Political parties? What we have are cliques – Osmeña

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate committee on electoral reforms on Monday, February 17, revived talks of reforming the country's political party system by tackling 3 Senate bills on the matter.

The discussion, however, shifted toward resolving a basic question: what is a political party in the first place?

Bills separately filed by senators Antonio Trillanes IV, Joseph Victor Ejercito, and Miriam Defensor-Santiago propose:

Senator Sergio Osmeña III found faults in the proposed bills, saying that most political parties do not espouse ideologies or platforms, and are just there to accommodate the political plans of certain individuals.

"They do not have to stand for anything. They just have to be a political clique," said Osmeña.

"We don't have 'real' political parties, as other countries recognize them. Barkabarkada lang dito, grupo-grupo lang po iyan," he continued. (Here, we only have cliques or groups of people.)

"Why would you institutionalize a political party that is brought together by a single personality, and that party disappears when that personality retires or dies, or the party's money runs out?" asked Osmeña. (READ: Political parties should grow up, or else...)

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) admitted that it is limited to the criteria set by the Omnibus Election Code (OEC) in accrediting political parties. The OEC defines a political party as "an organized group of qualified voters pursuing the same ideology, political ideas, and principles for the general conduct of government."

National political parties have constituencies or chapters in at least a majority of regions. Meanwhile, regional political parties have constituencies spread over at least the majority of cities and provinces in a certain region.

There are currently 152 accredited political parties in the country, according to Comelec.

"We are saying that it's not the implementing arm like us in Comelec, but it's really the legislature who would make a clear definition of a political party," said Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr.

"It is important for us to have a very definite criteria on which [political parties] to accredit," added Comelec Commissioner Tito Luie Guia. "For instance, in our existing laws, a national party should only have a presence in the majority of all the regions, but we are not guided properly as to what 'presence' means. A more quantifiable criteria is something we might need."

Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, electoral reform committee chairman, supported the idea of a better definition of a political party "for these proposed bills to really be realistic and to help in the maturity of our political system."

For his part, Senator Juan Edgardo Angara said that these bills are premised on the idea that political parties are important actors in a democracy.

"Maybe in the current state, they are not worthy of emulation or praise because of shifting alliances. But it's an advancement to say that political parties are important, because you go beyond the individuals. That is politics at its most noble," Angara said. – Rappler.com

Michael Bueza

Michael is a data curator under Rappler's Tech Team. He works on data about elections, governance, and the budget. He also follows the Philippine pro wrestling scene and the WWE. Michael is also part of the Laffler Talk podcast trio.

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