The signing of Imperial Japan’s instrument of surrender on the USS Missouri officially created a deadline for the Philippine commonwealth to transition herself to the third republic. The Nacionalista party, a political party established by Presidents Manuel Quezon and Sergio Osmena, was dominating the legislature with their numbers. With President Quezon succumbing to tuberculosis during the second world war, then-Vice President Sergio Osmena took office and enjoyed an initial advantage as the incumbent chief executive in the lead up to the 1946 presidential elections. The first general elections of the third Philippine republic pitted two candidates hailing from the Nacionalista party, President Osmena against Senate President Roxas. With President Osmena placing too much trust on his achievements and name recall, his complacency later paved the way for his own defeat. The political rift generated between those factions inside the Nacionalista party gave birth to the Liberal party of the Philippines, which was founded by then-Senators Manuel Roxas and Elpidio Quirino.
This separation between those two parties can be viewed through their differences in accordance to the political spectrum, which separates conservatives from liberals. Such differences are visible in the mature democracies of the United Kingdom’s parliamentary system and that of the United States’ presidential system. The United Kingdom has the Conservative and Labour parties, while the United States has the Republicans and the Democrats. Even countries that had a long history of authoritarian and militaristic governments such as in Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan later adopted such political separation. These differences in their political ideologies provide a glimpse as to how they craft government policies as instruments of administration. Unfortunately, this cannot be said to describe that of the Philippines because of the nation’s weak institutions. Coupled with Filipino-style politicking, it can be easily observed why Philippine politics had always been both demeaning and demoralizing.
Philippine political institutions had never matured and, undeniably, continue to be non-inclusive, which is similar to how the Spaniards denied Filipinos socio-economic freedoms during the colonial period. In turn, these flawed political institutions of the country created two notable disorders: the proliferation of unstable political parties and turncoats. Ideally in a government, the administration creates and executes laws while the opposition performs its duty as a balancing, checking body in the legislature. However, this character-based politics of the country has deeply embedded itself in the society, where political parties are no longer bastions of ideologies and constructive dialogues but mere machinations for elections. Paired with local government candidates who willingly neglect their allegiances and principles for political survival, a volatile yet corrosive social environment is created. This was highlighted when the administration of President Benigno Aquino demonstrated how the Liberal party (LP) and its officials governed the Philippine republic.
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Borrowing Voltaire’s cynical remark about the Holy Roman Empire, the same can be said about the Liberal party of the Philippines. The LP is neither liberal, nor a party, nor for the Philippines. First is that the aforementioned party is liberal only in name. They proudly espouse human rights and civil liberties, which are essential in liberalism. However, the LP is merely paying lip-service to such advocacies since they are designed only to suit the interests of the party’s stockholders. Together with a sympathetic media, they have creatively pushed for narratives that appear liberal externally, but remain internally illiberal. Such can be observed since there is a near complete absence of liberalizing reforms in their administration, specially in the Philippine economy. They blocked these critical reforms because they utterly dislike enfranchising groups of individuals that would become potential competitors for power. Protectionism, not liberalization, is the name of LP’s game.
Also, the Liberal party is no political party because aside from the clear absence of binding fundamental ideologies between their members, it is only created as a platform of fielding candidates during elections. LP has taken advantage of popular opinion that distracts from and camouflages their hidden, malicious, and nefarious interests. Their connections with traditional media entities sustain a deadly propaganda machine. Through media, LP can manipulate public opinion easily, where they can vilify one innocent individual with a guilty verdict in the eyes of an ordinary man. Such is the harrowing situation of a hollow political party.
Finally, the Liberal party was never for the Filipinos. Their desire to control and monopolize narratives divides the society with their self-righteous and culpable actions. In addition, the lack of reforms in their policies made the wealthy, wealthier and the poor, poorer. Their lackadaisical governance is an embarrassment to the electorate. How can we expect freedom from the dehumanizing effects of poverty if the LP promotes institutions that are both politically and economically extractive? How can the intergenerational poverty of Filipinos be resolved when the said political party does not craft and submit legislation that promotes the creation of employment opportunities? Serving the interests of the country’s political and economic elites definitely come first, and defending national interests is a far second for the LP.
All of these observations regarding the Liberal party of the Philippines are clear when one contextualizes Benigno Aquino’s presidency and his dismal performance. First is about the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), which was deliberately used to purchase the services and political support of various lawmakers. This “pork barrel” had substantially increased during his administration and was distributed under the LP’s discretion. Fortunately, the Supreme Court declared the unconstitutionality of PDAF. Speaking of the highest judicial body, the impeachment trial of the chief magistrate added a hideous blemish to Philippine history as allies of then-President Aquino mocked the check-and-balance system of the 1987 constitution. They engaged in trial-by-publicity, which compelled the senators to impeach Chief Justice Renato Corona, except for the three defiant yet dignified legislators. Lastly, the macabre massacre of the country’s special action forces demonstrated the lack of finesse in decision-making of the chief executive and his stalwarts. LP’s incompetence costed precious lives and guess what they have been saying all along; those incidents were never their fault.
The Aquino administration was pampered with strong and timely fiscal policy reforms that President Gloria Arroyo introduced. It was a matter of stabilizing the country. Instead, however, Aquino resorted to hijacking and cannibalizing these faulty institutions. Dysfunctional mass transport systems, filthy airport schemes, botched relief operations, massive bribery, and lowered morale of the armed forces are mere symptoms of the LP’s brand of governance, which should definitively form no part in the nation-building process. However, here they are again, being rebranded from yellows to pinks as they attempt to wage this moral crusade in reclaiming Malacañang. This can be analogized with how Amb. Rigoberto Tiglao as also articulated in his book entitled Debunked mentioned that PDAF was basically renamed as “Bottom-up budgeting projects”, while maintaining its sinister objectives. Hopefully, the 2022 elections would follow the patterns of 2016 and 2019 when the electorate served the LP humiliating defeats that irrevocably lost them the people’s mandate. If they are to survive, the Liberal party of the Philippines must transform internally and recalibrate themselves first, lest they fall further to the abyss of irrelevance.
A no one who enjoys the fun things of life in private.
A believer of freedom, capitalism, and conservative brand of politics.
A no one who cares less about popular public opinion.
A believer that life can be better, if every one is a tad more responsible.