Political parties and candidates: An unconventional view

Published November 22, 2021, 12:12 AM

by Justice Art D. Brion (ret.)


J. Art D. Brion (Ret.)
Justice Arturo D. Brion

As a voter wishing to wisely exercise my right of vote, I have been trying hard to understand our political parties and candidates. I finally gave up after the Comelec’s Nov. 15, 2021 candidate substitution deadline and simply decided to do my own understandable classification and basis for decision.  

Two political parties, the Nacionalistas (the party of Magsaysay) and the Liberals (the party of Quirino), were dominant during my early political awareness years. This situation was stable until confusion seeped in with the 1973 constitutional change that eventually led to the EDSA revolution of 1986.  

I lost track of developments after the EDSA revolution; I left the country to focus on the foreign education of my children.  On my return, I refused to be drawn into politics, but my guide and mentor, the very political Ka Blas Ople, kept me continuously updated on the developments. Thus, without fully wading in, my political awareness resumed though intimate knowledge of political parties still eluded me. This situation led me to identify parties based on their leadership – the Aquino, Cojuangco, Ramos, Estrada and GMA groups, among others.

I again lost track of political developments beginning 2001 when I rejoined government and had to be politically neutral. I was aware though that our new multi-party system brought in a proliferation of political parties. I gained greater focus and newer perspectives when I joined the cabinet and, subsequently, the judiciary.  At this time, our party structure was along national, regional, local and party-list lines.  

Our national parties claim a national coverage, but do not generally stand for clear core principles (such as conservatism, liberal democracy; reformism, populism, among others) that differentiate them from one another, nor do they appear to have sustaining memberships at the grassroots. They field (or identify themselves with) candidates for national positions but may have shifting inter-party alliances and confusingly shared or overlapping party principles or platforms.  In reality, their identities are fused with their leaders who, for political convenience, may also transfer from party to party, and whose own parties may disappear when they descend into political limbo. Thus, to me, no real meaning is really attached to national party affiliation.

The regional and local parties (created along geographical or local causes lines) identify themselves with their own particular concerns and candidates, but may nominally affiliate with national parties.They are the parties which lay claim to grassroots memberships and in this sense are important to national parties. 

Separate from these parties is the party-list system for sectoral representation in the House of Representatives (HOR). They are voted nationally but only need to garner two percent of the national vote to entitle them to party representation at the HOR. Like the regional or local parties, they may have clearly identifiable individual members and have stronger ties with them  because of shared ideology, principles or causes (such as counter-terrorism, anti-imperialism, federalism or nationalism, etc.) or geographical ties (Bicol, Pampanga, or Ilocos, for example), and may ally themselves with the regional and national parties, depending on leadership linkages or other commonalities. 

Under this situation of personality-based identification and minimal focus on core principles, the identities of parties now do not appear to be very relevant in identifying the cause/s or candidates to support based on one’s personal beliefs, inclinations, or reasoned judgment. I find it more useful to reclassify parties and candidates from another perspective – the national problems we expect our elected officials to solve, among them:

  • our WPS sovereignty and China problem;
  • a COVID pandemic that may yet cast unexpected havoc in its wake;
  • massive corruption in government, usually accompanied by opportunist iccronyism;
  • an economy in shambles and a national debt that will retard our growth in years to come;
  • widespread poverty, pervasive social inequity, and a consequent drug problem from which our moral bankruptcy is emerging;
  • the continuing depletion of our natural resources without appreciable return to our people, equaled only by our lack of care for our climate and the environment that now threatens to metamorphose into a food problem for our continually swelling population. 

Below, in formula form, is the unconventional but understandable characterization I formulated to better understand our political parties and their effectiveness, based on evidence from history, demonstrated values and attitudes, and current events:

MOTS – the party that will address and resolve Most Of These Standing  problems;

NOTS – the party that will address None Of These Standing problems;

HOTS – the party that will address less than Half Of These Standing problems; and 

JOTS  – a party under the Joke Only Team Status.

In keeping with the ways of our unusual times, I am classifying candidates – again in formula form – under the following easy-to-remember descriptions:

SANE – candidates who, from evidence of individual past records and confirmed attitudes and values, can discern and possibly address our problems;

INSANE – those who, without rhyme or reason, became candidates;

STUPID – those who can recite but do notreally understand, much less resolve, our problems;

CLUELESS – the seemingly motivated candidates lost in the maze of our problems; and 

STiNKSilang mga “Tinimbang Ngunit Kulang,” or candidates once again seeking elective position. 

Join me in applying these test descriptions to inject some sense, wisdom, practicality and a good measure of fun into our May 2022 elections!

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