The next elections are still eons away… (oh, alright, several months away), but looking at the maneuverings and posturings of the politicians today, at this hour, one would think they are just around the corner, and already the political pot is a-boiling.
An indication that the political season has already begun is the frenzy of meetings and powwows and huddles and caucuses that political players are currently busying themselves in, securing ties, forging alliances, marking out friends (read: financiers), isolating foes, and upping visibility. The operative term for the goal sought by the current game of politicians is political realignment.
William Safire, who makes a living as a political lexicographer, defines “political alignment” as the convergence of like-minded political players in the common spot (party, coalition) to better and more effectively pursue their common ideals. Realignment simply means the old has been discarded because its effectiveness has run out, while the new is adopted because it offers richer opportunity and brighter potential for power.
Safire’s view on political alignments runs into trouble when set side by side with reality in the Philippine setting. Home-grown politicians pursue disparate agenda and goals, not common ideals. Self-interest does not remain constant; it keeps changing and morphing to conform to the convenience of the hour and of individual ambitions.
This is not to say that political alignments are bad per se. All I am saying is that the realignments now in progress in the local and political arena are not something new. They are an indelible part of our political culture. All I wish to state is, grating to the ears as political realignments may sound, they produce some quiet positive and happy results.
Let us talk about the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), the coalescing of Vice President Jejomar Binay’s Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) and former President Erap Estrada’s Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino. This political realignment produced an entity of unimaginable political strength which even the party in power may be hard put to match. But it has also produced one happy fruit—at least for the Aquino administration. The birth of UNA serves as a wake-up call for Malacañang to mend its political fences. Or else its candidates land, to use an informal Tagalog phrase, sa kangkungan in next year’s polls.
What shortcomings and faults should the leadership of the party in power look for in self-audit, and aggressively address before it loses more members through realignments or desertions?
Although out of active politics, I continue to interact with political leaders in our vaunted solid North and with former colleagues in Congress to exchange views and readings of popular impressions on the ground.
The prevailing perception is that the aura of invincibility of the party in power is starting to dim, which is why the well-meaning but now marginalized former political supporters of President Aquino are into realignment, boldly preparing for electoral battles—in 2013 and all the way to 2016.
On the threats to the political hegemony of the Liberal Party, which party leaders tried to downplay, the most serious and formidable is Vice President Binay and former President Estrada’s UNA. The irony of it all is that UNA would not have come into being were it not for the arrogance and insensitivity of the Liberal Party leadership.
In words and in deeds. the Liberals rub President Aquino’s partisans the wrong way, crowing from rooftops that they alone made him win the presidency, leaving not even the littlest of crumbs of praise and recognition to people who spent time, effort and personal resources to ensure his victory because they have faith in the man and his “daang matuwid” mantra.
These very same people, disappointed and made to feel unwanted by President Aquino’s close-in advisers, firm supporters all of the son of Cory, will end up as expected of the disillusioned and ignored: they will realign themselves to a formidable political coalition in town, UNA.
My reservation about the realignments is that you could get realigned to a group which harbors somebody you absolutely detest or are allergic to as awfully as you are to your mother-in-law. Koko Pimentel, for example, is squeamish about running under the same senatorial slate with Migz Zubiri who realigned himself from the party of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to UNA, coalition partner of Pimentel’s PDP-Laban. Loren Legarda was a staunch critic of Manny Villar, but she swallowed her pride and realigned herself to the party of Villar to become his running mate in the 2010 presidential race. And there are many other cases of other realignments making strange bedfellows of personalities with irreconcilable traits, beliefs and political records.
Expect more realignments as the elections draw nearer. In regions and provinces ruled by political dynasties, expect wife and husband to align to two separate parties, and their three politician children to hitch themselves to three other different parties. In other words, if there are five politicians in the family, they will be aligned to five political parties, and so on and so forth.
I don’t think the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona is a factor in the UNA coalition movement. Vice President Binay is a shrewd and battle-tested politician. The impeachment proceeding is a nonissue in the consolidation of a formidable coalition base.
Mind you guys, it’s more fun in the Philippines— if you are in politics!
Gualberto B. Lumauig is a former governor of Ifugao. He also represented Ifugao in the House of Representatives. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org