Circuses and political parties

The circus has arrived.

The filing of Certificates of Candidacy for those who will run for the 2016 national elections is over.  The final numbers are 130 bets for President, 19 for vice president, and 172 for senators.

These are huge numbers. If there is a world record for biggest number of candidates for one electoral exercise, we surely will be the record-holder. 

These candidates’ reasons for running are as varied as their backgrounds. The following are but some of the more imaginative platforms articulated right after their COC filing: establishing a monarchy; legalizing the four seasons of winter, spring, summer, and fall to do away with the rainy season; annexation to the USA; reclaiming Sabah; having mini-stop stores in all streets; and home improvement.

A number said that they were sent by god to run because of what is happening to the country. One said he is the Hitler of his generation, and yet another claims to be a representative from  the intergalactic space.

Yes, definitely, there are characters among those who want to be in Malacañang. Moreover, most, from their articulation of what they would do as president, obviously do not have a grasp of the enormity and complexity of the responsibilities attached with the office.

While many observers are quick to dismiss most as nuisance candidates, and certainly there must be a number, it cannot be denied that these are ordinary people who are frustrated with how the country is managed, and have decided to take matters into their hands. Running for the highest position became their solution to the leadership problems we have. This, to me, is understandable.

As Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said, we are a democracy and the poll body is duty bound to accept all COCs. After, they will go through the process of screening all candidates to determine who are qualified. Qualification here, beyond the technical ones such as citizenship and age, has to do with the candidates’ capacities to wage a national campaign. This is not just about money. This has to do with organization and presence of groups and people who will run the campaign in various parts of the country.

The weeding out process will thus result in the disqualification of most of those who filed CoCs and will leave just a handful from which the electorate will choose. 

Beyond the numbers and quality of those who aspire for national positions however, the circus continues even within the more established political parties and groups.

For instance, while candidates for president of major parties have long declared their intent to run, it was a struggle to find their vice-presidential bets. VP Binay’s running mate was only finalized on the day of their filing of candidacies. The various slates were also hard-pressed in completing their senatorial list.

Look at the Nacionalista Party, one of the oldest parties we have, three of its members are running for vice president! Senators Bongbong Marcos, Alan Peter Cayetano, and Antonio Trillanes are all NP members. How could this have happened?

Also, politicians switch parties like changing clothes. A case in point is Manny Pacquiao who was with then President Macapagal Arroyo, then transferred to LP, and now is running under UNA. Pacquiao is a perfect example of a political butterfly. His party affiliation is based on what’s most beneficial or convenient for him.

And there are many like him.

This circus is significantly because of our very weak political party system if we can call this a system at all.

One, our mainstream political parties are hardly based on ideologoies or principles. There are no distinct political lines that distinguish one from the other. In other countries, one enters a Party because one believes in its ideology. There is ideological formation. The members are educated on party principles and platform.

In this set-up, party life is vibrant. They are functional on a daily basis and operate like regular offices. Thus, loyalty to the party, beyond specific leaders is developed. Party ideology is internalized by members because they live it.

Here, party loyalty is virtually non-existent and most political parties are only alive during election time. Thus, turncoatism is rampant. One’s party membership is determined by what’s best for one’s self-interest in terms of elections.

In countries where political parties are strong, decision-making is lodged not just on one person but the membership. Thus, selection of candidates go through rigorous vetting processes. The party selects you and not the other way around. Also, no one person decides for the entire group. Thus, a situation like what NP faces now is unthinkable.

Having three candidates for one position cannot happen because when the party decides, everyone should follow or one can get disciplined. Moreover, acts that contradict party principles are censured. Think about Tolentino and the Playgirls incident. In most progressive parties, Tolentino would have been expelled. This is called party discipline and ethics. Party members have the responsibility to obey party decisions and its Code of Ethics.

In countries where political parties are mature and strong, virtually all those who want to present themselves as candidates belong to and are chosen by their political parties. Because establishing a political party is not easy, one cannot just organize another in a jiffy when he or she is not chosen as candidate. A situation where more than 100 people will run for the highest office will not happen.

In our kind of politics, self-interest and political expediency is the rule. Our party system is a mess. Party loyalty, discipline, and ethics are unheard of. This is significantly why every election season is circus season.


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Topics: Elizabeth Angsioco , COC , Certificates of Candidacy
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