide the public with a viable alternative in the 2022 polls. Vice President Leni Robredo and Manila Mayor Isko Moreno are still wet-behind-the-ears politicians who don’t really possess a track record of experience, most of all gravitas, to lead the country. In Lacson-Sotto, the public has two battle-seasoned veterans of the legislative and executive branches who understand how the system works and what it will take to get things done. It is also a welcome development because Lacson focuses more on policy debates than popularity. He disdains appealing to the baser instincts of the masses unlike other candidates who sing and dance their way to electoral victory without knowing what to do after they’ve won.
Now the public awaits their platform of government which they are sure to present when they make their formal announcement on August 4. What we are witnessing here is the birth of a new opposition and the death of the old one which simply couldn’t get anything right after they lost in 2016 and 2019. This development also puts the final nail in the coffin of the convenor group that MLQ3 is fond of. Lacson was wise to reject the overture of 1Sambayan. He pointed out in his letter to its founder, Retired Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio, the disconnect given he (Lacson) was a principal author of the Anti-Terror Bill in the Senate and also supported the passage of the law enacting the National Identification System which are complementary.
If the 2022 election becomes a two-party race then it will be to the public’s benefit. The 2022 election is crucial to our survival because of the pandemic environment. There has to be disruption in government in order to address the disruption caused by the pandemic in our government and society.
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