Under this country’s system of government the presidency of the upper chamber of Congress is the third-highest official in the land. That being the case, the holder of that office is expected to have sufficient knowledge of contemporary Philippine history. Particularly true in this regard is knowledge of the history of contemporary national politics.
When I first read the reports of what Senate president Aquilino Pimentel III said to his hosts during his recent visit to China upon the invitation of the national directorate of the Communist Party of China (CPC), I did not know how to react. Was Mr. Pimentel caught off-guard? Was he merely being polite to his hosts? Or was he being serious?
What did the Senate president say that has made me ask these questions? This is what one of the reporters who were with him in Fujian province wrote: “President Duterte’s political party is enlisting the help of the Communist Party of China to train its members. The ruling Partido Demokratiko ng Pilipinas-Laban ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) is in talks with CPC for a partnership, including having members of Mr. Duterte’s party learn the ways and ideology of China’s sole governing party. Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, president of PDP-Laban, reportedly discussed cooperation in ‘party-bidding,’ among other things, when he met with senior CPC officials …”
It is reasonable to infer from the reporter’s dispatch that Mr. Pimentel (1) wants to strengthen his party during the remaining five years of President Duterte’s term and (2) believes that PDP-Laban will be a significant player in this country’s politics after June 30, 2022, when Rodrigo Duterte steps down from Malacanang.
If the Senate president is determined to strengthen his party – with help from whatever country – he has a gigantic task ahead of him, for PDP-Laban has gone a long way since the heady days immediately following the EDSA Revolution. PDP-Laban is now a miniscule party indeed, some cruel commentators consider it a political joke. And if Mr. Pimentel really believes that PDP-Laban will remain a major player in Philippine politics after President Duterte’s term, he is totally incognizant or oblivious of contemporary Philippine political history.
Before September 21, 1972 the Nacionalista Party (NP) was one of the two giants of Philippine politics, but when President Ferdinand Marcos created his own martial-law party, the Kilusan ng Bagong Lipunan (KBL), the NP shrank to near-nothingness because most of its members had taken the KBL membership oath. When President Corazon Aquino gave her tacit blessing to the newly established Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP) as the premier political party in the post-EDSA Revolution legislature, the representatives of the Filipino people deserted the KBL en masse and aligned themselves with the powerful LDP.
LDP was, in turn, to suffer karma when President Fidel Ramos’s political advisers created the Lakas Tao Party – the subsequent affiliation of the National Union of Christian Democratic and the Muslim Democrats made it the Lakas-NUCD-UMDC – and encouraged the members of the LDP, the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) and other parties to join Lakas-NUCD-UMDC in a grand coalition.
President Joseph Estrada did not go all-out to make his Partido ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) the leading party, but President Gloria Arroyo, fearful of her political security sought to break the lingering potency of Lakas-NUCD-UMDC by establishing her own party, KAMPI.
When Benigno Aquino III went to the 2010 hustings astride a Liberal Party horse and was elected President, his advisers enticed the members of Lakas, KAMPI, LDP and other parties to join forces with the Liberal Party in order to bring about the achievement of President Aquino’s governance agenda. Thus came into being the super-majority of the 15th Congress and the 16th Congress.
In the aftermath of the 2016 election, the Aquino super-majority was replaced by the Duterte super-majority. Until very recently the members of the current super-majority proudly identified themselves as Liberal; in the not too distant past they were equally proudly KAMPI or Lakas or LDP. Given this political history and this political culture, does Koko Pimentel really believe that PDP-Laban will be a significant Congressional player when Rodrigo Duterte shall have stepped down?
Forget about partnering with the CPC to train the PDP-Laban members in the “ways and ideology of China’s sole governing party,” Mr. Senate president History has shown that a CPC-strengthened PDP-Laban is not likely to outlive the Duterte Presidency.
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