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The urgent need of Reformation of the Philippine Political Party System from Multi- Part to Two- Party*
*A library research paper submitted to Ms. Victoria Jean R. Ella in partial fulfillment of the requirements in ENG 2 (College Writing in English). Second Semester 2012-13. University of the Philippines Los Baños, College, Laguna.
Alexis De Tocqueville, a French political thinker, historian and the author of the book Democracy in America, told that, ‘In politics, shared hatreds are almost always the basis of friendships’ (as cited in Janda, 2002, p. 271). The definition and formation of a party system can be dissected in this quotation of De Tocqueville. The friendship referred in the quotation is a well-established one, unified by the ‘shared hatred’ that would mean the shared ideals and principle of a party. Thus, a political party is an association of politicians seeking power in the government to exercise their ethics and ideology for the common good of citizens. A party is also like an embodiment of the voters’ needs and wishes to the government. They choose some of its members as representatives to be candidates during elections as to secure position in the government. These representatives now will present the agendas and programs to the voters and the characteristics of efficient socialization and mobilization of a party will be tested. The latter pertains to the addressing of public welfare while socialization and mobilization is the capacity to organize in order to help those in poor status.
The electorate then will select the candidate in their hearts by ballot. Hence, a party can develop through the ideas in religion, business, agriculture and other aspects. (Heywood, 2002) Political parties in a network of relationships are called party system. It should be taken note that a party system is not merely a group of political parties. There is a certain standard to be considered before warranting if it is a party system or not. The number and size of the party is the first thing to be considered. It is relevant in the electoral process as it will serve as a reference to the chances of each party to gain power. Aside from this, the number of party is related to the naming of the different types of party systems. The second consideration is the relationship possessed among each party, if it is interconnected with harmony and cooperation or with discord and conflict. Stability and the degree of orderliness must be characterized by a genuine party system. (Heywood, 2002) In contemporary times, there are four main types of party system. Chinese Communist Party is an example of one- party system characterized by monopoly of government power. Two- party system is characterized by two parties competing for different positions in the government to secure power. This kind of system is practiced in USA and UK. Dominant party system is not really well- known due to some people confusing it to the one- party system. The difference is that parties are competing for power but there is a dominant party prevailing for a long period of time.
The multiparty system is the type wherein there are more than two parties competing for power. (Heywood, 2002) Philippines is one of those countries using the multiparty system. There are many registered parties in the country but is characterized by low esteem and perceived as “selfish, dishonest, biased and incapable of recruiting quality leaders” (Lawson, 1989). The situation of political parties in the Philippines according to Rocamora “are not divided on the basis of long-term upper class interests, much less the interests of the lower classes”(Rocamora, 1997). Instead, “they are temporary and unstable coalitions of upper class fractions pieced together for elections and post-election battles for patronage. They come together only to put down assertions of lower class interests. The rest of the time they maneuver in particularistic horsetrading and the perennial search for deals.” According to Aceron (2009), Philippine parties are still far from reality as they are performing well the functions of candidate selection, leadership formation, interest aggregation and agenda development, for this reason, this library research paper was written to inform the Filipinos and to persuade them to take an urgent measure to address this big problem by reforming our party system from multi- party to a two- party system. The history of the party system in the country is notable due to Americans intervention during colonial rule (Butwell, 1963).
