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“New politics” is a collective term that traces its roots to the country’s post-war independence. In three separate periods, three political formations entered the electoral arena, embodying the principles of “new politics” as a pivotal shift from dynastic or elite politics to one that would serve the country’s sovereign and democratic interests.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) was a leftist party formed in 1945, and in the 1946 elections backed Sergio Osmeña (NP) for the presidency against Manuel Roxas (LP) due to the latter’s alleged sympathy toward Filipino Japanese collaborators during the war. But the six DA candidates – all coming from Central Luzon – who were elected to the House were barred from taking office on alleged fraud. In truth, the sixth among them, Luis Taruc, had opposed onerous treaties with the US that were eventually signed by Roxas, including the 1947 bases agreement and parity amendment that gave Americans rights to exploit the country’s national resources.
For similar reasons, nationalist senators Claro M. Recto and Lorenzo Tañada, who ran for president and vice president, respectively, under the Nationalist Citizens Party (NCP) were demonized as “communists” during the 1957 elections. Founded after the EDSA revolution, the Partido ng Bayan (PnB) fielded senatorial candidates in 1987 but lost as party leaders, and organizers were attacked often violently during the campaign. The PnB’s “new politics” has been bannered by the progressive bloc in Congress since joining the party-list elections in 2001.
Outside the left, “new politics” has gained some traction among Filipinos who share the principles that it espouses. New politics strives for, among others, upholding the country’s sovereignty; ensuring genuine people’s representation in government; eliminating poverty and bridging income disparities; and protection of human rights.
New politics has formidable challenges, however. For one, ensuring genuine people’s representation in government requires enforcing the constitutional ban on political dynasties. Despite bills filed since 1987, the implementation of this provision has been an uphill struggle. Eliminating endemic poverty and bridging income inequality has also been a pipedream, with land reform gaining no significant breakthroughs while manufacturing has stagnated due to weak FDIs and the absence of structural transformation from agriculture to manufacturing.
As an ideological roadmap, new politics envisions to make elections a mechanism for reform-driven platforms to be campaigned for by political parties and not just individual candidates. Unfortunately, votes are usually cast for individuals rather than for socio-economic and political platforms crafted by viable political parties. The country’s election system remains to be traditional, driven by personality-oriented politics – one that is often decided by popularity and wealth.
Elections suffer from the absence of a genuine political party system where political groups have a well-defined ideology, grassroots membership, and organizational discipline designed to penalize turncoatism. Ironically, the country practices a multi-party system, with 377 political parties today dominated by at least seven traditional political groups. The seven leading political parties, which include PDP-Laban, Liberal Party, and Nacionalista Party, are dominated by political dynasties.
About 94% of the country’s 80 provinces are under the control of political dynasties, of which 25 are the most dominant. Generally, this has been the prevailing system in national and local politics under which dynastic candidates have 80% chance of winning an election, as attested to by many studies. This shows that elections are not a level playing field.
Fair election is hampered by the fact that poll supervision by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is constrained by its lack of independence. With all members of the body appointed by the president, it is a foregone conclusion that the poll body’s non-partisanship is not absolutely guaranteed.
Likewise, elections continue to be tainted by fraud such as vote buying, vote padding- and -shaving, and violence. With the election technology and management outsourced to a foreign company since 2010, the automated election system (AES) has been marred by technical glitches, cases of pre-voting counting, and other vulnerabilities. The technical errors that surfaced in the 2016 and 2019 polls led Senate President Vicente Sotto to author a bill seeking to adopt a hybrid election system that combines manual voting and counting with electronic transmission. Unfortunately, the bill is in the backburner.
For all the issues pestering the country’s election system, one of the most critical issues is the need to demystify the election of a president as the elixir for the country’s woes. For too long, the election of a president has always raised hope that life would be better and the major ills that have hounded the country for decades like corruption, poverty, joblessness, education, housing, and so on will melt away. Finding election promises unachievable, people begin to look for a new leadership in a new election. And the “wheel of fortune” goes on.
It’s high time for the renewal of “new politics” that puts the nation’s destiny in the hands of the people and transforms governance into one that is people-centered. The list of challenges to make this possible is formidable, but there are some steps that appear to be doable in the short term. One is to develop dynamic, mass-based national political parties to compete with the traditional, obsolete, and dynasty-led political formations. Another is a stronger mass offensive to enforce the constitutional ban on political dynasties that for decades have lorded over the country’s political system and its election component. Further, the party-list system should be amended to increase the seats representing the marginalized masses and include safety nets against the system’s encroachment by powerful political forces. – Rappler.com
Bobby M. Tuazon is the Director for Policy Studies of the think tank Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG). The editor and co-author of 15 books, Tuazon also teaches in UP Manila.