Hate turncoats? Anti-Balimbing bill to punish them

A new bill seeks to punish politicians who change parties 8 months before the next elections. But is it the solution?

MANILA, Philippines – Can’t keep track of politicians’ parties? The Senate might just have the solution for you: the so-called Anti-Balimbing Act.

Amid early noise for the 2013 midterm polls, some senators are pushing for the passage of a bill that seeks to punish political butterflies.

Senate Bill 3214, formally called The Political Party Development Act, aims to penalize politicians who change their parties 8 months before the next elections.

Penalties include forfeiting office, disqualification from running in the next election and appointment in any public position, and prohibition from assuming a post in the new political party.

“Political parties and candidates should grow together in terms of crafting a vision and building a platform,” Sen Edgardo Angara, a co-author of the measure, told reporters on Thursday, June 14.

He added, “We should have political parties with clear ideals, programs and platforms that we can weigh instead of just choosing the most popular candidate.”

The bill is pending second reading at the chamber. On Wednesday, June 13, the Senate Committees on Constitutional Amendments and Finance approved the measure, paving the way for its endorsement in the plenary.

Taxpayers to pay for parties, campaigns

But wait, there’s a catch. 

Aside from punishing turncoats, the bill aims to establish a state subsidy fund for accredited political parties. The money will be used for party development and campaign expenditures.

The bill proposes that the Commission on Audit examine the financial reports of the parties to check how they use the taxpayers’ money as well as voluntary contributions.

The measure also put limits on voluntary contributions. For a national party, each individual donor can only contribute a maximum of P100,000 while corporations or groups can give only up to P1 million.

Angara said the bill aims to institutionalize a strong party system and promote transparency in campaign financing.

Aside from Angara, Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Miriam Defensor Santiago and Franklin Drilon filed the bill.

Ironically, some of the sponsors have also been accused of political turncoatism.

 ‘That’s a sham’

This early though, some senators vow to block the passage of the bill.

Sen Sergio Osmeña III told reporters on Wednesday, June 13, “Kalokohan ‘yon.” (That’s a sham.)

“Why are you preventing something that is not a crime?”

Osmeña pointed out that changing parties and alliances is just natural for Philippine politicians. He hinted that the motive of the sponsors is not really to improve the political party system.

While he is an independent, Osmeña was campaign manager for then Sen Benigno Aquino III at one point in the 2010 polls. Aquino is chairman of the Liberal Party. Yet Osmeña has also ran under and supported Vice President Jejomar Binay’s Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban). 

“The reason those people are pushing for that bill is they’re in control of a party. They will keep you captive.” 

In a press forum, Sen Francis Escudero, an independent, said he also has reservations about the bill. 

“With all the things that we need to spend on and give subsidy to, I think the political parties should be the last priority. I also think the elections should be the last that we should spend money on. I can think of one million things that we can spend on and give subsidy to than candidates.”

What do you think of the bill? Is it the solution to political turncoatism? Let us know in the comments below. – Rappler.com