Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Chopsuey Politics in Philippines and the Emergence of a Third Force

Next year's election is crucial for this administration. This election is some sort of an appraisal of the three year performance of Noynoy Aquino. A failure by the Liberals to get a majority of seats in the Lower House and the Senate will be interpreted largely as a public indictment of the way Noynoy is running the affairs of the State. A vote of no-confidence is surely not a welcoming sign for Noynoy. 

Binay's move a few days ago, is quite expected considering that the PDP-Laban cannot wait for the Liberals forever. When Binay recommitted himself with Erap shows how deep their relationship is, both had been prosecuted by Gloria Arroyo during her term. Curiously though, Binay allowed allies of the previous administration and critics of Noynoy to join his senatorial slate, a move interpreted by the palace as a direct affront against the President. Mitos Magsaysay and Ernie Maceda are staunchly anti-Noynoy. This baffles the palace, says DBM secretary Florencio Abad.

Abad dares Binay to reveal which side he is, really. Is he anti-administration or pro-administration? Abad's question really reflects how politicians perceive politics in the Philippines---it is personality based, not principles or ideology-based. This also shows the prevailing thought inside the palace--a "black and white" thing or a Bush-like policy of "if you're not with us, you're surely against us".

This explains why no alliance or coalition has been formed. The Liberals are trying to preserve their unity among groups, which has been forged by the 2010 elections. The party is not solely being dictated anymore by just one dominant group, but by numerous groups with dissimilar interests. Thoughly largely ideology-less, the administration's direction is dictated by partisan interests, which, is based on political expediency, much less, survival beyond Noynoy's term.

The peculiar and earlier-than-expected pronouncement of the President that he will not be seeking another term opened the floodgates for numerous forces and interest groups to jockey up for stronger, firmer political associations. The criterion is really resources--whoever has the resources enjoys a bigger, wider space for coalitions. Coalitions are two-way engagements yet in Philippine political reality, coalitions are interpreted based on a hegemonic framework. The bigger party acts as hegemon to the smaller party which expects to get as much resources as possible from the bigger one. In the end, however, nothing really proceeds from this arrangement because the bigger party gets nothing from the smaller aggrupations while these smaller groups grapple with the realities of running a campaign with a small budget.

Analysing Binay's aggrupation reveals a weak coalition. UNA is a political coalition for convenience. Why get untested candidates like Magsaysay if you have a very deep bench? Why get Maceda whose previous runs have been dismal? Magsaysay and Maceda are just there to fill in the gaps, so to speak, while UNA forges other mergers and coalitions. There is still that possibility of UNA changing their slate at the very last minute.

The political environment really is these two groups are forming their own and will eventually compare and will probably merge, if the right conditions are present. For example, if Noynoy's popularity ratings remain high and not plateau, chances are UNA will open its doors to accommodate common candidates from the Liberal party. This option will be a cause of dissension within the UNA ranks, since some candidates will definitely be given least priority in resource allocation than, say, common candidates. 

What is really evident at this point is the possibility of a third force emerging from all of these movements, a third force that is composed of citizens already tired of traditional politics. This is the time when personalities like Nick Perlas or those of the Kapatiran Party are expected to rise up and dominate the political landscape.

The opportune time to do it is next year's election, 2013. If the elections will be clean, then, a Third Force is expected to get a sizeable mandate from the people, tired of the failed promises of traditional politics.