‘Rigodon sin honor’
“It’s a dead party whose leader is now in jail.”
Ouch. A few years ago that cutting assessment would have applied only to Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP), the upstart political party that propelled Joseph Estrada to Malacañang and the presidency. For a time, the PMP was the Big Kahuna everyone wanted to join. Politicians, big and small, flocked to it to partake of the largesse emanating from the gregarious movie star-president ensconced in the Palace by the Pasig.
But as soon as Estrada was ousted from his seat and hauled off to jail by his successor Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the PMP suffered the fate every local political party left stranded in the political wilderness is subject to: its supposed stalwarts and loyal members abandoned it in droves, rushing to join the next ascendant cabal of wheelers and dealers—in this case, Arroyo’s new party Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (Kampi). Arroyo had formed and wielded Kampi as her power base and then, in 2008, she maneuvered to merge it with an older party, the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD), itself a group that had had its moment of glory when its founder, Fidel V. Ramos, became president in 1992.
So it is with no small amount of irony that the cruel putdown above should come from Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, the son of the former president clapped in jail by Arroyo, and whose party she had raided and decimated during her time. Such is life, indeed, that now it’s Arroyo’s turn to be kept under house arrest and barraged with multiple charges in court. Meanwhile, her Lakas-Kampi alliance, has been reduced to a shell of its once-formidable self as many of its members, as soon as the last election’s dust had cleared up, jumped ship by the horde, shucked their pro-Arroyo colors and turned proud foot soldiers of the new majority in town, the Liberal Party of President Aquino.
The younger Estrada uttered the statement while talking about the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), the coalition he recently forged with Vice President Jejomar Binay’s Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban). To reports that UNA was open to forming an alliance with Lakas and Kampi to field common senatorial candidates in next year’s midterm elections, Estrada declared he was opposed to accepting prospective candidates affiliated with either party, because “they’re identified with FVR and GMA,” and they would be “too much of a liability” for UNA.
He could afford to be dismissive. After all, the PMP saw its fortunes as a viable political party resurrected by Estrada’s surprisingly strong showing in the 2010 presidential polls. The convicted-and-pardoned leader came in second only to President Aquino in the tally, even relegating putative front-runner Manny Villar of the Nacionalista Party to third place.
And while Arroyo’s Kampi remains the kiss of death for some politicos, FVR’s Lakas has yet to shake off its own Arroyo connections. It has dropped its partnership with Kampi, announced that it will re-install Ramos as the party’s leading light (though FVR appears to be hedging—he had originally objected to the Lakas-Kampi merger and declined the offer to be the merged parties’ chair emeritus). Lakas’ current president, Sen. Bong Revilla, said of the party’s new tack, “We will be looking back, going back to our roots”—whatever that means.
“Lakas,” Revilla added, “remains a force to be reckoned with.” Take that as a statement of bravado more than anything, as the hard realities of Philippine realpolitik no doubt confront Revilla and his dreams of a resurgent party. Right now, as UNA’s disdain for them shows, Lakas and Kampi continue to be near-pariahs, the legacy of Arroyo’s nine-year misrule clouding the two parties’ perceived appeal with the electorate.
This is not to say, of course, that UNA is any better; its preliminary lineup of senatorial candidates already reeks of the same old politics of rank nepotism, accommodation and non-principle, and there is no reason to believe it would be any kind of improvement on the two discredited political cliques it now deigns to look down on with grand superciliousness—as if.
Still, while Arroyo may be out of the picture for now, her financial clout may still be able to send supporters and minions to Congress. Her clamorous defender Zambales Rep. Mitos Magsaysay, for instance—despite Estrada’s purported dislike for Kampi—is said to be up for a slot in the UNA slate. In the face of such never-ending incestuous couplings among the denizens of the country’s multi-party system, one reminder should always guide the Filipino voter: Buyer beware.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.