by Manuel B. Quintal, Esquire
Call it the Philippines’ dancing with the stars, and non-stars, in politics.
It is not new anymore. It happens through the years, but it becomes prevalent during an election year. Or the year immediately before. It also happens after the elections. Political alliances and membership in political parties are as temporary as convenience dictates. It is true. In politics, there are no permanent friends or enemies. Only permanent selfish self-interests. It is not illegal. It may not be a morally or ethically correct rule or conduct, but it is a rule or conduct generally accepted by the people. If it were not generally accepted, the electorate will not be electing and re-electing people whose political party affiliations and alliances change as often as elections are held. Of course, there may be material enticements convincing the people to vote as they do.
But who can blame them for changing loyalties? Personal political survival is certainly more rewarding financially and otherwise. The spoils of politics are only available to those who win. Or to those with the winners.
Why this is even possible and persistent in the Philippines is not a mystery. Much has been written about this. In the Philippines, elections are about personalities and wealth. Glamorous personalities, in fact. The glamour accounts for the exceptionally high number of actors and actresses vying for and are elected. Political pedigree and economic means are, sad to say, considered by many voters as important factors in their decisions. Popularity in surveys becomes the voters’ yardstick on who to vote for. Unfortunately.
This phenomenon occurs because there are no ideological or philosophical differences between the political parties. Their platforms are significantly similar though presented in different attractive wrappings. Even the traditional and established political parties, namely the Nacionalista Party and Liberal Party, are different only in names. The characters and personalities, whether descendants of its known members of years gone by or new recruits, may very well be identified as members of the other if they do not carry their respective party’s identification cards. New political parties and alliances of political parties sprout and proliferate every election. Most disintegrate as fast as they came to being, but they are easily resurrected with the same or under a different nomenclature when expediency calls for it.
Within political parties, enforcement of or compliance with party rules is apparently either minimal, relaxed or non-existent at all. For how can you explain the situation of more than one party members running for the same office and all of them are supported by the party leadership? It is not uncommon that if one of them is declared the official candidate of the party, the others will, nevertheless, continue to pursue their political ambition. Maybe declare themselves as independent candidates or seek the official support of any other party or parties more than happy and willing to do so for the sake of the political party(ies)’ own survival. It is not uncommon for cabinet members to join a political party different from that of the party of his or her president that is willing to support him or her in his or her pursuit of elective offices. Declared independent candidates are really considered independents only because they do not officially belong to a particular political party as a matter of choice. But they are no different from the official members of any of the political parties. Declared independents are like the clothes size that fits all. Whatever their political agendas may be can easily fit, or are malleable enough to fit, the agendas of any existing political party.
Re-alignments of parties and politicians are guaranteed to happen after the elections. Charges and counter-charges and mudslinging during the pre-election period are easily forgotten by the political dancers. The charges and counter-charges and mudslinging are wiped out from the consciousness of the voters as soon as the election ends. Only to be revived when the next election cycle comes.
Within the interregnum, that is, between elections, the wheels of government continue to turn. Business as usual, as it is said. Changes, whether for progress or retrogress, will happen, as they are bound to. Progress will happen at its own pace — slowly. But people wants more. And faster.
People will complain about the performance of their government or the officials. People will blame them for inefficiency, but conveniently ignoring the simple truth that they elected them despite knowledge of who they were, or were not, and what they stood or not stood for. Voters point fingers. But not to themselves.
The people, particularly the voters, can be the generators of significant and lasting changes, particularly those changes toward moral progress and economic development . The people, particularly the voters, can also be the deterrents. It is a role, the people, particularly the voters, can freely choose. It is a choice, only they will be responsible for.
For as long as the people, particularly the voters, reward turncoats with their votes, the dance of the political parties will continue indefinitely. We all know the kind of future it will bring.
About the Author
Brod Manuel B. Quintal, Esquire, is a former college professor of Political Science and Law, with graduate degrees in both disciplines. He is admitted to practice law in the Philippines, State of New York, and federal courts, including the Supreme Court of the United States. His Law Offices of Manuel B. Quintal, P.C. is located at 291 Broadway, Suite 1501, New York, NY 10007, United States of America. He is the former Executive Editor of International Tribune, a weekly newspaper based in New York. He is the president of the Tau Kappa Phi Law Fraternity Alumni Society – USA/Canada, for 2014-2016.