MANILA, Philippines – Following his resignation from Aksyon Demokratiko, Pasig Mayor Vico Sotto called for a stronger political party system that would help end “personality-based” politics in the country.
“Sa ngayon, independent ako (For now, I’m independent),” Sotto said in an interview with ABS-CBN on Thursday, November 3. “Mayroon [nag-aalok]. Pero hindi ako interesado (There are offers. But I’m not interested).”
Sotto’s reason? “I’m an advocate of stronger political parties and [a] stronger political party system in the Philippines,” he said.
“I will not join a political party just for the sake of my political gain…. But the only reason I might join a political party is if I really believe in the party principles, the party’s ideology, and in how the party is being run,” said Sotto.
The Pasig mayor added that it was “no secret” that the political party system in the Philippines is weak. He also called on lawmakers to file political party reform bills.
“‘Yun talaga ang kailangan natin sa Pilipinas eh. We need stronger political parties para hindi na nagiging personality-based na ang pulitika sa Pilipinas,” he said.
(That’s what we really need in the Philippines. We need stronger political parties so that politics no longer becomes personality-based.)
Sotto also said he has no plan of putting up his own political party.
In a letter dated June 30, Sotto filed his resignation from Aksyon, saying that he believed the party was “no longer a group of individuals with similar political goals and ideals.”
The resignation came just after the 2022 election season, but was only known publicly on Wednesday, November 2. While Sotto said that his decision to step down as party executive vice president and member was “not about any particular person or candidate,” he did say that “recent events” made him believe that the party was “headed towards a different direction.”
According to Ateneo political science professor Arjan Aguirre, being independent is a “good strategy” to bide one’s time.
“This is a provisional option for a political actor who has yet to make up his or her mind given the extant political formations and alignments. Our party system is underdeveloped [and] tends to be controlled by powerful business and dynastic interests,” Aguirre told Rappler.
Aguirre said that the party system being underdeveloped was just a symptom of what he calls a more serious systemic problem – lack of party institutionalization.
“Vico’s decision to be independent is a wise move for now; but he should use this moment to lead a sincere dialogue with his constituents and allow them to work on serious party building,” said Aguirre.
Aksyon Demokratiko chairman Ernest Ramel Jr. said on Wednesday that the party was “saddened” by Sotto’s resignation but that it was not closing its doors to the mayor should he decide to return to the party.
Former Manila mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso was Aksyon Demokratiko’s standard-bearer for the 2022 election. Sotto did not endorse any presidential candidate.
Weak political parties have thrived in the Philippines, as seen in political turncoatism by national and local politicians in virtually every election season.
The 2022 elections may have seen the most “shared” candidates in recent history, with several senatorial hopefuls as “guest candidates” in different slates. – Rappler.com