Furthermore, it is said to be historically and culturally rich. The existence of party system can be traced during the Spanish regime. It was happened shortly after the “Cry of Balintawak” in August 26, 1896. The clash between Emilio Aguinaldo, warlord of Cavite and Andres Bonifacio, founder of Katipunan during the first presidential election created two political parties. The Magdiwang under Bonifacio while the Magdalo lead by Aguinaldo. Soon, the hostility between these to parties reached to its limit and caused the death of Andres Bonifacio . During the war of Philippine Independence (1899- 1902), a rivalry was formed between the ‘pacifists’ led by Dr. Pedro A. Paterno and Felipe Buencamino Sr. and the ‘irreconciliables’ led by Apolinario Mabini and Gen. Antonio Luna. The pacifists favored the American government while the irreconciliables still struggled to achieve independence. (Zaide, 1969)
Americans established our party system into a well- organized one. In December 1900, the first political party called Federal Party formed with American authorization due to Federal Party favored the United States over the independence (Zaide, 1957). This party was later dissolved due to failure implementation of its earliest platforms. The remnants of the Federal Party joined together to formed the Partido Nacionalista which the main objective is to obtain independence. Sergio Osmena was the first Nacionalista leader while Manuel Quezon was the second- in- command. The former Federal Party, now called Partido Progresista was utterly defeated before the elections. The Partido Nacionalista and Partido Progresista were the two major competing parties from 19907 until the early 1930’s. Later, the Progresista dissolved in 1931. Soon after, minor parties made an appearance which did not lasted too long. (Abueva, 1969)
There was no opposition party during Japanese occupation (1942- 1946). After the World War II, Nacionalistas broke into two groups: the Nacionalista party and the Liberal party. Former president Elpidio Qurino represented the Liberal party in 1949 presidential election and won. Due to the rumor of denominating of Quirino, the Democratic party was formed in 1953. Carlos P. Romulo, a presidential candidate competed against Ramon Magsaysay of Nacionalista which lead to Magsaysay won the election. After Magsaysay’s death, his supporters formed a party called Progressive Party of the Philippines, later renamed Grand Alliance led by Pres. Carlos P. Garcia. The party was successful at first as it won about 20 percent of the vote in 1957 but in 1961, the national leaders of PPP- GA switched to the more organized Liberal party. Those leaders who switched run for national offices and won in the next elections. (Abueva, 1969)
In 1961 presidential election between former presidents Diosdado Macapagal and Carlos Garcia served to reform the nature of Filipino politics specially our party system. Garcia was defeated due to Macapagal’s platforms resemblance to Magsaysay wherein they both believed that economic success in the country can be attained without the intervention of the government. The Nacionalista, however, seeked for rapid industrialization. (Abueva, 1969) In modern era, these parties are described as a “temporary political alliances” and the worst is being merely a “fans club” (Aceron, 2009). We cannot blame those people for their comment because this is the truth. Our party and party system can be called to such title but they are really far from what they should be to be able to play their significant role for the development of the Philippines. .Philippine parties are far more different of what political parties should be. It is characterized by a personality and money based kind of politics with “selfish, dishonest, biased and incapable of recruiting quality leaders (Lawson, 1989). They do not fulfill the function of representing the people’s need and wishes and interest aggregation. Consequently, the public often views efforts aimed at party-strengthening as mere attempts to further entrench traditional politics and elite interests.
This is perhaps the greatest challenge in changing the country’s party syste Philippines parties are described as a “temporary political alliances” and the worst is being merely a “fans club” (Aceron, 2009). We cannot blame those people for their comment because this is the truth. Our party and party system can be called to such title but they are really far from what they should be as they are seemingly forgot their significant role for the development of the Philippines. Given the way party politics is practiced in the Philippines, it is no surprise that the impact of political parties has not been favorable to democratization. “Because of its weaknesses, the party system,” according to Almonte, “has failed to offer meaningful policy choices—and so to provide for orderly change” (Almonte, 2007). If we follow Nohlen who defines the party system as “referring to number of parties, relative strength, ideological dimensions and distances of competing parties” (Nohlen, 1984), the Philippine party system can thus be described as multi-party, fluid, non-ideological, non-participatory and not offering programmatic choices.
The multi- party system composed of many political parties competing government position. Thus, this system reduced the opportunity to grab position. One of the important strengths of this system is that “they create internal checks and balances within government and exhibit a bias in favor of debate, conciliation and compromise” (Heywood, 2002). Coalition formation is the process of maintenance to make sure that the parties’ principles and ideas must be taken account. Unfortunately, this strength can be turned into a flaw if this coalition formation failed. Another problem is the lack of clear ideological alternatives due to a dominated political center. The Philippines as of now is still using the multi- party system. Since political parties were established, our country used the two- party system (Zaide, 1969). The truth is that the Philippines is the only country in which a two- party system has developed since Independence.(Butwell, 1963)
It was shown in the history of our country’s party such as in the case of Ramon Magsaysay , a member of Liberal party but he was chosen as a presidential candidate for Nacionalista party. This same goes as well with the late Ferdinand Marcos who also was with the Liberal party but was chosen to be a candidate for the Nacionalistas. Therefore, our party system is characterized by an inter- party switching and this became a common thing among politicians until today.(Kearney, 1975) The two – party system is composed of two major parties seeking government power. Examples of countries using this kind of system are the USA and UK. USA’s Republicans and Democrats are the two major parties. Thus, entailing a greater chance to win. Two- party system is the surest way to achieve an effective, centralized government. This system might lead to a party government which is characterized by stability, choice and accountability. It is an ideal type of system of system to be replaced in the unorganized, decentralized party system.
