The latest party movement in the House of Representatives saw four members of the ruling Partido Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) joining the National Unity Party (NUP) last week, namely, Deputy Speakers Neptali Gonzales II of Mandaluyong City and Dan Fernandez of Laguna, and Reps. Sandra Eriguel and Rolando Uy of Cagayan de Oro.
The NUP now has 49 district representatives with 13 party-list representatives as allies. The PDP-Laban remains the majority party with 66 members, but only four more than the NUP-party-list coalition. The other big blocs in the House are the Nacionalista Party (NP) which has 41 members and the Nationalist People’s Coalition which has 34.
The rest of the House membership is disributed among various small groups – the Liberals who were the majority in the previous administration, party-list solons, special group and regional representatives, and independents.
The new party membership movements are not expected to lead to any important change in the way the House operates. The chamber is so dominated by President Dauterte and his men, who belong to different parties. The PDP-Laban is supposed to be the President’s own party, but its candidate for speaker Rep. Lord Allan Velasco had to give way to Nacionalista Alan Peter Cayetano.
Today’s parties are not like those of the United States and Europe, which espouse specific programs of government and ideologies. The Democrats of the US, for example, are for more government programs and aid for the people; the Republicans are for less government and more private initiative.
In the early days of the Republic of the Philippines, we had two parties identified to some extent by ideology – the Nacionalistas who were strong on independence and the Liberals who valued their links with Americans. The parties were abolished by President Ferdinand Marcos when he declared martial law in 1972, and while they have returned to join other parties today, they are not quite the same ideologically identifiable parties of old.
Thus the recent movement of four PDP-Laban members to the NUP is not expected to effect any change in the House. They are all still part of President Duterte’s strong hold on the chamber. They will continue to support the President’s legislative program and, as of today, this is perhaps what really matters.
Eventually, in the coming years, we may develop a real party system based on ideologies and beliefs in systems of governance, rather than on political convenience. It is not likely to happen anytime soon, but it remains a goal for many.