Our wife, former Congresswoman Gina, our son Congressman Christopher de Venecia, and we join the Aquino family, relatives and friends, and the Filipino people in mourning the untimely passing of the nation’s former President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III.
The former President and we were colleagues in the House of Representatives during the 12th and 13th Congresses (2001-2004 and 2004-2007) where he served as one of our Deputy Speakers in the 13th Congress.
He served our country with honor and dignity as a three-term congressman, senator, and president from 2010 to 2016.
As president, he would be best remembered, among others, for his landmark peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the “Daang Matuwid” or good governance and intensified anti-corruption initiatives, and our country’s victory at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.
We join the Filipino people in thanking former President Noynoy Aquino for his years of great service to the country and in praying and bidding him farewell as he journeys to his eternal resting place.
He is a credit to his mother, the late much-admired President Cory Aquino and his late father, the great opposition leader Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino.
After decades as a politician and political party founder, we have spent these past eleven years just observing the workings of partisan politics.
We are heartened to note that our country has sustained its economic growth and global competitiveness, until the COVID-19 pandemic devastated the global economy. We have also made headway against illegal drugs and political corruption, so that, overall, our country’s outlook is sound.
But we have yet to resolve some basic problems. Far too many of our people still subsist in poverty;and social and income inequality is one the highest in East Asia.
We are saddened that our fragmented political system still hampers our collective ability to focus on national purposes and pursue national goals.
We continue to be governed, not by principled parties, but by self-interested factions. Venality and parochialism still characterize our political culture. And every time a presidential term ends and a new one begins, we seem to start all over again.
We can’t keep playing this game of faction over and over. East Asia and the entire world around us are fast-changing.
Indeed unlike many countries in Asia and in other regions like North America and Europe, we in the Philippines still have much work to do to strengthen political parties in our country.
Our country’s weak party system has reduced political parties into mere vehicles to advance one’s political ambition. It has diminished the important role of political parties in national development and international relations.
Our weak party system has also turned our election campaign into a popularity contest, a competition of name recall, celebrity status, and/or political pedigree, instead of a battle of policies and programs.
The absence of a strong party system has also contributed to perpetuating traditional electoral machineries, like vote-buying and vote-selling, as well as political dynasties in our country.
To start the long-delayed and much-needed process of building a solid party system, perhaps the next Congress may enact a bill providing public funding for political parties that demonstrate broad national support, as a way of reducing their unhealthy dependence on interest groups for election campaign contributions.
It is also a way of levelling the political playing field and dramatically reducing political corruption. Far more inimical is the intrusion into the political system of criminal syndicates that deal in illegal drugs, gambling, or smuggling which reportedly finance candidates for national and key local positions.
Other proposed reforms like reverting to the two-party system are noteworthy but would certainly be a protracted, even acrimonious, exercise as it will entail amending the 1987 Constitution, which enshrines the multi-party system.
Political parties are important instruments to carry out our nation’s socio-economic and political agenda, promote people’s aspirations and participation, build political consensus, and even present alternative solutions to issues and challenges facing our country.
Thus, as part of any thorough-going political reform, we need to build strong political parties in order to institutionalize and stabilize political decision-making. After all, presidents and administrations come and go, but political parties remain.
Political parties can and must also complement the efforts of governments and parliaments in advancing common causes besetting the global community such as combating terrorism and violent extremism, battling climate change and environmental degradation, fighting poverty and diseases, reducing geopolitical tensions and conflicts, among others.