Only in the Philippines, Really

Only in the Philippines, Really

It’s commonly said, ‘only in the Philippines’. Our country is so well known for changing the rules mid-stream. The forthcoming barangay elections was supposed to be held last year but was postponed to October this year. From Malacanang, President Duterte made an open declaration that he wanted the local polls to be once again be held some other time. ‘The president’s wish is my command’, his allies in congress were poised to accommodate Duterte’s desire.

You may want to look on yesterday’s political system. I grew up knowing two political parties in our country, the Liberal Party and the Nacionalista Party. Our political system copied the two party system of the the United States of America. The counterparts in the USA are the Republican Party aka GOP (Grand Old Party) and the Democratic Party aka Democrats.

There was a time the voting age in our country was 21 but overtime our congress lowered it to 18. Curiously, I asked few eighteeners to name at least two political parties now accredited by our Commission on Elections (Comelec). I got blank answers. Those above 21 whom I queried mentioned the Liberal Party and the Nacionalista Party.

The Liberal Party (LP) is one of the oldest extant political parties in the country and pride itself with big names like Manuel Roxas, Elpidio Quirino, Benigno ‘Ninoy’ Aquino and Diosdado P. Macapagal. It was founded after the war, sometime in 1945. And the oldest party is the Nacionalista Party (NP) which was founded in 1907. The NP was the ruling party from 1935 to 1944 and was headed by President Manuel L. Quezon till the war broke out. Quezon took the submarine with General Douglas Macarthur for the United States via Australia and left the country and the party under the care of Sergio Osmena Sr.

The NP big guns include former Presidents Ramon Magsaysay of Zambales, Carlos P. Garcia of Bohol, Ferdinand E. Marcos of Ilocos Norte and Claro M. Recto of Batangas. One national figure coming from Pampanga was the late Senator Gil J. Puyat of Guagua who became senate president. The late Rafael L. Lazatin of Angeles City and the late Congressman Igmidio Bondoc were the last known prominent members of the party coming from Pampanga.

The leaderships of this country changed hands from stalwarts of these two parties. No political figure during those years can become president unless they belong either to the NP or LP. I remember I was still in the high school when Raul Manglapus, a brilliant senator run as an independent candidate and assembled prominent names in his senatorial slate and all of them failed to get the approval of the electorates.

When martial law was proclaimed by President Ferdinand Marcos in 1972, the political system was overhauled and the multi-party system was born. Today we can no longer count with our fingers the number of political parties nationwide, and more so if we include the local parties that mushroomed in most provinces. Our poltical system became chopsuey.

Then came the party list system and the population of the lower house of congress ballooned from 104 members in the late sixties with almost 300 members now. There is a considerable view that the party list system is only an added cost shouldered by taxpayers’ money. And by the looks of it, the additional party list members are enjoying the perks, and no way they will budge from their seats. Only in the Philippines.

Editor’s Note: Formerly newspaperman of Daily Inquirer and other major dailies; former TV and radio Broadcaster. Former Director of various corporations like Clark Development Co.; and a former City of Angeles Councillor. Now a regular columnist of Sun Star Pampanga.