This prevailed in the UK in the 1950’s and 1960’s. But like the multi- party system, it also has its own flaw. One flaw is that what happens if the two major parties tend to be evenly matched collide. It might lead to the voters hesitations or doubts to which party will really represent them. Another flaw is the limited choice of only two programmes each party will propose during election campaigns. Thus, again will give a hard time for the voters to decide. (Heywood, 2002) Japan is another example of a country practicing the two- party system. Their system is highly centralized in terms of structure. The national offices are subdivided into prefectural and local party offices. ( Hinton, 1963)
Another reason for changing from the multi- party into a two- party system is that the opposition candidates are using ‘space goat’. They proclaimed all the evil deeds that the administration and as they do so, people believed and sympathized with them. At the time they win in the election, they tend to overlook the simple but significant problems that must be immediately addressed such as land laws, divorce and etc. Thus, the country cannot sacrifice the level of democracy. (Weissenbach, 2010) Parties do not really select their own candidates but instead these candidates only using the party’s power and connections for their own advantage to win the election. (Aceron, 2009)Thus, there is wide gap between standard and practice in terms of political party. Another concern in the Philippine elections is that it became the process of pure evil doings. Candidates from different parties tend to used money in order to win and voters unfortunately, was being the base of who will they vote and not on what a party’s platforms and leadership credentials.
To address this problem, Philippine party- system will be devised into “personalistic politics and the rule of guns, gold, and goods, and would serve as ‘a ‘germ’ for a parliamentary form of government” (Schwartz, 2001) to achieved a real party – system. This experiment was not successful due to Comelec’s lack of concern for organizational credentials in registering party- list groups. Instead, our party system became more plaque of by issues and controversies.
This experiment implies that the country must change into two- party system since the Philippines current party system is not effective enough to represent all Filipinos. This is due that our country has a plurality system which means that the highest number of votes is used to determine the winners. The multi- party system and the plurality system is negatively correlated. For instance, after the Martial Law Filipino voters’s trust for the delicacy of each presidential candidate.
Evidences tell that plurality goes well with the two party system since the latter gives a wall of distinction between each parties. In fact, it is expected that a plurality/ majority electoral system will produce a two-party system (Nohlen, 1984). Hence, the combination of the Philippine multi- party system and plurality elections is a flaw combination.
With this, parties could hardly develop; simply because the leadership of the government resulting from the elections does not reflect the party performance in the elections. If it was a multi-party system in a proportional representation electoral system, the number of votes garnered by the party determines the number of seats it occupies in the government. But in a plurality election with multi-party system, though an infinite number of political parties is allowed, the result of the elections would only yield two kinds of parties: a losing party and a winning party. The link between the result of the elections and the configuration of leadership in government is diluted.
Another solution they tried is the Republic Act No. 7941 or Party- List Act. It is a law which winners are determined based on the percentage of votes a party gets out of the total number of votes cast for the party list (Aceron, 2009).
According to renowned constitutionalist Joaquin Bernas (2007):
“The 1935 Constitution and the Philippine election law up to the 1987 Election Code gave a preferred position to the two major political parties. This was the two-party system. The clear impression, which had emerged from the constitutional scheme prior to the 1987 Constitution was that the electoral system planned and plotted to insure the perpetuation of the party in power. The 1987 Constitution once again makes a try at promoting a multi-party system or open party system. The party-list system, already discussed under Article VI, is meant to be an instrument for fostering the multi-party system. “
As per the evidences presented, the current Philippine party system still lacks of genuine power to work for the common good of our country. Philippines used to be two- party system and as we all know those times were our country proved to be in a good in terms of economy and leadership. Therefore, Philippines must change to two- party system in order to achieve a centralized, effective and organized system that will work for the common good and well- being of their fellow Filipinos without sacrificing the level of democracy.